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Capt. Rick Grassett’s Monthly Forecast for May 2020

May should be a great month to fly fish for tarpon in the coastal gulf.

May should be a great month to fly fish for tarpon in the coastal gulf.

Tarpon fishing will take off during May as migratory fish arrive along our beaches. Also look for Spanish mackerel, tripletail, cobia and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf. Snook will move into passes and the surf and reds and trout should feed heavily on shallow flats as baitfish become more plentiful. Trout, blues, Spanish mackerel and more should be good options on deep grass flats.

Resident tarpon are usually the first to show up as they make their way out of rivers and creeks. As migratory tarpon start to arrive this month, we should have schools of tarpon moving both north and south along our beaches. Early arriving tarpon may be more aggressive due to less fishing pressure early in the season. Set up in their line of travel and wait for tarpon schools to move past and cast a DOA Baitbuster, a 4 inch CAL Shad, a live crab or pinfish to them. Once you’ve seen the first school of fish, you can concentrate your efforts in that lane since other schools should be following the same route.

When they aren’t showing well on the surface, a live bait under a float in their travel lane may score. I’ve also done well blind casting a DOA Baitbuster or Swimming Mullet when there wasn’t much showing on the surface. Be quiet and using your electric trolling motor sparingly. Even though your 4-stroke outboard sounds quiet, it is no substitute for an electric trolling motor. Give other anglers at least several hundred yards of space and keep in mind that fish can be moving either north or south so setting up too close to another angler may affect their flow of fish.

Fly anglers should do well with a variety of baitfish or crab fly patterns fished on floating or intermediate sink tip fly lines. Staking out or anchoring in shallow water on their travel route should result in some shots at fish. The best angle is a “head on” shot, followed by a quartering shot. A perpendicular shot may work if it’s timed perfectly, although casting too far beyond their line of travel will usually spook them. I use a push pole with an occasional assist from a trolling motor if I need to adjust my position to make a cast.

There are few fishing experiences that compare to the experience of battling a tarpon in open water.

There are few fishing experiences that compare to the experience of battling a tarpon in open water.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found by CLICKING HERE. This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding and the continued closure will make it even better.

Snook will be spawning this month so use tackle heavy enough to catch and release them in a timely manner and handle them gently. Larger snook will mostly be females and should always be supported horizontally rather than hung vertically by the jaw. You’ll find them in passes and in the surf. They will also stage around docks and bridges close to passes. Casting CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms or DOA shrimp around docks and bridges close to passes should be effective. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, work well at night. One of the most fun ways to target snook is to walk the beach and cast CAL jigs, DOA shrimp or flies to them in the surf.

Higher tides this month will mean that reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats. Look for them along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high and in potholes or along sandbars when the tide is low. When fishing shallow water for reds, be as quiet as possible. I prefer to use a push pole or wade. Reds are one of the most challenging species to catch on a fly. Since they can be very spooky, I often wade for them when fly fishing to keep a lower profile.

You’ll also find big trout in many of the same shallow areas that you find reds. They will be plentiful on deep grass flats. I prefer to cast CAL jigs and flies on sink tip fly lines for trout. A DOA Deadly Combo also works very well. Drifting and casting ahead of the drift is usually the most productive method. Look for flats that have a good mix of grass and sand and good tidal flow.

Sean Sherman, from NYC, caught and released this tarpon on a fly while fishing the coastal gulf with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous May.

Sean Sherman, from NYC, caught and released this tarpon on a fly while fishing the coastal gulf with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous May.

You may find pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on the same deep grass flats where trout are plentiful. They can be targeted in the same way as trout, but you may need to use wire or heavy fluorocarbon leader when toothy fish are around. You may also find Spanish and king mackerel, little tunny, cobia and tripletail in the coastal gulf.

Keep your eyes open for surface activity such as diving birds, breaking fish or baitfish being forced out of the water which could indicate the presence of mackerel, blues or little tunny. Medium spinning tackle and 8 or 9-weight fly tackle should be heavy enough, although your tarpon spinning and fly tackle is not too heavy for cobia. Look for cobia either swimming on the surface or around navigational markers or buoys.

