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Date of Issue: June 02, 2010

Tarpon tussle is on, red snapper season begins

Stephanie Blakely of Louisville, Ky., with a kingfish caught on a sardine in about 40 feet of water depth fishing offshore of Anna Maria Island with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters. Islander Photo: Courtesy Larry McGuire

Red snapper season began June 1 and will end July 23. Because a recent red snapper assessment update projected that overfishing ended in 2009, the total allowable catch was increased and so the recreation season was extended.

But the hot target is tarpon, which are thick on the beaches, around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, off Egmont Key and in the passes.

Capt. Logan Bystrom said he’s been sticking primarily to tarpon off the beaches on shiners and threadfins. He’s been fishing in the morning because the winds had been heavy in the afternoon. He said tarpon fishing also is good in the passes, where pass crabs are running thick. The beach tarpon are averaging about 100 pounds, he said.

Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters said the summertime fishing pattern is in full swing with tarpon taking main stage. The silver kings have shown up strong off the beaches, in the passes and at the Skyway Bridge. “For the beaches a quiet approach to the pods of fish is imperative,” Howard said. “Use a trolling motor, wind and current to get into position to present bait to the fish. Pulling up to the fish with the outboard running will shut the bite down.”

He said strong outgoing tides will mean the tarpon are loading up in the passes. Howard reported on May 26 his anglers jumped six tarpon on a strong outgoing tide. The baits of choice were crabs and threadfins. “Speckled trout continue to bite feverously on moving water,” he said. “Shiners hooked in the pectoral area have triggered the most strikes. Fish the drop-off of flats and the Intracoastal Waterway for some fun and lively action. Big, over-the-slot redfish have moved into Tampa Bay. Follow the schools from the flats into the mangroves as the tide is incoming and then vice versa as the tide drops.”

Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Charters out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle said he has been fishing the 1-mile reef and catching his limits on trout. He reported a lot of blacktip sharks up to 30 pounds going crazy for live shiners. Spanish mackerel and kingfish are plentiful as well. He added the waters are clear and the tide isn’t really making a difference right now, especially with sharks.

Capt. Mike Greig also has been tarpon fishing and reported on the night of May 27 his anglers hooked eight and brought two to the boat. He added he’s still been catching grouper and kingfish in the Gulf.

Capt. Steven Salgado said there were tons of fish in 55-60 feet of water last week. He reported kingfish to 25 pounds, bonito, gag grouper to 10 pounds, kingfish and mangrove snapper. He said on one trip there was a whale shark beneath his Parker 25-foot boat for two hours. He estimated the whale shark was 22-23 feet long. He also reported seeing an estimated 90-pound sailfish in 60 feet of water. He said rigging for bottom fishing included wire leaders with dead, tail-pinched sardines on a 2/0 or 3/0 hook. Later in the day, he would head to the passes for tarpon fishing with pass crabs on the hook.

Capt. Warren Girle reported steady tarpon action off the beaches, mixed with a 40-pound cobia. He has seen tarpon to 135 pounds were caught from Egmont Key to Casey Key. He added he fished a wreck 20 miles offshore that was loaded with 10-25 pound amberjack. He said an occasional goliath grouper would come along and snatch 10-plus pound amberjack off the hooks.

Capt. Danny Stasny from Island Discount Tackle said there is a lot of Spanish mackerel around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that’s he’s used as bait for some quality shark fishing in Tampa Bay.

He heard fishing is on fire for pompano between 20-30 pounds on the Sarasota M-reefs. He also heard reports of fast gag grouper action 60-70 miles offshore. “These guys said they were throwing back 25 inchers and just keeping the big ones,” Stasny said.

Like many anglers, Stasny has been primarily targeting tarpon.

Annamae Lahay from Corky’s Live Bait Tackle and Thrift Store said her customers are still reporting Sarasota Bay and Palma Sola Bay are holding Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, small sharks and flounder. In addition, redfish and trout are in the grass flats. She said there are more redfish reports in Palma Sola Bay last week. She also has received reports of tarpon and whiting in Longboat Pass and in Gulf waters, cobia around the Skyway Bridge. Most people have been having success with large live shrimp.

Derek Olson from the Rod & Reel Pier said anglers at night have been catching a lot of black drum to about 18 inches. Shark is a nightly mainstay, and a lot of tarpon have been spotted but anglers at the pier haven’t yet hooked up the silver kings. He said there might be an occasional mangrove snapper to be hooked in the mornings.

Dave Sork from Anna Maria City Pier said anglers have hooked a few tarpon, but most of the action has been with Spanish mackerel. He said one angler caught a keeper cobia.

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