Monthly Archives: January 2017

Islanders ‘howl’ along with Sales’ music

Nashville was where Mike Sales thought he would find his musical groove when he struck out on his own after touring for six years with his cover band, Crashparty.

While he didn’t burn up the town with his musical talent, he did cultivate a strong business acumen.

But feeling stuck in a rut of night club management, Sales traveled with a friend with ties in Ellenton to Florida with visions of opening a club. Little did he know, a laidback Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast would provide his perfect storm — just the right mix to stir up a recording career.

In the five years since he first moved to Anna Maria Island, Sales has come a long way — from seeing club owners who asked, “Who is this guy looking for gig?” to settling in behind the microphone at several Island venues, including the Sandbar and BeachHouse restaurants.

“I’ve found Anna Maria Island an awesome place to live and work,” he said. “The people here are so receptive, the audience participates and business owners are not just accessible, but are nice. It’s a perfect place to make a living.”

Sales said he worked hard to carve out a niche for himself on the Island music scene and, now he’s to seeing positive results from applying his business acumen to the art of entertaining.

On Wednesday, Feb. 23, Sales will not only debut his first recorded album, “Howling with Mike Sales,” but he also will debut his band, Mike Sales and the Restless Natives.

Sales has been performing as a solo artist, but adding a live rhythm section with John Dewey on bass and Scott Blum on drums provides new opportunities to perform his “beachified” music.

“Beachified music gets right into the song but is still laid back,” said Sales. “People on the Island like to come to the party early and my musical arrangements aren’t filled with a lot of solos. I like to keep them engaged with the song and keep the energy up on the dance floor.”

Sales is building a name for himself as “Mr. Anna Maria Island” after a reporter coined the name in an article about the Island singer. The title resonated with him in the tradition of Don Ho of Hawaii and Wayne Newton of Las Vegas, whose musical styles became synonymous with a geographic location.

Sales aims to brand himself as the Island’s foremost beach crooner. At the same, time his ambitions are not wholly centered upon himself.

He hopes to see proceeds from his CD provide seed money to open up an Anna Maria Island Performance Hall. The hall would not only be a live music venue, but would also house a musician’s co-op.

“It’s hard when you’re starting out or new to an area to get your footing in the music business,” said Sales. “I want to give musicians a place to gather and learn from each other.”

He also sees the co-op as a place for venues to vet musicians and to foster education programs for kids aspiring to enter the music industry.

“I’d love to see the music hall with a musical lineup during tourist season and summer camp programs in the off season,” said Sales.

His dream for the performance hall are in the early stages, so fans will have to stay tuned for news on its progress.

Sales maintains a blog, website and social media, and  anyone interested in finding show dates or keeping up with his projects can visit online at

Mike Sales and the Restless Natives will hit the Island music scene with a preview performance and CD release party from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at Gulf Drive Cafe and Tiki Hut, 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach — and everyone’s welcome to the event.

Sales promises a “howling good time.”

Island wedding festival Feb. 26-27

The fourth annual Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Island Wedding Festival begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, and appears headed toward another success if advance reservations are any indication.

Organizer Deb Wing of the chamber said last week she had received about 200 advance reservations and expected walk-ins this week to boost that figure considerably.

Last year’s event drew 889 registered participants, primarily from the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas. This is the first year the festival has become a two-day affair, and Wing said she expects more people than ever to attend.

The move to a two-day event allows people the time to see how “beautiful the Island really is” for a wedding or honeymoon, she said. After all, we’re known as the beach wedding capital of Florida.”

Wing said she’s noticed that a number of registrants this year are from northern areas, including Ohio, Michigan and Canada.

“I think the word is spreading about our festival,” she said.

“I expect we’ll be very busy this week and this Saturday,” Wing said.

More than 90 wedding vendors spread among 14 Island locations will participate.

Registration and the vendor stroll starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the chamber office at 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, followed by a tiki hut reception at the Gulf Drive Cafe at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, Feb. 27, the festival really “gets going,” Wing said.

Complimentary limousine service is provided for festivalgoers. Vendors include wedding photographers, cake specialists, florists, musicians, wedding planners, restaurants, caterers, accommodations, hair and makeup specialists, disc jockeys and transportation providers.

“What’s unique to our festival is that the bride and groom and the wedding party can meet and see first-hand the wedding sites and businesses available. They can smell the flowers, taste the cake, check out the view from the honeymoon suite and see actual venues for a wedding or reception, not just endless photos of what it may look like,” Wing said.

