The weather continues to be fantastic throughout our entire region, but the occasional cold front will quickly move through bringing a brief "chill." Gulf waters continue to warm and the flats fishing has heated up also. Expect this trend to continue as spring settles in.
The hot bite out on the Hernando Beach flats has been trout and mackerel. Look for the trout in 2-6 feet of water. Target grassy bottom with sandy pot holes mixed in. Cast to these "white patches" as you come to them. Trout will also hold near structure like rocks or deeper troughs. Look to these areas on a good moving tide. This is when most species will be ready to feed on anything passing by. I have had a lot of success on recent trips working a white Lil John on a 1/4 oz. jig and mirro-dines.
Spanish mackerel have really settled into our area in good numbers. Look for these toothy critters in 3-8 feet of water. I like to set up near structure and deploy a chum bag. The chum brings in small bait fish which makes for quite the buffet for these predators. For bait, use small pin fish, shrimp, or white bait. Free line these baits in your chum slick on a moving tide. A steel leader will prevent breakoffs, but I use a 2/0 2X-LONG shank hook. The long shank on these hooks will protect against the many sharp teeth mackerel have and eliminates the need for a steel leader. Small silver spoons or jigs fished at a fast pace are great artificial options.
Have a heavy spinning outfit on stand-by in case your chum grabs the attention of a cobia. I use a 7 foot med/hvy rod combined with a 40 or 50 series reel. Use 30-40 pound braided line (power pro) and a 3-4 foot section of 40-50 pound leader. I tie on a 1/4 oz jig with a 4-5 inch jerk bait. Cast in front of these fish and keep your offering moving until you feel the heaviness of the fish.
Good luck out there and tight lines!
Capt. Keith Tomlinson runs Bulldog Fishin Charters out of Hernando Beach. Reach him at www.bulldogfishin.com or (352)238-3581.