One Stop Bait and Tackle, 727-842-5610: Joe says anglers have been doing well on Spanish mackerel, inshore and offshore. Look for them over the grass flats starting in about 6 feet of water. Offshore schools are following baitfish over hard bottom starting in about 15 to 18 feet of water. Inshore anglers hitting the residential canals are finding mangrove snapper and sheepshead. Live and frozen shrimp is working. Trout are on the grass flats, with a lot of small fish being caught. Anglers must release trout in Pasco and Pinellas waters due to the closure on the species by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission until May 2020. Redfish and snook are closed for the same period. Many anglers are fishing for sharks on the flats and around the islands now that the water has warmed. Offshore anglers have been heading to 60 feet and deeper for red grouper and some have been fishing for gags to test the bite ahead of the gag grouper season opening June 1.
The Tackle Box, 727-819-3783: Capt. Buck reports Hudson-area anglers have been catching trout. Snook anglers are finding fish on the outside points and around mangroves. Though it is the start of their spawn over sandy beach bottoms, it’s a mistake to only look for them there, says Buck, as they will be around structure and rocky bottom, as well. Reds are on the move in small pods and hanging around a lot of the same kind of areas. Cobia are on the flats. Anglers are not reporting any monster-sized fish, but they seem to be more plentiful, often trailing rays. The Reef Chief party boat is reporting that keeper-sized gag grouper are being landed in as little as 25 feet of water. There are plenty of grunts at that depth, as well.
J&J Bait and Tackle II, 727-940-7928: James says angler traffic in the store is down a bit, but those fishing are finding lots of Spanish mackerel. The fish are schooling on the deeper flats, hanging around the cuts at Anclote Key and just offshore on hard bottom. Those fishing the sandy bottom around the islands and along the Intracoastal Waterway have been doing well on silver trout. Good numbers of mangrove snapper and sheepshead have been landed from the pier at the north Anclote Park. The south park is producing some, as well, with live and frozen shrimp getting the job done. The first tarpon anglers of the season have been on the water scouting for schools early in the morning. There’s been no definitive word yet on the population or the bite, but it won’t be long.
Tarpon Trading Company, 727-937-1488: Larry reports taking a trip over the weekend to Anclote Key. The big snook are there for the summer spawn and many anglers have been catching and releasing them. Live sardines and small grunts are the top baits. He spotted a couple of large cobia swimming just off the beach on the west side of the island, and white one turned on a bait, it didn’t bite. Look for cobia in the shallows up and down the coast. They often will be trailing rays, as they feed on the small shrimp and crabs stirred off the bottom by the turbulence of the rays’ wings as they swim. Lots of small sharks are on the flats and around the beaches. Larry landed three blacktips while fishing. Trout fishing has been good over grass bottom in the shallows north and south of the Anclote River, though anglers need to be aware the harvest of trout is closed in Pasco and Pinellas waters. An angler reported one of the first tarpon schools. The fish were rolling between Honeymoon Island and Three Rooker Bar.
Cooper's Shrimp Shack, 727-868-8736: Bill says anglers have been prospecting for gag grouper offshore in anticipation of the season opening June 1. They have been taking keeper-sized fish as close as 7 miles out. Kingfish remain in the area, with the schools being found in 25 feet of water and deeper. Inshore anglers are spotting more cobia on the flats, including some big fish. Spanish mackerel have been following baitfish on the deeper grass flats and those focused on canals are finding mangrove snapper and sheepshead in good numbers. Many anglers are happy that the red snapper season will be open for a month this year rather than staggered weekends. The season opens June 11 and runs until July 12.