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Date of Issue: December 10, 2008

Fronts keep fishers at home; gags moving into Tampa Bay

Fishing pic
Tuna sandwich, anyone? Jamie Gauge, left, and Evan Gauge, of Bradenton, are pictured with a 22-pound blackfin tuna Jamie caught 35 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island using a Spanish sardine as bait. They also caught a limit of big red grouper and lots of big gag grouper. Evan hooked a big wahoo and had a good fight with it until the hook came loose. The pair were fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire.

Last week’s back-to-back-to-back fronts apparently drove both fishers and fish into hiding. Most reports indicate little was caught.

For the few hardy anglers willing to rough the water, redfish, flounder and sheepshead were the best catches in the backwaters.

Offshore action for amberjack has been good off artificial reefs 15- to 20-miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gag grouper are also starting to move into Tampa Bay. Try the shipping channels for the best results.

And remember that snook season closed Dec. 1, and trout season remains closed until Jan. 1.

At Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road, reports include lots of grouper coming into port from offshore anglers. Backwater action is pretty much centered around redfish.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said there are lots of catches of gag grouper in Tampa Bay. Best action is coming from the shipping channels by fishers who troll their bait. Amberjack are also hitting well offshore, with the artificial reefs about 20 miles out in the Gulf producing lots of AJs. Redfish are coming off the seagrass flats in the bays, he said, and there are some catch-and-release trout and snook being caught. Danny noted that fishing is in a transition period right now, with the critters moving toward their winter haunts as the air and water temperatures cool.

Reports from the Rod & Reel Pier include a few mackerel and sheepshead coming to the hooks of pier fishers.

Rocky at the Anna Maria City Pier said there are lots of flounder coming to the bait of late, with most of the catches of legal size or a bit larger. Sheepshead are also a good bet from the gin-clear waters off the pier.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said things were strangely slow. Back-to-back fronts apparently kept most fishers close to port last week, he said. “Nobody’s fishing,” he said. “It’s very slow.”

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters has been fishing in deep-water canals in the past week, as well as near docks and drop-offs along the Intracoastal Waterway, catching redfish, sheepshead, flounder, snapper and ladyfish. He’s also found that grouper are moving closer to shore from their usual deep-water spots.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee Jay II out of Parrot Bay Marina in Cortez said fishing action has been decent, with his charters catching a mixed bag of fish. “While targeting docks, seawalls and other types of structure, there have been fair catches of mangrove snapper, sheepies, mixed grouper, redfish, flounder, snook and black drum,” he said. “Shrimp has been the bait most productive for this type of fishing. Fresh-cut mullet, ladyfish and pinfish has also been productive for redfish and snook.” Action in the open bay areas over deep seagrass beds has been giving up out-of-season trout, bluefish, ladyfish and an occasional mackerel and pompano, with artificial jigs and spoons working well for open-water species. Capt. Zach suggests that when winter fishing inshore structure, seek out south facing seawalls with a dark bottom and lots of structure. “The water in such places will usually be several degrees warmer, which can make a huge difference in the bite. If there’s a good tidal flow and a lot of glass minnows in the area, so much the better.

Good luck and good Fishing.

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