|Larry Bethke and Dan Acquavella, both of Bradenton, with a nice catch of fish while out on an eight-hour charter with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters.
Let's go fishing NOW for nice-sized sheepies, big grouper
Fishing is in that weird stage right now, caught between the summertime - yeah, it's still summer for some fish - patterns and the upcoming winter action.
Backwater fishing is good for catch-and-release only trout and snook, but redfish takes are OK. Probably the best bet for the bays now is sheepshead, which are getting big and continue to be hungry around any structure.
Offshore action for grouper and snapper is terrific. The fish have moved closer to shore - lots of good catches within 25 miles of Anna Maria Island - and there are also some snapper and amberjack to be had.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead are the No. 1 catch for pier anglers there, with fishing otherwise slow except for a few small catch-and-release snook and some black drum.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said fishers there have been catching sheepshead and snook at night, with some of the sheepies coming in at better than 4 pounds.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's said his patrons brought in a mixed bag last week: Sheepshead ranging up to 5 pounds - the best of the catches - followed by redfish, snook and a few pompano. "A handful of small grouper, mangrove snapper, flounder, ladyfish and bluefish have also come aboard," he said. "Whitebait is still available in limited amounts to those willing to invest the time to get them. Live shrimp and artificials have been working great for me and will take a wider variety of species than the hard-to-get shiners.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he put his charters onto catch-and-release snook, small redfish and catch-and-release trout using shrimp and artificial bait.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said grouper fishing offshore is about as good as it gets right now, with most of the fish caught within 25 miles of shore - very, very close for good catches. Snapper are still plentiful in the bays, and sheepshead and redfish are the best bets for backwater action. Bill reminds us all that its all catch-and-release, all the time now, for trout and snook for the next few months.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he's hearing lots of reports of catch-and-release snook coming onto the dock, plus black drum from the Manatee River. Mangrove snapper are also being caught in the ship channel by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he caught snook right up to the close of the season - now, it's all mangrove snapper, triggerfish and a few legal-size grouper.
At Skyway Bait & Tackle, the reports include lots of small grouper coming out of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge fishing piers. There are hungry redfish coming to bait in Miguel Bay on lower tides, and shrimp seems to be working the best for the better catches.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include sheepshead from the Anna Maria Island Bridge and redfish from around Palma Sola Bay, with those big shrimp working wonders on hookups.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's finding offshore fishing to be "hot for large gag grouper. December is the peak month for them, and they usually move closer to shore and bunch up for the winter and a happy holiday! We have been fishing in 90 to 120 feet of water." He said he's also been catching gags to 20 pounds, mangrove snapper to 7 pounds and yellowtail snapper to 2 pounds, plus some triggerfish, amberjack and catch-and-release red grouper and red snapper.
Capt. Wayne Genthner on Wolfmouth Charters said he's been "prowling around Whitney Beach just off Longboat Key and the rocks off Coquina Beach, catching some over-sized and out-of-season sea trout in the 24-inch class and redfish in the 30-inch range, using hand-picked shrimp. Sheephead were really pretty persistent this week, so we also caught a bunch of those to compliment our half-day trips as well as a couple of bluefish and short gag grouper." He said his longer trips off Siesta Key yielded gag grouper, mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and lane snapper.
On my boat Magic, we caught snook up to the season's end, plus redfish, black drum and sheepshead.
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.