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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fishing

Say good-bye snook for a while, and hello sheepshead

All good things must come to an end, and with the Dec. 15 closure of snook season until next year, another great linesider catch is ending.

The last few days of snook season saw some great catches of great fish. The catches can remain, but the fish now have to go back to the bays for another few months.

Next up is sheepshead, and reports are already starting to come in on good-size sheepies and promises of lots of good eating. The anticipated cold front this week should really start to turn on the striped fish action.

Redfish action continues to be good in the backwater. Offshore fishing for grouper and snapper is excellent, with some catches coming in less than 80 feet of water out in the Gulf.

And there are still big amberjack being caught in about 150 feet of water offshore.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said the extreme tides caused fishing to be good but "it could have been better." There are lots of good reports of good-sized sheepshead coming back to the docks, plus a few redfish inshore and grouper action remaining excellent in less than 80 feet of water out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said he's seeing lots of sheepshead, black drum, mackerel and flounder coming onto the dock.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepies are the No. 1 catch at the pier right now, but flounder and "mackerel are running a close second in the pier angler's hit parade. There are also some good catches of gag grouper to 20 inches being caught, he added.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said some snook are still hanging around the dock, but they aren't biting. There are lots of reds coming in, though, as well as flounder and sheepshead.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said snook season "went out with a bang," with linesider action on the final days becoming excellent up to the closing of the season Dec. 15.

At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, fishing in the seagrass flats and from the docks has been slow for the anglers due to the extreme low tides, but there are still some good catches of sheepshead and redfish from south of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

At the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Piers, there are lots of gag grouper being reeled in as well as some mackerel. Sheepshead are also starting to hang out around the piers.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's putting his charters onto lots of mackerel, snapper, flounder, catch-and-release trout and redfish.

Capt. Matt Denham out of Catchers said offshore fishing has been excellent, with catches of amberjack to 30 pounds, gag grouper to 25 pounds, snapper to 5 pounds, all caught in about 150 feet of water.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's been putting his charters onto almost everything of late: Snook, catch-and-release trout, redfish, flounder, mackerel and bluefish, and added that the cooler weather should really start to kick-start the sheepshead action later this week.

On my boat Magic, we're averaging more than 20 redfish per trip, most in the 25-inch range in length. Other action includes keeper-size snook and lots of smaller ones, plus sheepshead season in almost upon us and we'll start targeting them in the weeks ahead.

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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