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Feature Stories 2012

Volume 2, Issue 9, March 2012:  The Bait is Back in Town – Early Spring Bait Ignites Big Bite

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In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT, Volume 2, Issue 9, March 2012:  The Bait is Back in Town – Early Spring Bait Ignites Big Bite, we take a mid-winter ride with Captain Trever Meyer to see if we can catch some trout and redfish on creek chubs.  Using creek chubs for bait in the winter months is an old go-to trick sometimes used in the absence of our treasured Springtime whitebait.  But when the captain found the whitebait and found it thick, you can bet your bottom dollar that we forget all about slinging creek chubs here and there.  Finding this plethora of bait, mid-winter, was just the joyful beginning.  The rest of the day would yield consistent hook-ups of 20” plus trout in just about every location we fished.  Throw in a couple healthy, slot-size redfish and this became one of the most productive winter trips to date.  Sorry pinfish, no free shrimp meals for you on this banner day.  This special day was all about the power of Scaled Sardines and why winter-time whitebait is a rare and wonderful thing!

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the March 2012 issue of our local Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.

Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)



The Bait is Back in Town – Early Spring Bait Ignites Big Bite
By Joshua W. Broer


On an unusually warm and Spring-like day in the beginning of February, I set out with ace Tarpon Springs flats guide Captain Trever Meyer to try an old winter trick we had used before.  Our goal was, in the absence of our beloved Scaled Sardines (whitebait) during the winter, to round up some creek chubs from the beach.  Creek chubs, killifish, mud minnows, etc., have been known to produce some banner redfish days when you find them schooled up and hungry.  The captain dropped me off on the beach in some chilly water with a relatively small and light cast net with the proper ¼” mesh needed to avoid gilling these small, shoreline baits.  The water temperature was actually tolerable, the creek chubs came fast and easy with this small and easy to throw net, and I was ready to fish.

Just then I saw my ride come skimming around the corner of the beach, hands waving madly from the tower.  I knew something was up.  “I’ll bet he knows that I scored on the creek chubs” is all that I could think of.  Waddling across the beach with a heavy 5-gallon bucket and cast net in my hands, I approached the boat with a cocky sort of smile, ready to impress my mentor with my successful mission.  Handing the bucket and net over, I hoisted myself up onto the deck and scrambled for a towel and dry shirt.  The captain opened the lid to see a few dozen chubs bumping around.  “Well done!” he said.  “But look what done up and jumped into my livewell” he said with the slang and tone of the local flavor.  I opened the lid to the massive 60-gallon well to see top-to-bottom blackness of medium, large and giant scaled sardines.  Not only was there enough bait to fish for a solid two days, it was an arsenal of all the right sized baits to target just about anything that swam.

Finding the motherload of whitebait in the middle of winter is a not-so-common occurrence.  There are of course those cold, “out of season” days when you do find the bait and it pays off big.  But it’s rare.  The water temperature was slightly warmer than it usually is for this time of year but not by too much.  Something was different.  Something was happening, we discussed, that blessed us with this bounty of bait.  The winter had been relatively mild and the fishing exceptionally good – we knew that.  This winter season had produced only one freeze and it lasted a mere two nights.  The fish had been eating throughout the season and they were chewing on live shrimp, crustaceans, artificials, flies and more.  So with this livewell o’ gold, we knew we couldn’t go wrong.

Armed with the region’s best bait and very few boats on the water that day, we had only one roadblock ahead and that was a typical winter negative low tide.  Even with the capability of the captain’s huge 21 foot, air entrapment hull which skims across the flats in a mere 10” of water, there simply wasn’t 10” of water in much of the area we wanted to fish.  But we knew if we could get to certain holes and deeper flats, the fish would be there.  And there they were!

For the next few hours we scooted around from flat to flat and hole to hole catching some of the fattest trout of the season.  With a few slot-sized redfish mixed in at most of our fishy haunts, we made it a mission to keep looking for bigger and bigger fish.  Despite not finding some over-slot reds on our hunt, the trout were fatter and longer at each new spot.  By the end of the day, almost every fish was a gator over the 20” mark.  Our second angler on the boat and rabid pompano and flounder angler, John Guiseppi, was doing some serious damage on these fish with back-to-back-to-back hookups.  “Now where did you say you were casting?” I pleaded.

Heading back to the ramp it was clear to us that a different pattern was developing this year.  Winter was merging into Spring about a month early.  The fish were thick and everywhere.   Whitebait in the winter – this is how to catch!  To set up a charter with Captain Meyer, he can be reached at 727-481-1302.


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