I have also found cobia swimming with schools of tarpon before. Tripletail may be found around crab trap floats or buoys, where they can be targeted with a DOA shrimp or CAL jig on spinning tackle. When fly fishing for tripletail, a floating line on an 8 or 9-weight fly rod with a shrimp or baitfish fly pattern, like my Grassett Flats Minnow, should get the job done.

This is one of my favorite months of the year. If battling a big tarpon isn’t for you, you should have plenty to do on both shallow and deep grass flats or in the coastal gulf. I’ll be spending my time targeting tarpon in the coastal gulf unless conditions won’t allow it. There is something about casting a fly to a giant fish in shallow water! Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by residential, agricultural and industrial runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Capt. Rick GrassettCapt. Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick is the owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc. He's a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He’s been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guide here at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, the 2011 Orvis Out­fit­ter of the Year.


Capt. Rick Grassett’s Monthly Forecast for April 2020

Mark and Jenny Nichols, of DOA Lures, fished Gasparilla Sound with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous April.

Mark & Jenny Nichols, of DOA Lures, fished Gasparilla Sound with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous April.

This is a great month for snook on shallow flats. Reds and trout will also be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. You might find Spanish mackerel, blues and pompano in passes or on deep grass flats. Look for Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail in the coastal gulf this month. Tarpon should also make an appearance in back country areas and in the coastal gulf later in the month.

Tarpon will become more plentiful this month as resident fish make their way out of rivers and creeks and early arriving migratory fish begin to show along beaches, particularly by the end of the month. Water temperature in the gulf is a key factor with 80 degrees being an optimum temperature. As the water warms towards that, fish will become more plentiful.

Capt. Rick Grassett with Jenny Nichols in a previous April had good action with snook on DOA Shrimp and CAL jigs with shad tails.

Capt. Rick Grassett with Jenny Nichols in a previous April had good action with snook on DOA Shrimp and CAL jigs with shad tails.

Resident fish may be rolling on deep grass flats in some of the same places that you find trout, laid up on edges of shallow grass flats or along sand bars. Spin anglers might score with a DOA Shrimp, Baitbuster or 4” CAL Shad Tail while fly anglers might connect with a black Deceiver or Tarpon Bunny fly. Keep your tarpon tackle, rigged and ready, this time of year so you’re able to take advantage of any opportunity that arises.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021.

Full details including exact boundaries can be found by CLICKING HERE. This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding and the continued closure will make it even better.

Snook should be staging on flats, around sand and oyster bars, on points of islands and around docks and bridges close to passes in the ICW. Spin anglers should score with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails including the 4” CAL Shad, DOA Baitbusters or surface walking top water plugs, like the DOA PT. Fish the edges of bars and potholes when the tide is low and mangrove shorelines or points of islands when the tide is high. You’ll also find snook around docks and bridges in the ICW. Night snook fishing should be productive with small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow fly, CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms, DOA Shrimp and Tiny TerrorEyz. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.

Reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats due to more plentiful bait. I am seeing a decline in reds and big trout in shallow water in many of the areas that I fish, which makes them even harder to catch with lures and flies. Look for them in potholes, the edges of bars and around docks when the tide is low. You should find them higher on flats over shallow grass or around mangrove shorelines when the tide is high. I like a 1/16-oz CAL jig with a shad tail or jerk worm for reds in shallow water. They are easy to fish in shallow water, come in multiple colors and are a good way to find reds. My Grassett Flats Minnow is my “go to” fly for reds. It fishes well in shallow water and its bend back design makes it very weedless. You may also find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. The same lures, flies and techniques used to find and catch reds will also work for big trout.

Matt Schenk, from CO, caught and released trout on Ultra Hair Clouser flies while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous April.

Matt Schenk, from CO, caught and released trout on Ultra Hair Clouser flies while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous April.

Trout should be plentiful on deep grass flats. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails or DOA Deadly Combos. Fly anglers should score with weighted flies on sink tip fly lines. I tie Clousers with Ultra Hair on long shank hooks so that they are durable and will hold up to toothy and rough mouth fish. Deep grass flats with a close proximity to passes and usually good due to strong tidal flow.

