by Capt. Greg Stamper
May is a spectacular time of the year in Southwest Florida. Tarpon take center stage as the top billing through June; however, there are many other fish species to target. A few of the side shows this month will be snook, redfish, permit, cobia, trout, etc. This means plenty of options for anglers of all levels and ages. Should you find yourself along the Gulf Coast, it’s practically a sin not to wet a line somewhere this time of the year. May is typically a month of good weather as we begin to set into our summer weather patterns of light east winds in the morning, followed up with the afternoon sea breezes taking over, giving us some rain late evening.
Tarpon will be found along our beaches, in and around our back bays and sounds, along with schools of fish offshore all eating crabs, threadfin herring, glass minnows, and pilchards. Typically, these fish are part of the spawn and can range from a modest 80-pounder all the way up to 225-pound behemoths. We also begin seeing a lot more juvenile tarpon that begin to show up in schools in our back bays and rivers. These juvenile fish are usually between 10 and 40 pounds, will be around throughout the rest of the year, and can be targeted rather regularly.
Snook are another big target during the month of May and can often be seen cruising down the beaches edges looking for easy meals. We target beach snook often by slow rolling down the shores all ready to throw our choice of bait upon first sight of cruisers. These fish typically swim in packs when they’re big and in larger schools when they’re small, so you’ll see them if the water stays clean. Snook fishing this time of the year is like hunting and can give mixed results as every day is different, and just like hunting, it doesn’t always work out. Snook will take a variety of baits from flies, artificial, and both live and cut baits. As the water gets a bit dirty either from storms or Lake Okeechobee water releases, you’ll still have chances to catch snook by just having faith in the areas you saw them last.
Redfish, trout, pompano, and jack crevalle will take up another big part of the guide’s life this month. Those clients that aren’t into 30 minute to hour-long fish fights will prefer targeting them. There are plenty of great areas to target these quicker fighting fish throughout my region. Fishing the passes and mouths of rivers and creeks will find anglers catching plenty of different species. Redfish will typically be found cruising the flats during the low tides as they work their way to the mangrove shorelines and bushes during the highs. Trout will be a bit deeper than the reds in general, but will occasionally be found up in the skinny water right next to those reds as well. Trout fishing is great, especially for kids this time of the year, as the action can be almost constant. Pompano, jacks, mackerel, and lots of baby sharks will fill our passes up and can be caught with simple shrimp-tipped jigs worked aggressively.
Nearshore fishing for permit, cobia, sharks, and tripletail finishes up my list of things to do in May. Permit are a lot of fun on the calm slicked out days as they can be seen in large schools feasting on the crustaceans floating buy. Cobia offer a sporty fight, are delicious to eat, and tend to be a surprise visitor as they meander around with curiosity seeing what’s going on. Most of the time you’ve just got to be ready for a cobia as he may only give you one shot by before he’s on his way. Sharks are basically easy pickings should one target them this time of the year and are often caught as bi-catch while tarpon fishing. Finally, always keep your eye open for a tripletail while moving around as you never know what piece of junk that big one may be found on.
Capt Greg Stamper