Fishing’s great, weather too, stone crabs ‘holed up’
Fishing and great weather go hand in hand in the waters around Anna Maria Island, but the stone crab season has seen a somewhat mediocre start. One crabber reported seeing too many octopus in the traps, a sign the crabs are “holed up.” A little shake up in the waters is apparently needed to get the bottom-feeders moving from their hiding holes.
Capt. Anthony Manali of Legmakr Fishing Team in Anna Maria said his stone crab season started off “fair.” Manali also said he needs some weather to “stir it up.” Manali said he’s looking forward to rougher conditions to get crabs moving. Also with the full moon, the crabs slowed down. It was too light out at night for them to be moving.
“All in all, it was a fair start,” he said.
“There’s a few octopus, which is a good sign. Too many isn’t good. Prices are holding up good because the demand is high, and there’s no stock leftover from last year — the winter was too cold to produce any overstock.
“I’m getting $10 a pound for medium claws and up to $15 for jumbos. I have a wholesale and retail license, so I do a little better than the guys who sell to the fish houses.
Also, last year and last couple of years, the Cedar Key crabbers had a great catch, but they’re not really killing them this year. That makes the price good for everybody,” Manali said.
According to James “Wyre” Lee at Cortez Bait and Seafood on the docks in Cortez, the slow start to stone crab season means slightly higher prices at the market, but there’s still some good eating to be had. “We need some a good cold front and some rough water to get the crabs moving and feeding,” Lee said. “When the weather turns to crap, the crabbing picks up.”
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters reports his offshore charters are catching some “really nice red snapper on the weekends along with big red and gag grouper, amberjack, kingfish, big sharks and monster mangrove snapper. On some days, they’re jumping in the boat. Even a caveman could catch them.”
He said the best action is out past 100 feet with live pinfish and sardines for bait. Closer in, around 1 or 2 miles off the beach, there is “Spanish mackerel madness” — all you want to catch —a variety of sharks and a few cobia. Gag grouper are continuing to move closer, now in around 50 to 70 feet of water, as the water temperature cools. “Gag grouper are one of my favorites and are coming home for the holidays,” he said.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters reposts his clients have “experienced some of the best fishing and tackle busting action Anna Maria Island has to offer” the past week. He’s concentrated efforts off the beach and the artificial reefs in our local waters.
The Spanish mackerel bite has been phenomenal, Howard said. With a live well “blacked out” full of shiners, we have been anchoring just off the structure of the artificial reefs and chumming to draw the marauding schools of mackerel close to the boat. “Using a 50-pound leader and a long silver shank hook, I’ve been hooking the shiners behind the pectoral-fin joint. The hook should just fit right in where the fin meets the body. Catches of 50-plus fish have been the standard.” Howard also has been seeing a variety of species mixed in with the mackerel — kingfish, cobia, tarpon and bonita — to mix up the action.
“For these fish, an upgrade to a bigger pole would be a wise choice,” he said. “Sharks have made a huge showing in the mackerel areas — some big ones. Black tips and spinner sharks averaging 6 feet and a 120 pounds have readily gobbled up chunks of mackerel and bonitas.”
Kimberly Shearer from Annie’s Bait and Tackle said customers are reporting redfish being caught in Perico Bay. “A 27-inch one was pulled off the oyster bed using live select shrimp for bait.”
She said reports came in of schools of Spanish mackerel and bonito 1/2 mile out of Longboat Pass in approximately 20′ of water. Customers at Annie’s said they had been drift-fishing towards
Bradenton Beach, using live shrimp and shad. “They were getting hits on every cast and had a lot of fun,” she said.
Reports are coming into Annie’s of a lot of redfish in Sarasota Bay, but they are oversized, she said.
Tom Cassetty from the Rod & Reel Pier said they’re seeing plenty of black drum and flounder caught on shiners and shrimp and mackerel is coming to the docks on jigs and spoons.
Capt. Warren Girle reported offshore seeing a few kingfish. He predicts the kingfish catch will improve with a couple more cold fronts. He was seeing mackerel everywhere to 5 pounds, grouper and snapper and a nice flounder bite around the artificial reefs. Inshore, Girle said redfish and black drum were showing up in good numbers and his charters saw limits of trout every trip from the grass flats in 3-5 feet of water. Girle said they saw some excitement two days ago when they got into some sharks offshore, 2-5 footers attacking their macks.
At Island Discount Tackle in Holmes Beach, Jonny Keyes said fishers who want to work off the beaches from the shore can still target jacks, Spanish mackerel and lady fish. Working the shore from the bayside, wading or from docks, Keyes said fishers are catching plenty of keeper redfish, and the canals are loaded with big trout. He recommended using a suspending lure, which also works well for the redfish.
Boaters can look to the nearshore reefs for cobia kingfish, bonita, sharks and Spanish mackerel and a good way to target those is shiners and cut bait, Keyes said.
Offshore fishing fishers are targeting red snapper on the weekends, gag grouper and cobia and some nice-size kingfish are showing up.
He said this week we’ll have nice, deep tides and the fishing will improve with the wane of the full moon. He recommended fishers should target their prey on the early, incoming tide.
Capt. Steve Salgado of Compleat Angler said he’s seeing plenty of redfish and snook, a real good trout bite and a mixed bag of all sizes and plenty of white bait.
Offshore, Salagdo said he’s “seeing plenty of grouper and snapper in “50-60-70 feet of water.”
Capt. Mike Greig said he he saw a good week with “some redfish, a bunch of trout, sharks, macks and bonita” coming on the hook.
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Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Charters is
Capt. Warren Girle reported 941 387 8383 offshore inshore
Kyle Dodrill from the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers South Pier Bait Shop in north Palmetto said: 941-729-0117
Brett Lance from the Rod & Reel Pier Tom Cassetty
Dave Sork from the Anna Maria City Pier said
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business 941 794 3308
At Island Discount Tackle in Holmes Beach, Jonny Keyes
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business said