You might also find blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano or flounder mixed with trout on deep grass flats. The same lures, flies and techniques that you use to find trout on deep grass will work for these species, too. You’ll need to tip your leader with wire or heavy fluorocarbon when blues and mackerel are around. I prefer heavy fluorocarbon and long shank hooks whenever possible, since that usually won’t affect the trout bite. Blues and mackerel usually don’t feed on the surface in the bay like they do in the open gulf, but you may see bait showering or boils indicating fast moving fish, feeding just below the surface. Pompano may “skip” when you run or drift past them giving their location away. When that happens, circle back upwind and drift the area. Flounder are often found in potholes, on the edges of bars or on mud bottom.

There should be good action for a variety of species on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay during April. Matt caught and released this Spanish mackerel while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous April.

Matt caught and released this Spanish mackerel while fishing with Capt. Grassett in a previous April.

There should be good action in the coastal gulf this month with Spanish and king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail. Look for Spanish mackerel or albies feeding on the surface. You might find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats.

Your tarpon spin or fly tackle can do double duty for cobia and medium spinning tackle or an 8 or 9-weight fly rod will cover everything else. Artificial reefs or natural areas of hard bottom may hold any of these species. When fishing these areas you will need to get your lure, fly or bait down in the water column to the level where fish are located.

April is one of my favorite months. There should be good action in Sarasota Bay on both shallow and deep grass flats, in the coastal gulf for mackerel, albies, cobia and tripletail and with tarpon by the end of the month. I like early season tarpon, since they are usually aggressive, but there should be lots of other options, too. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by residential, agricultural and industrial runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Capt. Rick GrassettCapt. Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick is the owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc. He's a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He’s been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guide here at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, the 2011 Orvis Out­fit­ter of the Year.


Capt. Rick Grassett’s Monthly Forecast for March 2020

There should be good action in shallow water during March. I waded into a shallow flat in a previous March and caught and released this nice red on a fly.

There should be good action in shallow water during March. I waded into a shallow flat in a previous March and caught and released this nice red on a fly.

There should be good action with reds, trout and snook in skinny water in March as baitfish become more plentiful. Look for Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, tripletail and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf. Night snook fishing in the ICW should also be a good option this month.

Snook, reds and spotted sea trout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County.

Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found by CLICKING HERE. This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding and the continued closure will make it even better.

This should be a good month for snook fishing at night around lighted docks and bridge fenders in the ICW. DOA Shrimp, CAL jigs with shad tails and small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, usually work well at night since glass minnows and shrimp are the predominate bait. Focus on shadow lines where light meets dark and fish strong tides for the best action. Although snook may also be found in rivers, creeks or canals in March, they will also start to move onto shallow flats, particularly on sunny afternoons when it’s warm. I like larger lures like CAL jigs with jerk worms, CAL 4” Shad Tails, DOA Baitbusters and the DOA PT soft plastic top water lure or wide profile flies like Clousers, Deceivers and EP flies, for snook on the flats.

Look for early season tarpon that may start to show in backcountry areas. These are usually adult resident fish that are making their way out of rivers and creeks. They may be “laid up” or rolling on deep grass flats, on edges of shallow flats or along bars when it is calm. An accurate cast with a DOA Shrimp, a Deceiver or Tarpon Bunny fly may result in an explosive strike! Look for them in areas of Sarasota Bay, lower Tampa Bay or in Gasparilla Sound on some of the same deep grass flats where you find trout.

Reds should be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. Higher tides, as we head into spring, will allow them to spend more time feeding in shallow water. Look for them over shallow grass, along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high. You should find them in potholes and along sand bars when the tide is low. I like the shallow flats of north Sarasota Bay for reds this month. I like 1/16-ounce CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms to locate reds. Fly anglers should score with my Grassett Flats Minnow fly, fished on a 10’-12’ leader. When using a long leader be sure you are able turn it over, otherwise you’ll need to shorten it until you can. The butt section should be at least 50% of the total length of the leader and stiff enough to transfer energy from your fly line to the leader.

You might also find reds around docks when the tide is low. Look for deep water under docks with a good tidal flow for the best action. A 1/8-ounce CAL jig with a shad tail or grub or a weighted fly fished on a clear intermediate sink tip fly line with a 6’ leader with should work well for dock fishing.

