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Last weekend marked the start of the first really good fishing stretch of the season. Reports were flying in from up and down the coast of good action on redfish, speckled trout, black drum and some nice sea mullet (whiting). The weather has added uncertainty to the mix since then, but there’s no doubt spring fishing is in about to hit full stride.
Some of the big inshore news is happening on the piers, as anglers have been catching sea mullet in good size. Sea mullet hit hard for their size and they are terrific at the table, perfect for frying up rolled in seasoned flour. I’ve been really impressed with the size of some of the sea mullet being caught so far this year.
They are easy to catch on regular two-hook bottom rigs, with a 2-ounce pyramid or bank sinker being just right to keep your bait in the feeding zone. I like to tie my own rigs at times, but the ones you buy in the tackle or pier shop work just as well if they are hitting.
The best bait is the freshest shrimp you can find, cut into small bites that just cover the hook. Other baits like squid and frozen shrimp will work in a pinch. It really does pay, though, to stop at a seafood market first to get some really fresh shrimp to use. Size 6 or 4 hooks are fine. You don’t want to use hooks too large for sea mullet, as they have small mouths.
Fresh shrimp is also the best bait for the chunky black drum being hauled up on the piers and caught around the bridges right now. Black drum will often be near the pilings of a pier or bridge, so you don’t have to cast a mile to get to them. Hefty black drum of 3 pounds or so will put a nice bend in a light-tackle rod.
It won’t be long until those nice, sleek spring blues are hitting on the piers and the pompano are gobbling up sand fleas in the surf. There have already been a few pompano and some small blues caught. The next really warm stretch should signal the start of bluefish season for the year, as folks go to work with their Gotcha plugs out at the ends of the piers.
Inshore the strong red drum bite continues. Lots of reds are hanging around at the docks and bridges, and our we got our first reports of good redfish catches in the surf, joining the skates and small sharks that surf anglers have been catching for weeks. For those more interested in filling up the cooler than the mostly catch and release reds, the “spike” trout (fish in about the 12- to 14-inch size) are running the tides around the creeks and bridges. The larger trout will show up oceanside and at the jetties as the water continues to warm and the trout start to spawn.
Anglers are using fresh shrimp and cut bait in the surf (or live finger mullet if you can find them already) while inside folks are tossing Gulp, DOA and Billy Bay Halo Shrimp lures at the reds and trout. Remember not to retrieve too quickly, as water temperatures are still relatively low and, although the fish are active, they aren’t in full frenzy yet.
A few flounder are showing up now, but that action won’t likely get hot until the end of the month. If you have live mud minnows or finger mullet, you can try for them on the bottom, although a lot of flounder that are being landed right now are being brought in by trout or drum anglers fishing lures slowly.
There were a lot of full coolers and happy anglers last weekend, and if the weather will give us a break, then spring action is about to really heat up. Whether you want to hit the piers for the tasty sea mullet or roam around inshore for reds and trout, the fish are out there now just waiting for you to catch them.