If a participant checks in to 10 of the 14 sites, they can enter drawings that will produce more than $10,000 in prizes, including certificates for a three-day resort stay, jewelry, dinner, retail gifts, spa services, wedding portraits, music and water sports and sailing, she said.

The final event is a reception at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, where prize winners will be announced.

Last year’s top prize-winner won a three-night stay at the Tortuga Resort in Bradenton Beach and held her wedding at the resort.

Tourism industry officials estimated more than 500 weddings were performed on Anna Maria Island in 2010.

MCSO alleges BB woman exposed breasts at school

A Bradenton Beach woman was arrested Feb. 14 for allegedly exposing her breasts at Bayshore High School in Bradenton.

Laura Campanello, 43, faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, according to a report from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. If prosecuted and convicted, she could be sentenced to as much as 60 days in jail.

Campanello was arrested at about 11:20 p.m. Feb. 14 and later that day was released from the Manatee County jail after meeting a $220 bond. Her first court appearance is scheduled for March 17.

A report on the incident states that a deputy went to the school office to deal with a disturbance — a woman, Campanello, was yelling that another adult visiting the school “was showing too much breast.”

The deputy asked several adults to step inside a registrar’s office, but Campanello refused, according to the report.

“I said, you either step in the office or leave campus,” the deputy wrote.

So Campanello and two other women stepped inside, where Campanello reportedly complained again about the cleavage displayed by one of the other women.

The deputy told Campanello there was nothing that could be done about an adult woman showing cleavage.

“The defendant kept saying look at her. I said, ma’am, I cannot tell her what to wear as long is she is not exposing herself.”

“The defendant said, oh, then I can … just do this,” the deputy wrote, alleging that Campanello then pulled her blouse down to expose her breasts.

“At this point I advised her that she was under arrest,” the deputy wrote.

Mike Quinn of contributed to this report.

Valentine promises

The couples came to the beach Feb. 14 “promising to love and cherish” at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe-Islander newspaper annual Promise Day event. They enjoyed a commitment ceremony conducted by the Rev. Ron Joseph on the beach where each couple received a rose, followed by music, dancing, prizes, a champagne toast and wedding cake under the cafe canopy. The couples also were photographed by the Island’s famed wedding photographer, Jack Elka, just before sunset. Island Publix and Beach Bistro also donated to the event. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy and Jack Elka

Boaters rescued off Egmont Key

Multiple emergency teams responded Feb. 14 to a distress call from boaters off Egmont Key, north of Anna Maria Island in Tampa Bay.

A man, a woman and a dog were rescued from the disabled fishing boat, according to a spokesperson with the U.S. Coast Guard.

There were no injuries, but the woman told rescuers that she felt dizzy and suffered a headache.

A rescue crew from the Coast Guard in Cortez responded, as did a marine unit from St. Petersburg and a vessel from Eckerd College.

Island police blotter – 02-23-2011

Anna Maria

• Feb. 14, 500 block of Pine Avenue, petit theft. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report from Roser Memorial Community Church, where someone took cash from a donation box in the chapel.

Bradenton Beach

• No new reports.


• Feb. 11, 3500 block of Mariner’s Cove Drive, identity theft. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigated a report of identity theft by a resident. The complainant said someone obtained personal information to secure a copy of a credit card, which was used to make unauthorized purchases.

• Feb. 11, 10000 block of Cortez Road, petit theft. The MCSO investigated a report from a woman who said someone stole $50 from a Valentine’s Day card that her mother had mailed from Ohio.

Holmes Beach

• No new reports.

Streetlife is based on incident reports and narratives from the Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach police departments and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Sports – 02-23-2011

Flag football: And then there was one

One undefeated team remains in the Anna Maria Island Community Center NFL Football League. With Duffy’s Tavern Bucs 32-19 loss to MartiniVille Bears Feb. 17, Walter & Associates Steelers in the 10-12 age division is the lone undefeated team in the leagues ranging from age 5 to adults. However, the Steelers are not sitting on a huge lead as Holy Cow Colts are 9-2 and right on their heels.

Other than the close race in the adult division, where Duffy’s Tavern Bucs and Jessie’s Island Store Vikings are tied for first, and Sato Real Estate Browns and MartiniVille Bears are tied for second, the other age division have the first-place teams comfortably out front. Teams now will jockey down the stretch for favorable seed positions as the playoff season is quickly approaching.

