by: Capt. Greg Stamper
April is a great time of the year to be fishing in SWFL! We’ve got it all, like tarpon, permit, cobia, and tripletail to name a few. Our perhaps you’ll want to play in the shallow back-bays for snook, redfish, trout, and big jacks. There’s also shark fishing as an option as they’ll be full speed. The reason is clear, the larger game fish that the sharks prefer to have show up with the massive schools of bait. So, there’s lots of decisions as to what we’ll be doing, and the weather should be great!
Tarpon become a big deal and are what we are best known for in Southwest Florida during the next few months. The spawn for tarpon begins now, and they’ll be found along our beaches and nearshore waters. Targeting these fish is usually best on the stronger tides closest to the full moon and with the right kind of bait. I prefer crabs or threadfins, but many tarpon are caught using cut baits and artificial as well. Tarpon will be in town spawning until around mid-June, so if you miss a few good days there will be more. Our typical near shore tarpon will be around 100 pounds and are backbay fish will be 10-40 pounds.
Snook fishing becomes one of my favorite targets during this time of the year as more and more anglers pursue tarpon, leaving areas holding snook less pressured. Snook begin to patrol the beaches, passes, and rivers stalking schools of sardines, threadfin, mullet, etc. You’ll find that most snook like sandy bottom so looking for them along mangrove shorelines with just that works well. It’s also important to remember that releasing snook verse harvesting them is the right thing to do. This ensures the fishery will continue to be strong for the future. When you do catch a nice fish, get a quick picture then put her right back in the water. Reviving the fish well before releasing her is just as important to assure survival and lots more snooklets in the future.
Redfish will be happy this month and will be another target many anglers will want to catch. There’s plenty of options as to how we’ll attack them, but the easiest around here is spreads for reds. You can use a variety of baits from shrimp to frozen mullet. Now for those that are good casters, I prefer slowly moving down shorelines, oyster bars, and occasionally docks. Doing this we can throw artificial like DOA shrimp, Swimbaits usually rigged weedless, or perhaps walk the dog for some top water action. This type of fishing keeps anglers busy and can be very rewarding when you get that bite.
Trout, pompano, jacks, ladyfish, and mangrove snapper are just a few of the other inshore species that we target this month. As most guides do, we cater to what our clients want, so if it’s about numbers and action these species can keep you busy for most of the trip. These fish are great for kids or those who just want an enjoyable day with some fun action. Besides some peeps aren’t up for fighting a fish for 30 minutes anyhow. Targeting these fish is simple, try using a simple popping cork with a live shrimp below it.
Permit have been rolling into town, and if you’re lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, it can be an experience. Permit are crab eaters but will eat shrimp and clams as well as other crustaceans. When targeting permit, it is best to move quietly preferably on a trolling motor while paying attention to what’s happening on the surface as well as on your depth finder. Permit have excellent eyesight, so using a long fluorocarbon leader say 25lb is a must combined with a 2/0 circle hook will do the job. When you target this species, be sure to have a reel with a good drag that can hold at least 300 yards of line.
Finally its shark time! We’ve gottem all starting now and on a good day we can catch a ton. Hammerheads, blacktips, spinners, grays, nurse, etc. all here all fun. It’s a great time for those that want to catch something big. Most of the sharks will be 3-4 feet, but occasionally we’ll get a 7-8 footer. 6/o circle hooks and a variety of baits should get the job done both free lining and weighting a bait down.
Tight lines, Capt. Greg Stamper