Florida Saltwater Fishing in Spring
Florida saltwater fishing in spring can be outstanding! Like most parts of the country, warming weather and rising water temperature has fish moving and feeding. Many species spawn or are preparing to spawn. Forage is abundant and the fish are hungry. Anglers have a wide selection of species to pursue. Anglers can view Florida fish species and Florida saltwater fishing regulations in the FWC link.
The flats come alive in Florida in the spring. The severe cold fronts that quickly drop water temperatures to uncomfortable levels are no longer an issue. Bait fish become more plentiful, as do shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans. This in turn attracts the game fish to move out of their deeper winter staging areas to feed on them.
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so on the PRODUCTS page.
Anglers will have plenty of offshore and nearshore options in the spring as well. Of course, offshore fishing will be dictated by the weather. Pelagic species such as mackerel and false albacore will migrate along the beaches. Bottom fishing will be good both inshore and offshore.
Deep grass flats in Florida provide excellent spring fishing
Anglers seeking action and variety will do well to fish the deep grass flats in Florida in the spring. These are large areas of submerged vegetation in water that is between 4′ deep and 10′ deep. These areas will hold forage and therefore attract game fish. Many of the species caught on the deep grass school up in large numbers, which can result in fast action.
Spotted sea trout or speckled trout are probably the Florida species most associated with these deep flats. Trout are available in good numbers throughout the state. Along with trout, anglers will catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, sharks, snapper, ladyfish, and more.
Top fishing techniques on the deep flats
There are several different techniques that anglers use to produce when fishing the deep flats. Most drift as opposed to anchor in order to cover more water. A live shrimp fished under a noisy float has probably accounted for more spotted sea trout than all other methods combined. The noisy float attracts fish to the helpless shrimp hanging below. Other live baits such as pinfish, grunts, mullet, and sardines can be fished under a float or free lined out behind the boat.
Once a school of fish is found or a productive area is located, anglers can anchor and use live bait to thoroughly fish the area. Chumming can be an effective method to bring fish to the boat. Frozen chum blocks can be used, but live bait used as chum is even more effective. Once a school of fish is attracted to the chum and excited, the action can be fast and furious!
Many anglers prefer to cast artificial lures when drifting the deep flats. Lures allow anglers to cover a lot more water than they can using live bait. The most popular lure is the jig and grub. This uses a jig head, usually ¼ to ½ ounce, with a plastic grub on the hook. The grub can mimic a shrimp or bait fish. Silver spoons and plugs can be cast and retrieved as well as trolled to locate and catch fish. Suspending plugs are particularly effective for trout, with the MirrOlure MirrOdine being a top bait.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
Shallow Florida flats come alive in spring
When the term “flats fishing” comes up, many anglers picture fishing in gin clear water that is a foot deep for bonefish, permit, and maybe even tarpon in the Florida Keys. That style of fishing was basically invented there. However, anglers chase fish on the shallow flats throughout the entire state.
In the Keys, tarpon, bonefish, and permit are pursued on the flats in very shallow water. This is quite challenging fishing as these fish are quite skittish in the shallow water. Patience is required as well as good angling skills. Anglers sneak up on fish in special skiffs designed to float very shallow. Live bait, lures, and flies are all used.
In the areas north of the Florida Keys, snook, redfish, and trout become the main targets of anglers fishing the skinny water. The same techniques are used, though in many cases anglers are fishing grass beds instead of sandy flats. Anglers can sight fish, but blind casting produces as well. A gold weedless spoon is a top lure. Light jigs and plastic baits on swim bait hooks work well, too. Topwater plugs can produce exciting strikes!
Spring time tarpon fishing in Florida
Tarpon fishing gets going in earnest in the early spring in south Florida. As the water warms up, fish begin to school up and start moving along both coast lines. The bridges and flats in the Keys all have fish in early spring. As it gets later in the season, areas such as Boca Grande, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville become better spots.
There are several different methods anglers can use to catch tarpon. In shallow water areas, they can be sight fished. This is great sport and is challenging and exciting! In the Keys, boats anchor under bridges in the afternoon on the outgoing tide and fish with live mullet and crabs. Schools of fish can be sight fished as they migrate along the beaches. In the passes and inlets, anglers drift with live bait or jigs.