The game of the week is a 13-16 division shootout between the first-place Beach Bistro Bears and second-place Bassett, Vita, Vining, & Herman Group Raiders, which was played Feb. 19. The Bears prevailed 38-33, but the difference in the game hinged on an interception return for a touchdown by Austin Ferrer, who had two picks on the day and a game-high nine flag pulls.

Ferrer also was dominant on the offensive side of the ball, rushing for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns and an extra point. Nick Mello added 100 yards of total offense and a pair of touchdowns.

The Raiders were led by quarterback Reese Vita, who threw for 264 yards and five touchdown passes. Michael Duffman was his favorite target with 100 receiving yards, two touchdowns and a pair of extra points. Danny Doyle, Michael Galati and Hunter Parrish each had touchdown receptions in the loss. Doyle led the Raider defensive effort with four pulls, while Denver Hardy finished with three pulls.

On Feb. 17, Ross Built defeated LPAC 25-18 in another first vs. second matchup. Ross Built all but locked up first place in the 10-12 NFC division with the win. Andrew Ross threw for 167 yards and three touchdowns passes. Two went to Hayden Brewer, who finished with 50 receiving yards, while Cameron Brauner added a touchdown and an extra point.

Brewer also had a big day on defense with six pulls and an interception to lead the Vikings, which also received an interception from Luke Valadie and four pulls from Andrew Ross in the victory.

Michael Latimer led the Cardinals with three touchdowns and 71 all-purpose yards. Tyler Pearson finished with a game-high 90 rushing yards, and Issac Henderson passed for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

Ethan Bertrand led the Cardinals defensive effort with nine flag pulls and Latimer added a pair of interceptions.

The 8-9 division game of the week had the Beach Bums Seahawks edge the Island Real Estate Saints 12-6 to end a long Feb. 19 day of flag football at the Center.

Ethan Helvey passed for 17 yards and a touchdown pass to Tori Walter, while also running for 38 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Walter also had a huge day on defense, finishing with a game-high seven flag pulls, while Hanna McCracken and Adam OualDaba each finished with three pulls.

Alex Rodriguez had 40 all-purpose yards and a touchdown to lead the Seahawk offense, that also received 47 rushing yards from Jackson Hayes and 38 rushing yards from Andrew Procter in the loss.

Horseshoe news

Four teams emerged from a crowded Feb. 19 morning at the Anna Maria City Hall horseshoe pits to advance to the knockout stage. Herb Puryear and Bruce Munro rolled past Sam Samuels and Steve Grossman 21-12 in one semifinal game, while Bob Lee overpowered Leo Hutton and Stan Musial 22-9. Lee was unstoppable in the final, taking an easy 21-7 win.

Only two teams managed three wins during pool play and were left to battle for the day’s bragging rights during Feb. 16 horseshoe action. Ron Pepka and Tennessee Bob were leading John Crawford 15-12. Pepka threw a ringer, but Disbrow topped his ringer on his first throw and then knocked Pepka’s ringer off on his final throw to tie the score at 15 all. Undaunted, Pepka came through with a double ringer to win the match.

Play gets under way at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m. followed by random team selection. There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.

Key Royale golf news

John Estoc emerged from more than 60 members to win the Key Royale Club 18-hole, match-play championship. The match-play tournament started in early January and culminated with the match Feb. 18.

Estoc was unstoppable in the championship match against runner-up Mike Ross, winning 7 and 6, meaning Estoc was up seven holes with six left to play.

The ladies and gentlemen of the club got together for a nine-hole, coed scramble Feb. 18. The team of Nell Bergstrom, Bob Dickenson and Earl Hunzinger carded a 10-under-par 22 to take first place. Jane Winegarden, Joyce Brown, Dennis Schavey and Tom Warda, along with the team of Terry Westby, Maxine Miller and Gary Alvord were two shots back in a tie for second.

The men played a team scramble Feb. 17 that saw sandbagging Bill Lowman, along with Bob Soos and Tim Friesen fire a 6-under-par 26 to take first place. One shot back in second place was the team of Tom Nelson, Jim Clarke, Jim Mixon and Tony Czaja.

Feb. 16 saw the men play an 18-hole, two-best-balls-of-foursome match. The team of Pieter Thomassen, Jim McVicar, Dave Kruger and Jim Krumme combined on a 20-under-par 108. One shot back and in a tie for second were Carl Voyles and Ed Havlik and the team of Joe Dickenson, Art Hibbs and Andy Barber.

