|Mullet run a good one
Fishers converged in Bimini Bay last week as mullet thronged the waterway. The traditional run of mullet lasts from Thanksgiving to the end of the year, making for a good Christmas for fishers, food on the table for many folks and smiles at the fish houses. Islander Photo: Courtesy Susan Thomas
Whiting thick near beaches, but grouper, snapper best bets offshore
It's best offshore right now for fishing, as grouper and snapper catches are excellent in water depths around 100 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.
Backwater fishing is spotty. There are reports of redfish, flounder and pompano, plus lots of sheepshead. Catch-and-release trout and snook are also a good way to spend the day on the water, and whiting are thick near the beaches off the Island.
At Corky's Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road, Vin and Brian reported catching lots of redfish, trout, grouper, flounder, sheepshead and pompano. Sylvester reported catching trout and redfish one after the other, and he also caught black drum, flounder, sheepshead and pompano. In the local canals, lots of fishermen are reporting catching snook, grouper, redfish, sheepshead and trout. As the weather kept getting better as the week passed, so did the fishing. Live shrimp and pinfish seem to be the best bait to catch all kinds of fish.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore fishing is excellent for grouper and snapper in upwards of 100 feet of water in the Gulf. Inshore fishing is a bit slow, Bill said, with a few whiting being caught off the beaches, sheepshead by the bridges and piers and a few redfish coming out of the canals and near the docks around the Island.
Capt. Sam Kimball at Annie's Bait and Tackle in Cortez said his offshore trips are producing lots of grouper, snapper, banded rudderfish, Key West grunts and a few porgies and bonito. Capt. Marco said he's getting his backwater charters into lots of catch-and release trout and snook, plus sheepshead.
At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include a few sheepshead caught on fiddler crabs, plus a few small flounder.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said anglers there were reeling in bonito, pompano and a few sheepshead. There are also a lot of mullet running past the pier.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said shrimp are huge right now in his tanks, and fishers are taking advantage of their size to catch some big drum, redfish, sheepshead and catch-and-release snook from the Manatee River.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include a few mackerel hookups, some sheepshead, lots of small redfish near the docks in Terra Ceia Bay and mangrove snapper near the ship channels in Tampa Bay.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina said he took Alan Burdick and his nephew Kenny from Bradenton out last week and brought back a mixed bag of redfish, sheepshead and mangrove snapper. "The trout topped out at 18 inches and were dutifully released," he said, "and the redfish ran the size gamut from 16-inchers to a 28-inch beauty. Our recent weather pattern has not been conducive to really great fishing action. Either really cold or unseasonably warm periods have the water temperature on a roller coaster and it is difficult to nail down a solid feeding pattern. A prolonged spell of colder weather at this juncture would go a long way to improve angling action right now and make the spring fishing more predictable." Capt. Zach added that most of the fish he's catching are coming out of deep water near seawalls or docks, with shrimp working the best as live bait, but artificials are producing some action as well.
On my boat Magic, we caught all the whiting anyone could want, plus lots of keeper-size sheepshead and a few biggies. Keeper-size reds were also a mainstay, as were some mangrove snapper to 14 inches and lots of black drum to 24 inches in length.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.