Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fly Fishing Forecast for April 2017
This is a great month for snook on shallow flats or around lighted docks and bridges at night. Reds and trout will also be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. You might find Spanish mackerel, blues and pompano in passes or on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. You should also find Spanish mackerel along with false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail, in the coastal gulf this month. Tarpon should also make an appearance in bay or back country areas or along beaches by later in the month.
Tarpon will become more plentiful as resident fish make their way out of rivers and creeks and early arriving migratory fish begin to show along beaches, particularly by the end of the month. Water temperature in the gulf is a key factor with 80 degrees being an optimum temperature. As the water warms towards that, fish will become more plentiful. Resident fish may be rolling on deep grass flats in some of the same places that you find trout, laid up on edges of shallow grass flats or along sand bars. Fly anglers might connect with a black Deceiver or Tarpon bunny fly fished on a 12-weight fly rod with a floating or clear sink tip fly line depending on depth. I always have tarpon tackle, rigged and ready, on the boat this time of year.
Snook season remains open this month, but will close on April 30th (full regulations can be found at www.myfwc.com). Personally I’ll continue to ask clients to release them since they are such a magnificent gamefish and slot-size snook are still relatively hard to come by. They should be staging on flats, around sand and oyster bars, on points of islands and around docks and bridges close to passes in the ICW. Fish the edges of bars and potholes when the tide is low and mangrove shorelines or points of islands when the tide is high. I like wide profile flies, such as Lefty’s Deceiver, my Grassett Flats Bunny or EP flies, for snook on the flats
You’ll also find snook around docks and bridges in the ICW. Night snook fishing should be productive with small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow fly, shrimp patterns or Shrimp Gurglers. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action. Docks and bridges in the ICW from Sarasota to the Venice Inlet are usually productive for snook in the spring
Reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats due to more plentiful bait. Look for them in potholes, the edges of bars and around docks when the tide is low. You’ll find them higher on flats over shallow grass or around mangrove shorelines when the tide is high. My Grassett Flats Minnow is my “go to” fly for reds. It fishes well in shallow water and its bend back design makes it very weedless. You may also find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. The same flies and techniques used to find and catch reds will also work for big trout. I like the flats of north Sarasota Bay for reds and big trout in April.
Trout should be plentiful on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift. Look for trout on deep grass flats with a good tidal flow and a mixture of grass and sand. Fly anglers should score with weighted flies on sink tip fly lines. I tie Clousers with Ultra Hair on long shank hooks so that they are durable and will hold up to toothy and rough mouth fish.
You might also find blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano or flounder mixed with trout on deep grass flats. The same flies and techniques that you use to find trout on deep grass will work for these species, too. You’ll need to tip your leader with wire or heavy fluorocarbon when blues and mackerel are around. I prefer heavy fluorocarbon and flies tied on long shank hooks, since that usually won’t affect the trout bite. Blues and mackerel usually don’t feed on the surface in the bay like they do in the open gulf, but you may see bait showering or boils indicating fast moving fish, feeding just below the surface. Pompano may “skip” when you run or drift past them giving their location away. When that happens, circle back upwind and drift the area. Flounder are often found in potholes, on the edges of bars or on mud bottom.
There should be good action in the coastal gulf this month with Spanish and king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail. Look for Spanish mackerel or albies feeding on the surface. You might find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats. Your tarpon fly tackle can do double duty for cobia and an 8 or 9-weight fly rod will cover everything else. Artificial reefs or natural areas of hard bottom may hold any of these species. When fishing bottom structure you will need to get your fly down in the water column to the level where fish are located, so you may need several fly lines from intermediate clear sink tip to Orvis Depth Charge to cover the whole water column.
April is one of my favorite months. There should be good action in the bay on both shallow and deep grass flats, in the coastal gulf for mackerel, albies, cobia and tripletail and with tarpon by the end of the month. Whatever you choose to do, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Capt. Rick Grassett
IFFF Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.