The men’s Feb. 15 Stableford game had Tommy McDonnell, Tom Nelson, Quentin Talbert and Ron Harrold score plus-4 for first place. Bob Lange won the individual competition with a plus-5.

The women of the Key Royale Club played an individual-low-net game as well as a team-low-net match Feb. 15. Pam Alvord carded an impressive 4-under-par 28 to capture Flight A by three shots over Judy Crowe, Maxine Mitchell and Mary Selby, who finished in a three-way tie.

Margrit Layh matched Alvord’s 4-under-par score to take first place in Flight B.

Barb Harrold, Sue Little and Joanne Ozdych carded matching 1-under-par 31s to finish in a tie for first place in Flight C.

Shirley Cessna and Christina Mason finished in a tie for first place in Flight D at 3-under par-29

Judy Crowe, Margrit Layh, Jean Holmes and Patty Townsend took the team low-net title with a combined 5-under-par 123.

AMICC NFL Flag Football League schedule

Adult Division

Feb. 24    5:30 Ralph’s vs. Walter

Feb. 24    6:30 Slim’s vs. Jessie’s

Feb. 24    7:30 BTBC vs. MartiniVille

Feb. 24    8:30 Duffy’s vs. Hanks Sato

Feb. 24    9:30 Bob Vita  vs. Sun

13-16 Division

Feb. 23    8 p.m.      Bistro vs. Mr. Bones

Feb. 28    8 p.m.      Bistro vs. BVV&H

Mar. 1     8 p.m.      BVV&H vs. Mr. Bones

10-12 Division

Feb. 23    6 p.m.      Oyster Bar vs. Mr. Spiffy

Feb. 23    7 p.m.      Sandbar vs. Southern

Feb. 25    7 p.m.      Eat Here vs. Holy Cow

Feb. 25    8 p.m.      LPAC vs. Southern

Feb. 26    12 p.m.    LPAC vs. Sandbar

Feb. 28    6 p.m.      Eat Here vs. Mr. Spiffy

Feb. 28    7 p.m.      LPAC vs. LaPensee

Mar. 1     12 p.m.    Eat Here vs. Walter

8-9 Division

Feb. 25    6 p.m.      IRE vs. Connelly Marine

Feb. 26    11 a.m.    Beach Bums vs. Connelly Marine

Mar. 1     6 p.m.      IRE vs. Beach Bums

5-7 Division

Feb. 23    6 p.m.      Tyler’s vs. A&E

Feb. 25    6 p.m.      Connelly Marine vs. Dental Spa

Feb. 25    7 p.m.      Dental Spa vs. A&E

Feb. 28    6 p.m.      Connelly Marine vs. A&E

AMICC NFL Flag Football League standings

8-9 Division                     Won     Loss   Tie

Beach Bums                     9           1        0

Island Real Estate            5           5        0

Connelly Marine              1           8        0

NFC 10-12 Division

Ross Built                        9           1        0

LPAC                               4           3        0

LaPensee Plumbing         4           5        0

Sandbar                            2           6        0

Southern Greens              1           9        0

AFC 10-12 Division

Walter & Assoc.              8           0        0

Holy Cow                         9           2        0

Eat Here                           5           4        0

Oyster Bar                        2           7        0

Mr. Spiffy                        0           8        0

13-16 Division

Bistro                               8           1        0

BVV&H                           5           4        0

1st. Bank                          4           5        0

Mr. Bones                        1           8        0

Adult Division

Duffy’s                             5           1        0

Jessie’s                             5           1        0

Sato Real Estate              5           2        0

MartiniVille                     5           2        0

Hurricane Hanks              4           2        0

Sun                                   4           3        0

Slim’s Place                     3           3        0

Walter & Assoc.              2           4        0

BTBC                               2           5        0

Bob Vita                          0           6        0

Rotten Ralph’s                 0           6        0

Island real estate transactions – 02-23-2011

534 70th St., Holmes Beach, a 1,296 sfla / 2,261 sfur 2bed/2bath/2car canalfront home built in 1969 on a 85×145 lot was sold 01/11/11, Buky to Gress for $1,050,000.

103 Seagrape Lane, Anna Maria, a 1,221 sfla / 1,647 sfur Gulffront home built in 1951 on a 90×98 lot was sold 01/25/11, Horvat to Retzlaff for $1,050,000; list $1,474,000.

314 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, a 5,376 sfur warehouse built in 1950 on a 157×110 lot was sold 02/02/11, Taylor Family Foundation Inc. to Sandfish LLC for $880,000.

