After the Spring Break Party Every spring, sun starved folks from all over the country flock to Florida beaches to recover from cabin fever. This year this migration was especially intense due to the easing of CoVid restrictions here, more than in other states. While some enjoy the fishing here, many never even try it, and instead focus on sun, beer, seafood and partying. But every party has to come to an end and the spring break beach party is winding down. This opens up the beaches for the enjoyment of the locals again and can be a great time of year to take some light tackle to the beach in search of pompano, whiting, snook and mackerel along the shore. The water temperatures are heading into the upper 70’s which signals an influx of gamefish and bait after the chilly water during the winter. Our resident surf fish are once again safe from being crushed by thousands of sunburned feet in shallow water. It is also safer for anglers trying to cast between distracted folks in the water and behind them where a back cast might hook an innocent bystander. Anglers here don’t need a 16’ surf rod and a pound of lead to hold bait in the pounding surf like they would encounter on the Atlantic side of the state. Instead, we use light spinning tackle and small hooks to capture the necessary ingredients for a fish fry. A light rod, loaded with 10 lb. braid and attached to a 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader is fine. We like 1/0 or smaller hooks for whiting, but move up to 2/0 hooks for fish with larger mouths. A critical factor is the proper amount and placement of the weight. The goal with weight is to use enough to get the bait down to the bottom but not so much that it holds fast to the bottom. When this happens, the currents from wave action and shoreline drift will make the bait spin, which most fish are too smart to eat. Acrobatic shrimp are not part of their normal diet. Instead, try a split shot 6-10” above the hook on the leader. The proper amount of weight will keep the bait near the bottom but allow it to drift along with the current like all the other goodies beach fish are looking for. The most common “fish finder” rig uses a sliding weight on the main line above a swivel that attaches to the leader. In theory, the line will slide through the leader when a fish swims away with the bait. Whiting don’t often swim away; they usually just pin the bait to the bottom and peck it off the hook. Another popular method is to have the weight on the end of the line and the hook above it on a dropper. This rig is very sensitive and useful for detecting subtle strikes. We prefer to use a split shot because the placement and size of the weight can be quickly changed. While sand fleas (mole crabs) can sometimes be captured on site, the most popular bait is shrimp. Live shrimp are cumbersome to transport while frozen shrimp pack small and a small cooler will keep them usable all day. We freeze our left over live shrimp and find them preferable to the previously dead shrimp frozen at the bait stores. Try to avoid shrimp that are turning red at the head end. They just don’t smell or taste right to the fish. An alternative is the frozen shrimp from a grocery store. They are frozen alive for human consumption. Frozen shrimp are best tail hooked. Simply break off the tail fins and thread the shrimp on the hook with the point exiting between the legs. If you pinch off the carapace or head shell of the shrimp, the wiggling legs and additional scent dispersed creates a treat that is hard for a beach fish to turn down. So now that the beaches are getting less crowded, take your light gear and a bag of fresh frozen shrimp and go catch a whiting or three. Remember though, that snook, trout and redfish are strictly catch and release while their populations recover from recent red tide events.