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Spring fishing is here with warming temperatures and unstable weather. Drum are still the most consistent catch, although flounder and speckled trout are hitting now and a few bluefish have shown up.
Capt. Patrick Kelly of Capt. Smiley Fishing Charters has been having luck on both red and black drum recently. He has done well on both recently inshore.
“We’ve been using cut soft shell blue crab,” he said, “on a 4/0 circle hook with a 20- pound leader and just a split shot.”
Black drum are structure-orientated fish that feed mainly on shellfish. That means the best way to catch them is by using placing your bait as close to the pilings or rocks as possible, using shellfish as bait. Cut blue crab is a great black drum bait, although most people catch them on cut shrimp. They also hit live shrimp and most other natural baits on occasion.
The red drum have been hitting since the end of fall and are now breaking up from the huge backwater schools to roam around structure and in the marsh grass and larger inlets. Some can also be caught in the surf now.
Redfish will hit the same baits as black drum but can also be caught on live minnows like mud minnows and finger mullet as well as the scented artificial soft baits fished on jig heads.
Bluefish are now present in the surf and off of the ends of the piers and this bite will get much better as water warms. Blues will hit any natural bait on the bottom, although nothing beats fresh bloody cut bait for them.
They will also hit Gotcha-style pencil plugs from the piers and this is a fun way to fish for them. The best colors for the Gotcha plugs changes daily, although red heads and white or gold bodies are hard to beat most days.
Flounder are in the inlets and around structures, although with the new 15-inch size limit there are a lot of throwbacks this time of the year.
Flounder like live minnows on the move, drifted or trolled slowly through the inlets or fished around pilings, rocks and creek mouths. They are just as easily caught inshore right now using the scented soft baits like Gulp lures on jig heads cast to structure and hopped slowly on and off the bottom. Again, color preference can vary but flounder tend to really like pearl white fluke and shrimp-style grubs.
Speckled trout are an on again/off again fishery mostly in the mornings inshore, but remember we are still in a closed season until at least mid-June and it is catch-and-release only. Trout will hit live shrimp and minnows, although with it being catch and release there is really no reason right now to fish for them with anything but the scented soft bait lures. Specks love the color green but also are often fond of chartreuse, white and the electric chicken colors on their soft baits.
The piers are also seeing action on whiting (sea mullet), which are best caught with fresh cut shrimp or Fishbites artificial bloodworms. The surf is holding some flounder, some bluefish, whiting and dogfish sharks and skates. Right now surf fishing is best with the freshest bait you can get, whatever it is. The bluefish action should get a lot better as the water keeps getting warmer.