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Date of Issue: January 21, 2009

Grouper continue to rule offshore; trout fishing good in bays

Fishing pic
Reeling in the reds
Max and George Miller, both from Gainesville, hooked up on some really nice reds last week while fishing with Capt. Logan Bystrom.

Gag grouper and amberjack are the hot-ticket catches in the Gulf of Mexico of late. Grouper are thick everywhere there’s a structure, both offshore and in Tampa Bay. Amberjack up to 60 pounds are also being caught in deeper water, up to 125 feet or so.

Backwater fishing is good for trout, especially in northern Sarasota Bay. There are also some redfish and flounder catches being reported. Sheepshead are also starting to get big and fat and are hitting well on sand fleas.

Don’t forget the 33rd Annual Florida Fishing College and Outdoor Expo at the Manatee Civic Center, One Haben Blvd., Palmetto, next weekend. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The college is free and includes seminars taught by local guides. Courses are inshore tips to catch snook, redfish, trout, flounder and more; offshore seminars will include how to catch grouper, snapper, amberjack, tuna, cobia, wahoo and other species.

For more information about the Florida Fishing College and Outdoor Expo, contact Jill Lakner-McGarry at jlakner@bradenton.com.

Capt. Mark Howard on Sumotime Fishing Charters said fishing has been good with the mild winter conditions. “A nice speckled trout bite has been happening on a variety of Berkley Gulps,” he said. He suggested fishing deep potholes on a moving tide for the best action. He’s also catching mangrove and gray snapper, plus grouper, off the nearshore rocks and reefs. Kingfish and bonito are also nearshore, Capt. Mark said.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said grouper continue to be an excellent target for fishers venturing into the Gulf or Tampa Bay. Gags are the species of choice, and they’re big, hungry and to be found not far off the beach. For backwater anglers, sheepshead are starting to come onto sand fleas used as bait, and they’re starting to get big. Any structure in the bays or passes is a good haunt for the striped fish. Redfishing is good, but not great, Danny added, and the fish are to be found under docks in the bays. He’s also hearing good reports of trout in northern Sarasota Bay.

At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include drum and sheepshead for the few fishers who are trekking out on the dock.

At the Anna Maria City Pier, reports are also on the slow side, with a few sheepshead being caught and an occasional flounder.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said offshore fishing has been good for his charters. He’s catching amberjack to 60 pounds, plus mangrove snapper. “We had to work harder for our big gag and red grouper,” he said. “We caught them but not as to the intensity of the last few months. On our trips we also caught yellowtail snapper, porgy, sea bass, kingfish and big sharks. Best action was out 30 miles or more starting in 125 feet for the monster amberjack. Our parties were catching them on everything from big live baits, jigs and even topwater lures.” He said he took Butch Owens from Lakewood Ranch and his sons Matt and Hunter along with some friends on a trip while the young men were home from college last week and put them all on lots of fish.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams said he’s catching big trout in the 4- to 6-pound range on the deep seagrass flats in Sarasota Bay. He’s also getting some good-sized mangrove snapper around big structures throughout the bay and Gulf, and catching some decent-sized snook for this time of year in the back of Terra Ceia Bay.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee Jay II at Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said Spring-like conditions for the past three weeks have resulted in an increase of species available in the area. He’s catching Spanish mackerel, pompano are pretty thick, and “cobia may be a real option if the weather remains mild. A few offshore boats have reported kingfish out in the 50-foot depth. Snook have also started coming out of their winter holes very early and have been feeding in the 70-degree water comfort zone.” Other fish caught include trout, mangrove snapper, flounder, sheepies, black drum, redfish, grouper, bonito, bluefish, ladyfish and jacks. “Not too bad for January!” Capt. Zach said.

Good luck and good fishing.

Fishing news and photos are welcome and may be submitted to Paul Roat by e-mail at paul@islander.org.

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