HomeOutdoorsFeatureReel Time: Spring is...

Reel Time: Spring is in the air

I heard my first whippoorwill almost three weeks ago. It’s one of my favorite times of the year and one of the most productive for anglers who fish with flies, artificial lures or live bait. I like to think of this time of the year as spring training. March and early April can be challenging months, but they can also be very productive. It’s a time when the changing seasons can bring clear skies and balmy breezes one day and high winds and late-season cold fronts the next. It’s a good time to keep an eye on the weather and water temperature.

Water temperatures that hover in the 70s bring fish out of their winter haunts. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter one day and spring the next. Even if the weather is unpredictable, anglers know to start watching for the signs of spring. They’ll keep an eye on the Gulf, looking for flocks of diving sea birds as they feast on schools of baitfish that gather off the beaches in their seasonal migration. They know from experience that schools of little tunny, Spanish mackerel, cobia and kingfish will be attracted by and feed around the schools of bait.

In the bay, trout, redfish and snook will be roaming the flats in search of pilchards, shrimp and glass minnows. Spring is the time when local anglers have a host of piscatorial choices and some of the best conditions, mostly. The weather, while always unpredictable during the changing seasons, seems to be warmer every year. Of course, it’s always possible that a late-season cold front can rile Gulf and bay waters. It’s a swing time and the kind of weather that can play with the emotions of the die-hard angler. But hope springs eternal and we know from experience that it won’t be long before spring is here.  That’s why it’s time to be prepared, flies tied and tackle ready for that day when it’s no longer a question of when it will happen, but what species we’ll fish for!

I like this time of year even if it can be exasperating. One day the flats and Gulf can be barren and the next the action is red hot. When fishing the Gulf, having a rig on board that can handle a big cobia or kingfish makes good sense and having wire at hand in case toothy kingfish and Spanish mackerel make an appearance can make or break a day.

If you’re fishing the Gulf and bait isn’t showing on the surface, try fishing areas where they congregate, like artificial reefs, rocks, and ledges. I like to work a top water plug or fly-over structure and have often found fish where there was no outward sign of their presence.
In the bay, work the areas of the flats on the outside seams of grass flats and the edges and ends of sandy potholes. Pay particular attention to deep grass that’s often present at the end of a pothole and work your casts into the area by casting short and then progressing right over the hole. Top water plugs and flies are particularly effective when waters warm and can be an invaluable aid in finding action.

Whatever your fishing style or whether you like fishing the Gulf or bays, take advantage of this swing time and you might just be rewarded with the promise of spring.

Most Popular

More from Author

Try a beach fishing adventure

Are you an accidental angler? Someone who might not be passionate...

Egmont, Passage keys prove enchanting

Extending approximately 5 miles from Anna Maria Island to St. Petersburg,...

Tarpon Primer: Part two

Although tarpon can be one of the most exciting gamefish to...

Tarpon primer: Part One

Tarpon season is one of the most anticipated times of the...

First win for Shady Lady

ANNA MARIA – After two halves of youth soccer action, team AMI Coconuts could not put a point on the scoreboard against The Intuitive Foundation squad in the 8- to 10-year-old recreational soccer league at The Center of Anna Maria Island. The Coconuts team put up a strong...

Buyers losing hope

Tired of waiting for mortgage rates to come down? You’re not alone. Every potential buyer out there is waiting for the same thing, the problem is the Federal Reserve isn’t moving the needle, so it might be a long wait. The Federal Reserve made no move in their...

Try a beach fishing adventure

Are you an accidental angler? Someone who might not be passionate about fishing but who has always wondered what all the hype is about? Maybe you’re an avid freshwater angler from the north unfamiliar with the salt. Whatever your situation, if you want to get a taste...

Latest Pine Avenue bid rejected

ANNA MARIA – Following Mayor Dan Murphy’s recom­mendation, the city commission rejected the latest Reimagining Pine Avenue bid received from C-Squared. On May 9, the commission voted 5-0 in favor of rejecting C-Squared’s approximately $1.4 million bid to construct a one-block Reimagining Pine Avenue prototype area that was...

Candidate qualifying commences soon

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The candi­date qualifying periods will soon begin for those seeking election or reelection during the 2024 election cycle. Anna Maria provides a two-week qualifying period. Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Manatee County provide one-week qualifying periods. All city commission and may­oral terms on the...

Farrington secures petition signatures

MANATEE COUNTY – Mana­tee County Supervisor of Elec­tions candidate Scott Farrington has secured enough petition signatures to avoid paying a $10,133 qualifying fee. The one-week qualifying period for county candidates begins on Monday, June 10 at noon and ends on Friday, June 14 at noon. Farrington will face...

Captain: Derelict boats looming issue

CORTEZ - Tour boat Capt. Kathe Fannon is questioning why authorities are focusing on the removal of Raymond “Junior” Guthrie’s net camp from the waters off Cortez while ignoring more than 20 derelict boats in the same waters. “The net camp is who we are, it’s our heritage,”...

Season’s first shorebird nest discovered

BRADENTON BEACH – The first shorebird nests this year on Anna Maria Island have been spotted and marked by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers. A colony of least terns began nesting the week of May 6 at an undisclosed location in Bradenton Beach. A...

Mayors discuss law enforcement consolidation

ANNA MARIA – Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth are not on the same page when it comes to the potential consolidation of law enforcement services, with each mayor preferring their city’s law enforcement agency take over policing in both cities. As is...

March tourism numbers soar

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – March tourism numbers are up from last year in all three Island cities, significantly so in the City of Anna Maria. Each month, the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office reports how much income the county’s 5% tourist tax produces. The tax is collected from...

Water quality advisory in effect at Palma Sola

PALMA SOLA - The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County (DOH-Manatee) has issued a water quality advisory for Palma Sola South due to high bacteria levels. Tests on May 6 and 8 indicate that the water quality at Palma Sola South does not meet the recreational water...