The Tampa Bay Times

After a recent cold front, bait has finally returned to the flats in North Pinellas County, stimulating a great bite from the three main targeted species, trout, redfish and snook. A chum mixture usually consisting of powdered fish food and menhaden oil is sprinkled in the water until the sardines, also called greenbacks are flashing around in the mix. Then, throwing a 10 to 12 foot cast net to capture the bait for the day is part of a daily process for most charter guides. Although shrimp are a good substitution through the winter when greenbacks and other baits aren’t available, this time of year the fish switch their focus away from shrimp as the water warms. Trout especially begin to chase and prefer the larger, higher protein baits including greenbacks, pinfish, and threadfin herring. Snook are eating really well along the main shore and back country areas. Although, a few have begun moving towards the barrier islands and eventually the beaches, but that won’t fully occur until mid-April when the weather is consistently stable and warm. Redfish are responding to baits floating under a cork with the mullet schools and along the mangroves at high tide. Once we hook a few fish with this method, I will often switch to a split shot and cast directly under the mangroves where the first fish was caught. Many times, several other fish will be lurking around the roots, a little deeper under the cover than a floated bait can reach.