Spring arrived early this year, with water temps hitting the low 70s in mid-February, almost a month ahead of a typical year. These past few weeks have seen the fish spread out between many spring staging areas. Each spot is worthy of a few casts, with some adult fish mixed in and ready to pounce on a helpless bait. These same areas will continue to produce impressive catches until a long stretch of 80+ degree weather pushes us into the next stage. Usually this happens at the end of April.
This time of year one bait stands out above all others: sardines. Catching a livewell full of sardines each morning is a chore to say the least, however, it pays dividends. By a factor of 10, sardines out fish everything else this time of year. They are the most nutrient dense food for snook, who need to pack on weight after a long winter season. With the water temps in the low 70s, I prefer a small sardine as the fish are not at peak energy. As the water warms into the mid to upper 70s, I like a medium to large sardine to entice those larger snook and hopefully tempt a trophy fish to eat.
Sardines can be caught in a variety of areas, but we break this down to 2 scenarios: Shallow water and deep water. The shallow water consists of the grass flats, and the deep water is bridges and piers. These two areas are bait magnets. So far, the shallow water flats have not had an influx of sardines, which is a departure from a normal season. However, the deep water areas are full of sardines, and a well timed cast net throw will yield all the bait one needs for the day. So for the next 2 months, it will be all about catching sardines and feeding them to hungry snook. One of the most fun times of year.