309 68th St., Unit A, Island Beachwalk, Holmes Beach, a 2,566 sfla / 3,519 sfur 4bed/3½bath/2car land condo with pool built in 2010 was sold 01/28/11, KPI Holdings LLC to Butzek for $580,000; list $619,000.

213 70th St., Holmes Beach, a 1,494 sfla / 2,178 sfur 3bed/2bath pool home built in 1959 on a 90×102 lot was sold 12/23/10, Kaleta to Honeywood LLC for $475,000; list $498,900.

530 67th St., Holmes Beach, a 1,286 sfla / 2,201 sfur 2bed/2bath/2car canalfront pool home built in 1971 on a 80×113 lot was sold 02/04/11, Mills to Mitchell for $380,000.

307 63rd St., Holmes Beach, a 1,766 sfla / 2,163 sfur 4bed/4bath duplex built in 1972 on a 90×100 lot was sold 01/31/11, Sears to 9 Solutions LLC for $345,000; list $359,000.

6200 Flotilla Drive, Unit 293, Westbay Point & Moorings, Holmes Beach, a 1,114 sfla / 1,426 sfur 2bed/2bath condo with shared pool built in 1979 was sold 01/28/11, Weston to Nieswand for $310,000; list $349,000.

612 North Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, a 858 sfla / 1,412 sfur 2bed/1bath/1car home built in 1949 on a 52×77 lot was sold 01/21/11, Dunwoody to Brooks for $310,000; list $329,000.

6400 Flotilla Dr., Unit 11, Westbay Point & Moorings, Holmes Beach, a 1,114 sfla / 1,426 sfur 2bed/2bath condo with shared pool built in 1978 was sold 01/21/11, Brennan to Bartschke for $250,000; list $275,000.

2814 Gulf Drive, Unit A, Gulf Sound, Holmes Beach, a 955 sfla 2bed/1bath condo built in 1958 was sold 02/03/11 Suntrust Bank to Poore for $141,000; list $141,000.

Jesse Brisson, broker/associate at Gulf-Bay Realty of Anna Maria, can be reached at 941-778-7244.

Obituaries – 02-23-2011

David Hammond McCormack

David Hammond McCormack, 80, Bradenton, died Feb. 17.

There are no local services planned. Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 26th Street Chapel is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be made at

Mr. McCormack is survived by his wife of 28 years, Barbara; four sons; four daughters; two brothers; two sisters; 16 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Carmen Pecora

Carmen Pecora, 63, of Holmes Beach died Feb. 5.

Mr. Pecora worked for Manatee County government as a social worker specializing in addiction and homelessness cases.

Arrangements were by Griffith-Cline Funeral Home.

Survivors include his partner of 11 years, Joyce Akins; sons Corbie, Dakota, Logan and Collin; daughter K K; step-sons Ben White and R.J. White; and step-daughter Amy Guarino.

Billie Barron Pursley

Billie Barron Pursley, 93, died Feb. 6. She was born in Fort Myers, but moved to raise her family in St. Petersburg in the early 1940s. She attended the University of Florida and taught school in a one room school house on Sanibel Island at a time when it was accessible only by ferry.

Memorial contributions may be made Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.

Mrs. Pursley is survived by daughters, Linda Leckey of Tampa and Tricia of Pass-A-Grille, son Walter Jr. of Anna Maria Island; grandchildren Lillie McPherson of Central, S.C,. Leah Armstrong of Tampa, Lila Miller of New York City and Charlie of Anna Maria Island; great-grandchildren PJ and Sophie McPherson and Andrew Armstrong, and expected to arrive in March, Thomas Hendry Armstrong.

Fishing – 02-23-2011

Fishing, weather get better by the day

With water temps on the rise, be prepared to encounter a variety of species while fishing the local waters of Anna Maria Island.

Schools of juvenile white bait are beginning to show on the grass flats and beaches. As these bait schools arrive, there’s a good chance you’ll find hungry migratory species such as Spanish mackerel and bluefish right behind them. It’s also a sign to start carrying some silver spoons and crappie jigs in your arsenal.

Inshore fishing has heated up with great spotted sea trout action occurring in the deeper grass flats. Berkley Gulp shrimp and DOA Cal jigs have been working well. There is still an army of rat reds moving throughout Sarasota Bay, eating every crab and shrimp they can find. The sheepshead this season have made a weak showing on the nearshore wrecks and reefs, but fishers at the Sunshine skyway fishing piers are catching limits of these convict fish.