You may find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. Blind cast seams where grass meets sand or focus on light colored bottom, in potholes on top of sand bars, where you may be able to sight fish them. These big fish, usually females, are important to the health of our fishery.

You should also find trout plentiful on deep grass flats along with Spanish mackerel, blues, flounder or pompano. I like to make a series of drifts, casting ahead of the drift with CAL jigs with shad tails, DOA Deadly Combos or an Ultra Hair Clouser fly tied on a long shank hook and fished on a clear intermediate sink tip fly line to locate fish.

Also look for birds, bait showering out of the water or boils on the surface that will indicate fish feeding below. When mackerel and blues are around, you may need to add 6” of 40# to 60# fluorocarbon or wire to your leader. Top water plugs and fly poppers also work well when blues and mackerel are around and may help locate them by attracting them from further away.

Look for tripletail in the coastal gulf this time of year.

Look for tripletail in the coastal gulf this time of year.

Flounder may be found on sand or mud bottom areas on both shallow and deep grass flats or around docks. Pompano may skip on the surface when you drift or run past them, giving their location away. Fish deep grass flats with a mixture of grass and sand and a strong tidal flow for the best action.

You may also find Spanish or king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia or tripletail in the coastal gulf this month. Look for diving or hovering terns to find Spanish mackerel or false albacore feeding on the surface. ¼-ounce CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms or top water plugs should work well for spin anglers. Fly anglers should score with small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow or Ultra Hair Clousers fished on an intermediate sink tip fly line.

Run crab trap lines at various depths to find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats. Fly anglers should score on tripletail with DOA Shrimp or lightly weighted flies with weed guards. Cobia may also be swimming on the surface as they migrate from south to north following warmer water and baitfish. DOA Baitbusters, Airheads, PT’s and large, wide profile flies, like Deceivers or EP flies would be good fly choices for cobia. In the absence of any fish on the surface, check out one of the many artificial reefs or natural hard bottom areas that may hold baitfish and predators. Drift over structure and cast DOA Baitbusters or weighted flies on fast sinking fly lines to get deeper in the water column to catch them.

Conditions are usually good during March and fishing should heat up. Flats and night snook fishing are usually good options this month. I like to check the coastal gulf when conditions are good, since you could find something really good happening there. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by residential, agricultural and industrial runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Capt. Rick GrassettCapt. Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick is the owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc. He's a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He’s been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guide here at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, the 2011 Orvis Out­fit­ter of the Year.


Capt. Rick Grassett’s Monthly Forecast for Feb. 2020

Mike Perez, from Sarasota, waded a sandbar in a previous February with Capt. Rick Grassett and caught and released this big trout on a fly.

Mike Perez, from Sarasota, waded a sandbar in a previous February with Capt. Rick Grassett and caught and released this big trout on a fly.

Trout and redfish should be good shallow water options this month. You may also find trout along with blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and flounder on deep grass flats. Look for sheepshead, flounder, reds and more around docks. Catch and release night snook fishing around lighted docks in the ICW may be a good option if it’s not too cold. Spanish and king mackerel and cobia may show up in the coastal gulf by the end of the month.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout are closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by last year’s red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and spotted seatrout (of any size) are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2020. Full details including exact boundaries can be found by CLICKING HERE →. Since these species are now closed, use tackle heavy enough to catch and release them quickly.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL  had good action catching and releasing snook and in backcountry areas of Gasparilla Sound while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous February.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL had good action catching and releasing snook and in backcountry areas of Gasparilla Sound while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous February.

Since snook are temperature sensitive, I won’t target them following strong fronts when water temperatures dip below 60 degrees. However, I have had some great night trips catching and releasing snook on flies in the ICW at night this time of year. Since larger baitfish aren’t that plentiful this time of year, snook will gorge themselves on glass minnows and shrimp. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, DOA Shrimp (3’ or the newer 2-3/4”), DOA Tiny TerrorEyz or CAL Jigs with shad tails and jerk worms will all work well.

You may also find snook in rivers, creeks or canals this month. Fishing may be good in these areas on a blustery day when it isn’t fit to fish anywhere else.

