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Date of Issue: January 19, 2006

Fishing
Fishing pic
Happy group
Dick Printice, left, Nat Saltonstall, Joel Becraft, Lynn Osborn, Tom Kearney and Joe Woodard caught this nice snapper catch caught while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire on Show Me The Fish Charters last week.

Good grouper, snapper action offshore, and close to shore to boot


Dodge the cold fronts and get out in the Gulf of Mexico now for some good snapper and grouper catches. The bottom dwellers appear to be moving closer to shore, and there are many, many reports of great catches in only 40 feet of water off Anna Maria Island.

Sheepshead fishing in the bays is also great right now, with a few reports coming in of fish tipping the scales at better than 6 pounds. Trout and redfish are also a good bet in the backwater.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said grouper fishing offshore in the Gulf is about as good as it gets right now, with plenty of fish being caught in the 40- to 80-foot range. Mangrove and yellowtail snapper are also being caught on the offshore reefs, plus American red snapper on the reefs farther from shore. Backwater fishing is good for trout as long as you use shrimp as bait, and sheepshead are "everywhere" right now, Bill added.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's been able to put his charters onto snook, redfish and trout using artificial bait. Most of the action is coming from the smaller-sized fish, but there have been a few keepers, he said.

Capt. Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters said that the breaks between cold fronts have allowed him to put his charters onto some excellent fishing in the Gulf - gag grouper to 12 punds and mangrove snapper to 5 pounds. "Most of our bigger bottom fish are coming from depths of less than 45 feet and a little bit south of Longboat Key," he said. "We're also finding hefty triggerfish and Key West grunts mixed into the action on those bites. Our Sarasota Bay trips are just hammering the sheepshead and bluefish on light tackle along seawalls and docks and on the beach rocks where the current moves our baits along the structure. Fish as quietly and as far as possible from the structure, do a little chumming and the rods will soon start to bend."

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said it's "sheepshead, sheepshead and more sheepshead" for pier fishers, with some striped fish going better than 5 pounds. There are also a few pompano being caught in the surf and a few big redfish being landed.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepshead are the No. 1 fish for anglers there, plus a few black drum and some mangrove snapper are coming to the deck.

At Skyway Bait & Tackle, reports include sheesphead and redfish in front of Miguel Bay and more sheepies from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge piers, some of them better than 6 pounds.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said lots of fishers are bringing back lots of mangrove snapper from the Port Manatee artificial reef systems, some up to 18 inches in length. There are also a few redfish catches coming from the docks in Terra Ceia Bay, he said.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's finding snapper fishing to be in full swing right now, with most catches in the 13- to 16-inch range. He's also putting his charters onto triggerfish and some legal-size grouper. In the backwater, he's getting into lots of trout and redfish.

At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include sheepshead as the best bet right now, a few redfish hanging around the docks off Anna Maria and an occasional snook hookup.

At Cortez Fishing Center, Capt. Jack Parker on the Skinny M said he took John Myaard from Grand Rapids, Mich., and cousin Pete Beyers out last week and caught redfish to 26 inches and 15 black drum to 24 inches.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said that "fishing this past week has been AAA++++ all the way. Our clients caught lots of gag grouper up to 18 pounds, some red grouper, mangrove snapper to 7 pounds, some yellowtail snapper, lane snapper, margates, triggerfish, porgys, and some blacktip sharks up to 5 feet in length." Most of his fishing has been out to better than the 100-foot depths in the Gulf.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said he's finding action to be "pretty good heading into the full moon. The weather was sublime all week except for getting caught in a few really dense fogs that made getting to port a real adventure." He took Peggy and Jerry Jamison, visiting Anna Maria Island from Denver, Colo., late last week to a "substantial mixed bag, including reds, trout, sheepies and bluefish. Live shrimp and jigs did the trick on an incoming tide. It was interesting that we caught all four of the above listed species in widely different habitats," he said. "The day began in the upper reaches of Palma Sola Bay fishing around docks, wrecks, and deep channels at the beginning of the low incoming tide. We then moved out to the beach at the top of the tide and encountered the same four species over hard bottom ranging from 5 to 20 feet. The presence of glass minnows seems to be the key for locating areas holding good numbers of predatory fish."

On my boat Magic, we've been catching gag grouper to 30 inches, mangrove snapper to 20 inches, sheepshead to 4 pounds, triggerfish to 3 pounds, all caught on shrimp-baited hooks about 12 miles offshore in the Gulf.

Good luck and good Fishing.

Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year-plus fishing guide. Call him at 723-1107 to provide a fishing report. Prints and digital images of your catch are also welcome and may be dropped off at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or e-mailed to news@islander.org. Please include identification for persons in the picture along with information on the catch and a name and phone number for more information. Snapshots may be retrieved once they appear in the paper.

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