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Date of Issue: February 18, 2009

Warmer weather spurs better fish bites inshore, out in Gulf

Fishing pic
Good haul
Scott Schornack, Mike Seger and John Seger caught a batch of sheepshead while fishing with Capt. Mark Howard aboard the SumoTime Charters. The pair are spending the winter on the Island from their homes in Michigan.

Warmer weather has caused fishing to heat up, both in the bays and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

Backwater anglers report good catches of trout, snapper and redfish. Sheepshead also are getting big and hungry around any structure both inshore and off.

Bluefish and pompano also are being caught in the passes and just off the beaches.

Offshore action is excellent for snapper and amberjack, with the best fishing coming in about 100 feet or more of water.

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters said the nice weather has had fishing heat up. “The sheepshead have been spawning on the artificial reefs and rocks around Tampa Bay and off the beach,” he said. “On a recent charter we caught some very big sheepshead. Redfish are starting to feed with the warmup around docks and potholes on the flats, and trout have been in the deep holes. If the weather holds up, fishing should stay great.”

Capt. Sam Kimball out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road is catching snapper, amberjack, banded rudderfish, Key West grunts and porgies on his offshore trips.

Capt. Mark Johnston of Annie’s said his inshore charters were catching lots of redfish both within the slot limit and oversized, plus black drum and bluefish. He’s also bringing in limit-catches of mangrove snapper.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said fishers are finding lots of reds on the deeper seagrass beds in the bays. There also are more and more trout being caught in the bays, also in deeper grass flats. Spanish mackerel also are being caught in the backwaters. Offshore fishing continues to be great for mangrove snapper and amberjack near the artificial reefs in the Gulf.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina said it was“a beautiful, warm week — except for the fog — got a lot of action going in the area. Big sheepshead are schooling up in the Gulf off the beaches. Several trips this week produced numerous convict fish up to 7 pounds. The big sheepies usually spawn in March, but there is evidence that they have begun their biological duties early this year. We found them thick and hungry in water 20-35 feet deep over heavy structure. One big sheepshead walloped a root beer Cotee jig while vertically jigging over a nearshore reef.” He’s also putting his charters onto Spanish mackerel, spotted sea trout, gray trout, bluefish, Key West grunts, pompano, mangrove snapper and juvenile red and gag grouper. “North Sarasota Bay and Anna Maria Sound have been giving up good catches of spotted sea trout and pompano over the open seagrass beds,” he said, “and redfish, black drum and mangrove snapper are around docks and seawalls.”

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said that good weather has provided his charters with some good fishing. He’s targeting amberjack, with good success, plus mangrove, lane and yellowtail snapper, catch-and-release red snapper, porgies, sea bass, triggerfish and scamp. His best results are coming about 32 miles offshore in the Gulf.

Good luck and good fishing.

Fishing news and photos are welcome and may be submitted to Paul Roat by e-mail at paul@islander.org.

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