I like wider profile flies and lures in these areas due to the baitfish that may be found there. Fly anglers should score with wide profile baitfish patterns, such as Lefty’s Deceiver, fished on a sink tip fly line. Spin anglers should do well with CAL jigs and 4” swim baits and jerk worms, DOA Baitbusters or suspending plugs. Fish the deep spots, usually on outside bends, for the best action.

Stephen Liska, from Naples, FL, had good action catching and releasing reds in backcountry areas of Gasparilla Sound while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous February.

Stephen Liska had good action catching and releasing reds in backcountry areas of Gasparilla Sound while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous February.

You might find reds in potholes or along the edges of bars and shallow flats when the tide is low. As the tide rises, they will feed higher on shallow flats, particularly on sunny afternoons. I like 1/16-ounce CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms for reds in shallow water. If it is too shallow or grassy to fish an exposed hook, a Mustad or Owner weedless hook will allow you to fish plastic baits in these areas.

Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies, like Clousers or my Grassett Flats Minnow, with weed guards on floating lines with 10’-12’ leaders. You may also find big trout in skinny water in the same places you find reds. The same lures, flies and techniques that you use to target reds will work for big trout in those areas. I release all over slot trout since they are usually females and I feel that they are important to the health of our trout fishery.

You’ll find trout on deep grass flats. I like flats that have a good mix of grass and sand and good tidal flow. Flats that are close to passes are often good choices since water temperatures may be warmer there. Following fronts, silted up water will cover deep grass flats close to passes, often affecting fishing in those areas. Other good grass flats may be on points or around bars. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails, DOA Deadly Combos or weighted flies on sink tip fly lines to locate trout. Once you’ve located them you can shorten your drift or anchor on them.

In addition to trout, you may also find blues, Spanish mackerel, flounder or pompano, depending on water temperature and conditions, on deep grass flats. The technique to find them is the same as for trout, although there may be other clues. Pompano may “skip” on the surface when you drift or run past them giving their presence away. When that happens, set up a drift upwind of where you saw a pompano and cast ahead of your drift. Blues and Spanish mackerel may force bait out of the water or feed on the surface. You may need to add heavy fluorocarbon or wire when blues and mackerel are mixed with trout on deep grass flats.

Palmetto winter resident, Jerry Poslusny, had good action catching and releasing snook on flies in a previous February with Capt. Rick Grassett.

Palmetto winter resident, Jerry Poslusny, had good action catching and releasing snook on flies in a previous February with Capt. Rick Grassett.

Fishing docks is another good option this time of year, especially when the tide is low. You might find reds, sheepshead or flounder under docks. I like docks that are deep (3’ or more) and have a good tidal flow. Fish the end of long piers to find the deepest water. Also, look for big boats moored on docks or on boat lifts, which is also an indication of deeper water.

Older docks with lots of barnacle and oyster growth usually hold more baitfish and predators. I like CAL jigs with shad tails, grubs or jerk worms or weighted flies fished on sink tip fly lines when fishing docks. Be sure to let your jig or fly get down close to the bottom.

There may be some action in the coastal gulf by the end of the month with king and Spanish mackerel and cobia. When the water warms to the high 60’s to low 70’s, these fish will move into our area from the south as they migrate north. Look for Spanish mackerel on the surface or in passes. Cobia may be swimming on the surface, around buoys, channel markers and crab trap floats or over structure.

February can be a tough month to fish. With frequent fronts and cool water, fish aren’t always in an eating mood. If you’re able to pick good tides combined with favorable weather conditions, you should be successful. If you don’t have that luxury, you might do better by sleeping in and fishing later in the day when it’s warmer. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Capt. Rick GrassettCapt. Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick is the owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc. He's a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He’s been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guide here at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, the 2011 Orvis Out­fit­ter of the Year.


Capt. Rick Grassett’s Monthly Forecast for Jan. 2020

Nick Reding, from St. Louis, waded a sand bar to catch and release this snook on a fly in a previous January with Capt. Rick Grassett.

Nick Reding, from St. Louis, waded a sandbar to catch and release this snook on a fly in a previous January with Capt. Rick Grassett.

