Tampa Fishing Reports

2018 March Tampa / Clearwater Fishing Report

Is it April? Trout, snook and redfish have all been viable targets over the last few weeks as a result of a major weather turnaround. Fifty degree water temperatures in January were immediately followed by temperatures approaching the mid seventies inshore in February...leaving the fish somewhat confused.  Temps in the seventies are more typical around the end of March / early April time frame.  As a result, fishing has been productive, but a little unpredictable.  

Large winter seatrout have remained the mainstay with limits secured on most Tampa Fishing Charters. With that said, after several very good days, all of sudden, it will be tough for a day...absent of any significant weather changes. There seems to be no logical explanation for this. The early warmth has the whitebait back on the flats so it appears that trips to the bait shop to buy select shrimp may be over again for another year.  Bait too, can be great one day and significantly more difficult the next. Nevertheless, a well full of these "magic bullets" almost guarantees a productive outing.  Both trout and snook are aggressively eating this recently returned food source. 

Snook have been caught on open flats and in the backwaters and, although water temperatures are warm enough for fish to be on the beach, few have been seen there. This gets back to the age old discussion of which factors really drive snook out to the beaches.  Certainly, water needs to be over 70 degrees for this to happen but what affect does length of daylight have? Many believe that it is these two factors in combination that ultimately bring snook to the beaches to spawn.  Either way, it's safe to say that they should be out there in some decent numbers by April.  Large whitebait have been effective in drawing strikes from these highly desirable game fish.  With that said, a recent cool down at the beginning of March could calm action a bit...at least until the next warm stretch of weather. Although snook season is now open (1 fish per angler, 28 - 33 inches...March, April, September, October, and November), many anglers will continue to release these fish in the hopes of further restoriing the population which was decimated 8 years ago by an exceptionally harsh winter. For any snook that will be released, Tampa Fishing Guides will keep these fish in the water while preparing for a picture and will also never hold a snook just by it's jaw as this can do serious damage.

Redfish have been the least predictable fish over the last month.  Legal fish have been caught on most Tampa / Clearwater Fishing Charters but a day where six legal fish were landed might be followed by a day with just one or two fish.  As is almost always the case with redfish, it's just a matter finding them.  Fish have been seen in smaller groups and are dispersed so the approach has been to keep moving so as to eventually land on some fish. Small pinfish have been the bait of choice, fished on bobbers as well as with split shot...depending on location.

Another species that comes to mind in March is the kingfish.  Usually, some time during this month, these toothy predators make an appearance and with early warmth, their arrival may be any day.  As soon as large schools of thread fin herring and pilchards show near shore, there is every expectation that the kingfish will be close behind.  Sabiki up a few dozen big baits, drop them back on a stinger rig and slow troll around large bait schools for best results.  Medium action spinning rods with 12 - 20 lbs line make for great sport on these super sized mackerel. While cruising around a few miles off the beaches, some Tampa Fishing Captains will make a pit stop at near shore reefs as mangrove snapper should be moving in to these locations as well.  Spring is just about here and with it comes a plethora of species to chase...a truly great time of year.

A broad range of outdoor activities are available during the upcoming "spring break" months of March and April.  For those interested in a good view of Clearwater beach and it's surrounding area, take a parasail ride with Chute 'Em Up Parasail. If interested in a more relaxing weekend, book a stay at the brand new Opal Sands Resort right at the mouth of Clearwater Pass.  Every room in this beautiful hotel has a fantastic water view.  Good luck and good fishing.


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