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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fishing

Lots of sheepies out there: Learn how to catch 'em Saturday

Spring season for American red snapper opened yesterday. According to fishing regulators, the 2005 Gulf of Mexico commercial red snapper quota is 4.65 million pounds.   Commercial fishing season is divided into spring and fall seasons, with the spring season calling for 3.1 million pounds available, with the season running for commercial anglers from noon on the first of the month until noon on the 10th until the quota is reached.

Don't forget the Florida Fishing College from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto. I'll be talking about winter fishing at 2 p.m., and hope to see all of you there.

Last week's fishing action was a little slow due to the weather, but there were still some good reports of sheepshead up to 7 pounds by any of the structures in the bays or offshore, plus lots of trout and reds.

Offshore action for grouper and snapper remains good to excellent, with good catches coming in from less than 100 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

And snook season reopened Feb. 1, so good luck on catching those big linesiders you've been seeing for the past few weeks.

Capt. Hank Williams said offshore grouper fishing has remained steady, with good catches of red and blacks to 15 pounds coming to the coolers, plus snapper to 4 pounds.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said offshore bottom fishing is still excellent, with great catches of grouper and snapper coming back to the docks almost every day. Grouper action is still great in less than 100 feet of water in the Gulf, and amberjack are thick on the offshore, deepwater artificial reefs. In the backwaters, trout seems to be making a good showing with shrimp under popping corks, and sheepshead are clustered around almost any structure in the bays or inlets.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's putting his charters onto all the sheepshead you could want right now, plus some redfish, trout and snook in the canals near the Island.

Capt. Matt Denham out of Catchers said he's been offshore most of the week and caught a bunch of gag grouper to 25 pounds, red grouper to 15 pounds, mangrove and lane snapper to 5 pounds, plus amberjack to 30 pounds. Most of the best action has come from about 150 feet of water, Capt. Matt added.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's getting the usual backwater bounty: Redfish, trout and sheepshead from Terra Ceia Bay, all on artificial bait.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said there are lots of small sheepshead coming onto the dock, but the big female sheepies don't seem to be biting of late but should turn on any day now. There are a few black drum being caught, plus whiting, flounder and reds, he added.

At Skyway Bait & Tackle, reports continue to come in on nice-sized whiting, sheepshead, plus small grouper and flounder.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said fishing has   been slow but there are still some good reports of small flounder, black drum, sheepshead and small snapper caught.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said people are doing well with redfish in Terra Ceia Bay on higher tides. Black drum are a good bet in the Manatee River, and sheepshead are an excellent catch in the river or in the bays.

At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, regulars said they've been hitting lots of sheepshead around the bridges and piers, some trout in the canals, with best results coming when the water is warmer in the mid-day hours.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's finding good catches of mangrove snapper, sheepshead, trout and redfish, and summed it up by stating that weather and wind made last week a pretty good fishing week.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said fishing is tougher right now due to red tide. "Typically, the red tide has been offshore three to 10 miles," he said, "but we've been fishing in the area without red tide, and the only 'fish kills' we've seen have been in our boat!" Charters have been "killing" gag grouper, red grouper, scamp, amberjack, mangrove snapper, margates, porgys, sea bass and triggerfish, most within 55 to 115 feet of water offshore using live pinfish, frozen sardines or shrimp as bait.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's getting good catches of sheepshead to 7 pounds. Trout fishing remains excellent, and last week's catch-and-release snook fishing was good. He's also putting his charters onto lots of redfish.

On my boat Magic, we caught sheepshead to 4 pounds, some trout, black drum to 6 pounds and lots of redfish up to 20 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 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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