Hungry Spanish mackerel and bluefish have joined the repertoire from the nearshore reefs to Egmont Key, chasing schools of glass minnows and small white bait.

Offshore fishers are reeling in catch-and-release gag grouper as fast as they can drop down a bait. Mangrove snapper action is beginning to warm up with reports of fish up to 4 pounds. Amberjack are clinging to wrecks 20 miles offshore waiting for a tasty pinfish to be thrown their way. There has been good porgy action on hard bottom using live shrimp for bait.

Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says fishers are doing “unbelievable” on Spanish mackerel. “It’s really weird,” Medley says. “There is no bait around, but there’s plenty of mackerel.” Silver spoons and white jigs are the lure of choice, although fishers using live shrimp and Sabiki rigs are reeling fish in as well.

The sheepshead bite is still going strong at the pier and the size range has increased from just barely keeper-size, to fish in the 4- to 5-pound range. Medley says fresh-peeled shrimp is working great, as well as the usual fiddlers, tubeworms and sand fleas.

Spotted sea trout are still being caught using small jigs tipped with shrimp. Keeper-size fish are being reeled in but most have been undersized. You can also try a live shrimp weighted with a No. 2 split-shot. Throw your shrimp up current and let it drift back toward the pier.

Nighttime pier fishers are being rewarded with the arrival of mangrove snapper. Keeper-size fish are being caught on shrimp and small pieces of squid fished around the structure under the pier.

Capt. Mike Greig says catch-and-release gag grouper fishing is still going strong offshore. On a recent charter, Greig said his clients caught almost 50 grouper with some of the biggest topping out at 15 pounds. Also, while offshore fishing, Greig has been targeting amberjack. Most catches have been in the 20-pound range. Live pinfish and frozen sardines have been Greig’s bait of choice to target these offshore tackle-busters.

Moving inshore, Greig says he’s been reeling up limits of spotted sea trout as well as “tons” of small redfish. Live shrimp and jigs have been the key to success with these fish.

Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says offshore fishing has been exceptional despite having to return gag grouper. On a recent charter with Capt. Mac Gregory, Keyes saw plenty of catch-and-release gag grouper action with most of the fish in the keeper-size range. Along with gag grouper, Keyes caught some amberjack in the 20- to 30-pound range, as well as and limits of mangrove snapper up to 4 pounds.

“The water out there was really clear,” Keyes says, “so we scaled down to 20-pound fluorocarbon with 1/0 circle hooks to get a good bite going.” Keyes and Gregory fished in about 100 feet of water and used pinfish, frozen sardines and threadfins as bait.

Moving inshore, reports are coming into the tackle shop of catches of whiting, sheepshead, redfish and spotted sea trout. Most of these catches are a result of using live shrimp. Keyes suggests peeling and using a piece of live shrimp to target the whiting just off the beaches of Anna Maria Island.

Tom Cassetty at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead has still been the main target at the pier. Fishers using oyster crabs and tubeworms are getting the best results, and fishers using shrimp are catching a few, too. Most fish have been barely keeper-size, although a few have been up to 2 pounds. “Give it another week or two,” Cassetty says, “It’s going to get better and better.”

Other species being caught at the Rod & Reel Pier include flounder, whiting, pinfish, snakefish and one Spanish mackerel. Cassetty also mentioned he’s seeing the first traces of whitebait in the mornings.

Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says even with cold weather early last week, the fishing was “red hot.” Howard reports catches of redfish on deep-water docks. These redfish have been feeding during the moving tide and chewing on live select shrimp. Howard suggests using a split-shot to get the bait deep under the dock where the redfish are staging. “You should have no problem culling thru the small ones to get the one keeper-sized redfish you’re allowed to harvest,” Howard says.

Sheepshead are starting to swarm around artificial reef areas off the beach, and according to Howard, around structure in Tampa bay getting ready for their spawn. Shrimp, fiddler crabs, sand fleas and tubeworms will get these tasty, hard-fighting fish to bite. “Just make sure your knives are sharp to be able to get their nice white fillets,” he says.

“With the wintertime pattern at its peak, fishing should stay exceptional for the next few months,” Howard says. Howard suggests fishing the incoming tides in the early afternoon for the best chance at bringing home some nice fillets for the dinner table or just some exciting catch-and-release fishing. And look for the transition from wintertime patterns to springtime patterns in the next few weeks.

Send fishing reports to