You may find reds and big trout concentrated in potholes in January. Action with trout, blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and more on deep grass flats can be good depending on conditions. There should also be good catch and release snook action in rivers, creeks and canals this month, although fishing docks for snook and other species is also a good option. It may be worth checking the coastal gulf for tripletail, cobia, false albacore (little tunny) and more when it’s warm.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout are closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by last year’s red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and spotted seatrout (of any size) are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2020. Full details including exact boundaries can be found by CLICKING HERE. Since these species are now closed, use tackle heavy enough to catch and release them quickly.

Snook are very temperature sensitive, so I won’t target them if the water temperature dips below 60 degrees. However, fishing lighted docks in the ICW at night with lures and flies can be very good in January. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, Gurglers and shrimp fly patterns will work well for fly anglers. Spin anglers should score with CAL jigs with shad tails or 4” jerk worms, DOA Tiny TerrorEyz and DOA 2-3/4” & 3” Shrimp. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.

Marshall Dinerman, from Lido Key, with a big trout caught and released on a CAL jig with a shad tail while fishing shallow water with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous January.

Marshall Dinerman, from Lido Key, with a big trout caught and released on a CAL jig with a shad tail while fishing in shallow waters with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous January.

You should also find snook in rivers, creeks and canals this month. Fish deeper water in outside bends to locate snook where you may catch them with CAL jigs and shad tails or jerk worms, DOA Baitbusters or diving/suspending plugs. You may also find reds, juvenile tarpon and even largemouth bass in the same areas depending on salinity.

Reds should be a good option this month. You’ll find them concentrated in potholes when the tide is low. Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies fished on a 10’-12’ leader with a floating fly line. Reds feed on crustaceans this time of the year, so crab and shrimp fly patterns should work well.

They may tail on shallow grass flats when the tide is low. You’ll need weedless rigged plastic baits or flies with weed guards to target tailing reds. A CAL shad tail on a weedless hook or a DOA shrimp rigged weedless and fished backwards are a couple of my favorite lures for tailing reds.

You may also find reds around docks, along with snook, sheepshead, flounder and more. Little Sarasota Bay has numerous oyster bars and docks that often hold reds in January. Work CAL jigs slowly along the bottom for the best action. You’re likely to find big trout in many of the same areas that you find reds. The same lures, flies and techniques that are used for reds will also work for big trout.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL, with a nice snook caught and released on a CAL jig with a shad tail while fishing shallow water with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous January.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL, with a nice snook caught and released on a CAL jig with a shad tail while fishing shallow water with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous January.

You’ll also find trout on deep grass flats in January along with blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano, flounder and more. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails and DOA Deadly Combos. Since trout can sometimes hold very tight to a particular spot or area, try to cover as much water as possible to find them.

Once you’ve located fish you can shorten your drift or anchor on them. A GPS can be useful for this type of fishing since the breadcrumb trail will allow you to duplicate your drift. A drift anchor will slow your drift so you can fish it more thoroughly or make it easier for fly anglers to move their fly.

My favorite deep grass flats, have a good mix of grass and sand with a strong tidal flow. Even though there may not be much happening in the coastal gulf this month in the way of sight fishing it may be worth a look when it is warm.

Migratory species such as king and Spanish mackerel, cobia and tripletail probably have moved further south, however they could reappear during warm ups. Also look for false albacore (little tunny) when it’s warm since they may move from offshore to inshore depending on where baitfish are located.

Steve Kost, from Lakewood Ranch, with a nice bluefish caught and released on a Clouser fly while fishing deep grass flats in a previous January with Capt. Rick Grassett.

Steve Kost, from Lakewood Ranch, with a nice bluefish caught and released on a Clouser fly while fishing deep grass flats in a previous January with Capt. Grassett.

January can be one of the toughest months of the year to fish. However if you are able to choose when to fish based on tides and weather, it can be good. Action is usually good as weather fronts approach.

Following fronts, fishing may be tough for a couple of days so afternoons may fish better at that time. I’ll let the stage of the tide determine where to look for fish. When the tide is low, look for reds tailing on shallow grass or reds, trout and more in potholes or around docks.

Look for reds or big trout cruising on shallow grass flats on sunny afternoons when the tide is high.

Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural, industrial and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Capt. Rick GrassettCapt. Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick is the owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc. He's a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He’s been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guide here at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, the 2011 Orvis Out­fit­ter of the Year.


