By Neil Taylor,

The South shore:  Sometimes I wish I just lived down that way.   My original fishing grounds 24 years and counting, I still spend a lot of time along that bank of Tampa Bay.   The action, predictably good as usual, has been a mixture of just about everything there is to offer.    Trout, redfish, flounder, jacks, ladyfish, mackerel, pompano and even some cobia passing through.

The big story has undoubtedly been the early arrival of flounder.   They have been in good numbers the entire month of March.   We have seen some of the biggest flounder that you will ever likely see in Tampa Bay.   How to catch them?   Use the 12 Fathom SlamR on a 1/8-ounce jighead.   Get it deep and keep it just above the bottom.   Sand bottom.   Every pass between islands and deeper sandy spot will have them in it.  

Trout action has been great, especially at low light conditions around sunrise and sunset.   We caught nothing but upper slot fish on one trip recently in about 2 feet of water.  They are finding more baitfish to eat and so topwater lures are working well again

Redfish?   I have seen a couple of them and they are large.   Numbers are just not what they used to be.  Frustrating, the hopes are that better management in the future and stocking from hatcheries brings them back better.   Get off the beaten track and find the less traveled shallow areas. They change locations but the south shore has plenty of this species.

Pompano have not arrived yet.    They are in the passes.   I would think about trying the south Skyway Pier, about the first 80 to 100 yards past the pay plaza.   Use the ½-ounce Silly Willy (Yellow) with a teaser fly (pink) to locate and catch this most prized food fish.   Expect this to explode in April.

Mackerel action has been pretty steady around the deeper structure.  That’s where the bait is, that’s where the mackerel are.   They will eat that same lure you are using for pompano if you are on the Skyway bridge.   Use much thicker leader if you are after Pier mackerel.   30 is acceptable but 40 is failsafe.  

If you encounter snook, leave them alone or at least commit to not harvesting them regardless of the regulations.   An influx of new fish arriving from other areas means a slightly better chance of encountering this species.   I witnessed people keeping fish out of water for more than three minutes.   A tough species, this just shouldn’t happen.  Keep them in the water before you get a picture and handle them with extra care.  Every fish is vital to the future.   Odds are, you catch one it’s only 15 inches anyway.   Management failure:   Had they listened we would have a great population of big fish.   Simply not the case.   I saw the most snook I have seen in ten years the other day.   Average size:  13 inches.   Not good.    Just not good.   

Skool continues:  April 25th at my house.    The grill is always going (with things other than hot dogs becoming part of the program).   Don’t bring beer?    I have the best selection of beer in town.    Get a designated driver and come on over!  Come get tips for fishing the 9th annual Captain Mel Classic.   6PM at my house, 2813 State Road 590 in Clearwater.      

In a battle that is never really over: The great work of FWC officers to target felony netters and keep an eye on other recreational offenders has led to better fishing for us all.  Their continued efforts to catch felony netters are making the south shore region return as a great fishery again.   But help them out:  Keep your eyes peeled for illegal activity and make a call if you see poaching, 888-404-FWCC (3922).  Your tips will help make cases and you could be eligible for a reward.  The fishery survives the pressure of poaching, a lot of anglers and just continues to be a great location to go.  

As always: Be careful out there!

Neil Taylor
Owner and guide:
(Cell) 727-692-6345
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Former baseball umpire, now fishing guide. Graduate of the University of Arizona.

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