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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fishing

Good-sized grouper
Harold Graves with his grouper, caught while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire aboard the Show Me The Fish Charters.

Many mangroves for Mackson charter
Bill Mackson and his party caught an impressive 70 mangrove snapper while fishing with Capt. McGuire.

Cold weather chills fishing, but still some sheepie action reported

It's cold out there, especially on the water.

Fishing action has drastically chilled in the past week, with rough seas, high winds and cold temperatures keeping many of the more avid anglers close to the dock.

For those who did get out, sheepshead action is starting to pick up. Catches of 4-pound sheepies are not at all uncommon from most of the more popular shoreside locations: the Anna Maria Bridge, any of the piers, the Manatee Public Beach pier and any of the docks in the bay.

Mangrove snapper up to 2 pounds are also a common event now.

Redfish within the slot limit is another good bet, and there were some pompano caught off Longboat Pass.

Remember that both snook and trout season is closed, so any fish you catch have to go back to be caught another day.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's catching lots of small redfish to 20 inches in length, sheepshead to 4 pounds and mangrove snapper to 2 pounds. He took Sean and Randy Johnson out on one trip and did quite well, with reds to 26 inches, sheepshead to 23 inches, catch-and-release trout to 24 inches and lots of small gag grouper.

Lee Gause at Perico Harbor Bait & Tackle said sheepshead are thick around the pilings at the Anna Maria Bridge and the Manatee Public Beach pier. Backwater fishing has slowed with all the cold weather, but there were still some catch-and-release trout reports on the warmer days last week, with more and better catches expected this week as the temperatures start to climb.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's still catching redfish near Joe's Island just north of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge piers, and he's also getting a few small catch-and-release snook.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said the few who ventured out on the water last week, good reports were had for redfish, trout, flounder and a few pompano near Longboat Pass. There were also some good catches of good-sized catch-and-release snook near the canals. Offshore fishing was pretty much a dud, though -- it was just too darned rough to get out into the Gulf.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he's hearing that even the hardy mullet fishers are having a tough time getting out, what with all the wind and cold. For the few willing to get on the water, though, fishing is good for sheepshead by the Green Bridge in the Manatee River, and black drum are coming on strong in the river near the docks.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's finding redfish near the docks in the bays, sheepshead to 4 pounds, catch-and-release trout to 20 inches in length and a few mangrove snapper.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead and black drum were his best bets, with some of the sheepies topping the scale at 4 pounds.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said fishers there are catching lots of sheepshead hookups, plus some good-sized flounder, as being the best bets due to the cold and wind.

On my boat Magic, we were able to make it out one day last week and caught a mess of sheepshead to 4 pounds, mangrove snapper to 2 pounds, and lots of catch-and-release trout.

Good luck and good fishing.

Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year fishing guide. Call him at 779-9607 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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