Capt. Rick Grassett’s Monthly Forecast for Dec. 2019

Mireya Castillo from Salt Lake City, caught and released a nice bluefish in a previous December.

Mireya Castillo from Salt Lake City, caught and released a nice bluefish in a previous December.

You may find reds along with big trout concentrated in potholes, along the edges of bars or tailing on shallow grass flats on negative low tides this month. This is a good month for catch and release snook action around lighted docks in the ICW. Some lights will also have trout and reds making it possible to get a dock “slam”. There may also be good action in the coastal gulf with false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel and tripletail, depending on conditions.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout are closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by last year’s red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and spotted seatrout (of any size) are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2020.

Full details including exact boundaries can be found by CLICKING HERE. Since these species are now closed, use tackle heavy enough to catch and release them quickly.

However, catch and release snook fishing around lighted docks can be good this month unless it gets too cool. I won’t target snook following a strong cold front or if the water dips below 60 degrees, since they may be stressed at that time. However, it can be very good in December under normal conditions. Larger baitfish will thin out and snook will gorge themselves on glass minnows and small shrimp in the ICW at night. I like docks that have a good tidal flow and deep water under them. CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms, DOA Tiny TerrorEyz and DOA Shrimp are my favorite lures for snook at night. Fly anglers should do well with sink tip fly lines and small white flies. Fish peak tidal flows for the fastest action.

You might find reds in potholes or along the edges of flats and bars on negative low tides. They may also tail on shallow grass when the tide is low. Weedless rigged CAL shad tails and jerk worms, DOA Shrimp and lightly weighted flies with weed guards will work well in that situation. As the tide rises, reds will spread out and feed on shallow flats. You may also find them around docks this month. I usually let the stage of the tide tell me where to look for reds.

You may also find big trout in skinny water this month in many of the same areas where you find reds. The same lures and techniques that I use for reds will also work for trout in the same areas. You should also find trout on deep grass flats this month along with blues, flounder or pompano. Blues may sometimes feed on the surface, so bird activity may give their presence away. Pompano may skip when you drift or run past them and when that happens, circle back upwind and drift through the area casting ahead of your drift. Flounder prefer a mix of sand and grass, particularly in potholes or on the edges of bars. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails or DOA Deadly Combos. Fly anglers should score with sink tip fly lines and weighted flies, like Clousers or my Grassett Deep Flats Bunny fly, which behaves like a jig with a shad tail. I like to fish shallow flats for reds and snook and deep grass flats that are close to passes, on points and along sand bars for trout, blues, flounder and pompano in December.

There should still be some action in the coastal gulf with Spanish mackerel, blues, false albacore and tripletail, although earlier in the fall was disappointing for false albacore. Rough or cold water later in the month may slow the action and move fish south or offshore. Look for terns either diving or hovering low over the surface of the water to find albies, blues and mackerel feeding on the surface. Once you’ve found them, cast top water plugs or CAL jigs with shad tails to catch them. Fly anglers should score with glass minnow fly patterns, poppers or Crease flies. Sometimes top water plugs or fly poppers will draw fish to the surface, especially over structure. You’ll need to add wire or heavy fluorocarbon to your leader when blues and mackerel are around. Look for tripletail around crab trap floats or channel markers. Once you’ve located a fish, work back into the wind or current with an electric trolling motor to get into casting range and cast a DOA shrimp, a weedless-rigged CAL shad tail or lightly weighted fly with a weed guard to them. Try to make your first shot count since they are much tougher to catch once they know you’re there.

There will be lots of options in December, although weather becomes more of a factor. When fishing flats, I usually let conditions and the stage of the tide determine when, where and what I will target. I like to fish the coastal gulf for false albacore and tripletail whenever conditions are good. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural, industrial and residential runoff and discharges, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Capt. Rick GrassettCapt. Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick is the owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc. He's a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He’s been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guide here at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, the 2011 Orvis Out­fit­ter of the Year.


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A portion of the intercoastal waterway between Sarasota and Venice that many claim has one of the largest populations of snook found anywhere in the state. Most of the snook fishing takes place at night around lighted docks. Literally, dozens of snook will cruise around the structures and feed on bait that is attracted by the lights. It is night sight fishing that can be fast, furious and fun! Redfish and speckled trout also are encountered on these trips.

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