|There's grouper out there
Justin Gray, a member of the new Smith Realtors Fishing Team, caught red grouper to 22 pounds aboard the Wireless. Capt. Mike Carlton and his team ended up with 12 grouper up to 24 pounds, all caught about 36 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, as shown with Justin and Capt. Mike's daughter Allessandra, age 5.
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Lots of sheepies, reds in bays, with big grouper in Gulf
Welcome to typical winter fishing. There are lots of big, hungry sheepshead ready to be caught off the piers and docks around the Island, one of the best bets of the week.
In backwater action, there are lots of big redfish in Terra Ceia Bay, plus some keeper-size snook. Trout are also a good choice to target now.
Offshore action for grouper and snapper remains good, but the occasional patch of red tide is driving some fishers farther out in the Gulf of Mexico for the big bottom feeders, usually about 35 miles out right now.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle reminded all his customers that he's moved his operation from Bradenton Beach to Catcher's Marina in Holmes Beach. He added that he's hearing of good catches of sheepshead, redfish and snapper along the Intracoastal Waterway in Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's finding that "grouper fishing 35 miles out is hot!" He is putting his charters onto red grouper to 30 pounds, gag grouper to 20 pounds, amberjack to 40 pounds, mangrove snapper to 6 pounds, yellowtail snapper to 3 pounds, as well as lane and vermilion snapper. Capt. Larry said he's been fishing with live pinfish, Key West grunts and frozen sardines out to about 130 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico off Anna Maria Island. "The red tide has affected fishing closer in," he said, adding that he's been "taking clients out 35-plus miles and have not sighted any red tide out that far. Fishing has been the best I've seen in quite some years."
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's getting good catches of sheepshead, redfish, trout and keeper-size snook.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he put his charters onto good catches of trout and redfish in Terra Ceia Bay, with most of his fish caught on artificials: Mr. Twister or Exudes. One trip last week they caught - and lost - better than 30 trout.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead were a good bet at the pier last week, plus a few drum and some redfish.
Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said action at his pier was also pretty much limited to sheepies, with some reports of a few snapper, flounder, small bonnethead sharks and black drum coming onto the deck.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said there are lots of redfish being caught in Terra Ceia Bay right now, as well as small sharks. Legal-size grouper are still coming onto the dock caught near by Port Manatee or at the ship channel in Tampa Bay, he added.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's putting his customers onto lots of redfish and sheepshead, plus some keeper-size linesiders.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, there were some good reports of trout coming out of Palma Sola Bay and a few redfish and sheepshead from the docks, bridges and piers around the Island.
At Skyway Bait & Tackle, best bets include lots of small grouper, good-size sheepshead, a few flounder and redfish coming out of Terra Ceia Bay.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's catching lots of snook, trout, reds and sheepshead.
On my boat Magic, we've been catching the usual winter fare: sheepshead to 5 pounds, redfish and a whopper 40-inch-long snook
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.