How a Palmetto captain uses daylight savings time for better fishing in Manatee waters

When the clocks rolled forward an hour earlier this March, Captain Griffin Deans had multiple reasons to be excited.

“Most of my trips start at 7 a.m., so those early morning pick-ups, we were missing the sunrise bite,” explained the Palmetto-based captain, who often finds himself running two trips in a day during spring.

“It’s been nice to start when the sun is starting to rise and the fishing has been good that first hour. And then there’s more time at the end of the day, and those afternoon tides have been good for redfish and snook.”

Before cold weather covered Tampa Bay with a strong March cold front, Deans experienced something he’s never seen in his guiding career.

“We caught probably 10 tarpon at the beginning of the month. I’ve never caught tarpon that early. At the end of February into March, the water temperatures were getting to the upper 70s, so I think that’s why they were already around. After the last front, it dropped back down into the upper 60s and has crept back into the 70s.”

Deans, who specializes in flats fishing around southern Tampa Bay like the Manatee River and Terra Ceia Bay, thinks the strong winds and cold front were good for the area.

“With all the red tide that was around, I think the front was good, almost a blessing. Wind and cold seem to break it apart. I didn’t see much for dead fish before it and never had any bait die. After the front, I haven’t heard of anyone having issues with it.”

Most days, Deans has been out catching that sunrise bite fishing structures around the Manatee River. He’s been seeing good numbers of snook coming out of the winter hides and heading toward spring and summertime areas.

On afternoon higher tides, he’s seen redfish around as well, and says the later days bring the redfish out from morning hiding spots. Most trips, he averages catches of about 50 mixed snook, redfish and trout, as well as some mackerel and snapper for the dinner table. The signs of spring are there and it’s a great time of year to fish.

“There’s a lot of boats that have been running around all day on spring break and the redfish don’t like people driving all crazy. The afternoon outgoing has been good and when people go home, they seem to come out,” Deans said.

“Bait has been good. Before the front, it was on the flats, but since the front, I’ve been going back to the Skyway. If it stays 80 degrees everyday and consistent, this is probably my favorite time of year to fish the flats. Fish are hungry, bait is good and there’s a nice breeze so you don’t get too hot.“

Captain Griffin Deans can be reached through his website

Keller Nelson, 10, poses with a snook he recently caught fishing in Miguey Bay off of Terra Ceia with Palmetto-based Captain Griffin Deans.
Keller Nelson, 10, poses with a snook he recently caught fishing in Miguey Bay off of Terra Ceia with Palmetto-based Captain Griffin Deans.