Spring fishing hits stride with fast tides, hot temperatures
No foolin’, keeper grouper
Jack Gryboski, 9, Mike Steach of Anna Maria, and Will Gryboski, 12, with Jack’s catch, a 27-inch, 11-pound gag grouper caught offshore of Anna Maria Island in 42 feet of water while fishing April 1 with Dr. David “Dad” Gryboski. The Gryboskis reside in Atlanta and Holmes Beach.
With four-tide days this week and water temperatures reaching over 70 degrees, fishing should be smoking inshore and offshore.
Bigger shiners are yet to be the primary bait in the area, so fish are still feeding primarily on glass minnows and shrimp.
Kingfish have shown up offshore, with a few scattered around the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
Look for an appearance of tarpon in the next couple weeks off the beaches.
Capt. Warren Girle said there are still a lot of redfish in north Sarasota Bay, and he was able to duck southwest winds that made the bay choppy by fishing on the west shoreline. “I also had a couple trips offshore for grouper, and most were undersized. There were some nice mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel all over the beaches within 200-to-300 yards of the beach.”
Girle had mackerel to 5 pounds in the bay as well as pompano to 4 pounds. Girle said that the numbers typically published in maps that show locations of offshore reefs have been loaded with boats. “I was out there Saturday and went 3 miles out, and there were 10 boats there and it wasn’t for me. Then I was 7 miles out and saw three boats,” he said.
“People haven’t been able to get out there and now there’s been several nice days, and gin-clear water.” But, he said, southwest winds have muddied the waters.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters out of the Cortez Fishing Center said beyond 40 feet of water has been holding gag grouper. But he said anglers overfished areas between 40-60 feet in depths after grouper season opened April 1. “The water needs to get dirtied up before they start biting again,” McGuire said.
McGuire said live baits such as pinfish, sand perch and pigfish have been working the best, although he’ll begin a trip using sardines and squid. He’s been catching gags, red grouper, keeper scamp and amberjack.
“We’ve seen some cobia swimming around, but couldn’t get them to hit,” McGuire said. “We also had good-size sharks around 5-6 foot lemons and blacktips.”
McGuire predicted that anglers who go out right after a cold front will be rewarded with some nice catches. “Kind of like right after grouper season opened and it was right after a lot of bad weather,” he said.
Capt. Bill Ware of The Damn Yankee said his anglers got out to the reefs three days last week in calm weather and got into grouper, Key West grunts and an 18-inch flounder on a 3-mile reef using frozen sardines. He said there have been a lot of undersize grouper and snapper on the 3- and 7-mile reefs. On April 8, he hit the flats for Spanish mackerel and trout using live shrimp because the shiners were still scarce. Ware said last week he didn’t see any shiners under the Skyway.
“We actually went out on Bean Point during the slack tide and we were catching grouper, jack crevalle, and Spanish mackerel. And when you get two-to-three hour slack tides on Bean Point, and fish that 42-foot hole out there, you can catch fish when you get your bait on the bottom. A couple times we had two on at once with Spanish mackerel. We were getting them on CAL jigs, Doc’s Jigs and some shrimp.” He said the water temperature was 72-74 degrees depending on the depth of the flats. “I think the fishing’s going to continue to be good the rest of the week,” Ware said. “When it gets into the 50s at night, the water cools back down. But when you can keep it 60-65 at night, the water warms really quickly throughout the day.”
Ware said he is seeing redfish, but they’re being elusive.
Dave Golla from the Sunshine Skyway south fishing pier said the Spanish mackerel had been hitting heavy and pompano and flounder are “above average.” He said the flounder bite has been decent as well. A lot of 3-to-4 foot sharks have been caught, along with grouper from 22-40 inches. He said mangrove snapper and kingfish seem to be few and far between
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters said this past week has seen the spring pattern start to take hold. “Bait has moved into Tampa Bay,” he said. “With chumming and patience, you can fill the live well.”
He said Spanish mackerel to 4 pounds are in abundance and threadfin herrings and pilchards have both worked. Pompano also have come on strong with select live shrimp being the bait of choice.
“For fast, fun, non-stop action, the ladyfish are in 4-to-6 feet of water on the edges of grass flats in Tampa Bay,” Howard said. “Snook and redfish have both moved into their springtime spots.”
Capt. Zach Zacharias of the DEE JAY II said there has been more diverse action with each day. “My charters continue to do very well with as many big sheepshead as they want out in 20-30 feet of water on the Gulf reefs,” he said. “There has been grouper, snapper and Key West grunts as well.”
Zacharias said along the beaches and in the bays of Manatee County there are trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder and ladyfish keeping rods bent on a regular basis. Sarasota Bay is loaded with redfish and they are beginning to cooperate. “The water temperature out here near the beaches finally broke the 70 degree mark at mid-week,” he said. “The only inshore species missing from the picture at this juncture is snook. There are precious few linesiders in their normal haunts for April. Also, the kingfish run is poised to break loose any day.”
Zacharias said the white bait situation is looking better as schools of pilchards are showing on the flats. “The sheepshead, pompano, mackerel, trout and redfish do not require live shiners as they have all cooperated quite well on live shrimp and artificial,” he said. “Unless you are targeting catch-and-release snook, white bait is not necessary for a productive trip right now. It would be great to have some nice big pilchards or threadies for the kingfish though.”
Kim Schearer from Annie’s Bait & Tackle has received reports of trout, Spanish mackerel and redfish in Palma Sola Bay. “Most of the reds were under size but a few keepers are being caught,” she said. “Sheepshead are still abundant around Longboat Pass Bridge and some small grouper have been pulled up.”
She said Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Charters caught redfish and sheepshead around the sunken boats in the Cortez Kitchen area. On incoming tide, he caught lots of sheepshead to 4 pounds in Longboat Pass, Spanish mackerel up to 24 inches, trout and ladyfish.
She said Capt. Sam Kimball of Legend Charters is slaying the gag grouper with an occasional red grouper about 15 miles offshore. Also, hogfish have made an appearance. Kimball still prefers the cut sardines and squid for bait, but is teasing the fish with an occasional live pinfish. On his short trips, Kimball is using live shrimp and slaying the sheepshead approximately 5 miles offshore. Kingfish and pompano have showed up on the beaches, with the best time from daybreak to 8 a.m., Shearer said.
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