Spring fishing off of the Florida beaches
As it warms up many migratory species begin to move along the Florida beaches. Much of this action will take place within a few miles of shore. This puts them in safe range of anglers with smaller boats. These fish include Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, cobia, sharks, tarpon, jack crevalle, and more.
One exciting aspect of fishing the beaches in the spring is that much of the action is on the surface. This results in casting lures, baits, and flies into schools of actively feeding fish. This is great fun as a bite is almost a certainty, as long as the lure resembles the bait being devoured.
When fish are not seen feeding on the surface, anglers can use a couple of techniques to catch them. Trolling is a very effective way to both locate and catch these pelagic game fish. Special spoons designed for fairly fast trolling speeds are fished behind planers. These are devices that take the lure down to a desired depth. Plugs can be used as well.
Anglers can also anchor or drift and use live and cut bait as well. This is often done over structure such as a ledge, wreck, reef, or area of hard bottom. While most of these species do not relate to structure, bait does, so game fish will be close by. Chum can be used to get the fish up behind the boat.
Florida bottom fishing in spring
Bottom fishing is very productive in Florida in the spring. This is a very popular form of fishing that anglers of all ages and skill levels can participate in. Bottom fishing is basically dropping a live or dead bait to the bottom, usually around some type of cover or structure.
There are many different species that anglers can catch when bottom fishing in Florida. Grouper and snapper are the “glamour” species when bottom fishing, there are several species of each that are caught inshore and nearshore. Gag grouper, black grouper, red grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, and lane snapper are some of the most common.
Sheepshead are abundant inshore, especially in early spring. They are a great option on windy days and are usually cooperative. Mangrove snapper are plentiful in most parts of Florida in the bays and passes. Just about every bridge and other structure will hold snapper and other species. Flounder, red and black drum, sea bass, grunts, and other tasty bottom fish can be caught as well. A live shrimp is tough to beat.
Passes and inlets offer good fishing
Passes and inlets are terrific fishing spots in Florida in the spring. Current and structure along with bait results in an ideal environment to hold fish. Most inshore species can be caught in these areas. Anglers can drift with jigs or bait or anchor and bottom fish.
Drifting along with the current while vertically fishing a jig on the bottom is an extremely effective technique in the spring. Pompano are a prized species and many are caught by anglers doing this. Ladyfish can be thick and provide good action. Bluefish and mackerel often feed heavily in passes and inlets.
Bottom fishing can be excellent in Florida in the spring, especially for sheepshead, snapper, and flounder. Most inlets and passes have a good amount of structure including docks, bridges, seawalls, jetties, rocks, and more. These all will attract bottom species. The best times to fish are during periods of slack tides.
Offshore fishing in Florida in the spring
Offshore fishing in Florida in the spring is all about the weather. There will be some breezy days that will make fishing offshore difficult if not impossible. However, on nicer days, anglers can experience some terrific action on a variety of both bottom and pelagic species.
Bottom fishing offshore is very good all along the west coast of Florida in the spring. Water temperatures are ideal and bottom fish such as grouper and snapper will be closer to shore than in other times of year. Patch reefs and wrecks in the Atlantic Ocean will also hold a lot of hard fighting grouper and snapper.
Read Capt Jim’s article on saltwater fishing tackle
King mackerel fishing is at it’s apex in the string. Schools of hungry kings move north from the Keys, right behind the schools of threadfin herring and other bait fish. Trolling is an excellent way to catch them. Fast trolling with spoons will put numbers into the boat while slow trolling with live bait will fool the larger fish. Spanish mackerel and false albacore will be caught as well.
Boats heading out deeper will find the tail end of the sailfish and wahoo season. Tuna and dolphin numbers will be on the rise, especially in the southern part of the state. Amberjack will be caught on the deeper reefs. Cobia may be encountered at any depth.
In conclusion, this article on Florida saltwater fishing in spring will help anglers understand the species and options when fishing in Florida that time of year.