The flats are really coming to life in north Pinellas County. Our main focus this time of year is spotted sea trout, though redfish are cooperating and schooling a bit. Snook are also responding to the warm weather, occasionally eating on the falling tides. Bait is starting to invade the flats once again, gathering in the chum slick to be netted each morning. Shrimp are a favorite bait this time of year, but as the water warms, the fish are eager to chase a live sardine or a pinfish caught in the cast nets. Trout have been attacking sardines and pinfish with regularity. The schools are growing larger but also getting heavy pressure. Trout will shut down or move out of range at the slightest boat noise or sound of a motor running close by. Be sure to approach other anglers by drifting in with the wind, or by moving slowly using a trolling motor. Redfish are foraging on the flats with mullet schools. Upper-slot fish are pretty common, often rooting around on the bottom and stirring up mud patches that are easily identified on clear days. Cast into the mud circles with a fresh pinfish or shrimp and wait for a strike. Sometimes the fish you’ve hooked will scare up the remaining reds in the school, so keep an eye out for movement of the group. Move yourself as little as necessary and make long casts into the school without repositioning, which would possibly spook them away.
Brian Caudill fishes from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. He can be reached at (727) 365-7560 and captbrian.com.