Spring break brings no break for top island fishing action
What did you catch over spring break? Hopefully, you reeled up lots of fish. Fishers around Anna Maria Island are being treated with a variety of species, as the water temperature continues to climb. Inshore species are coming out of their winter haunts in search of food — baitfish. Spotted sea trout are making a good showing on the deeper flats of Sarasota Bay.
Small twitch baits such as a Yo-Zuri pins minnow, are producing nice-sized trout, but try removing the front treble hook on your lure to make dehooking easier on you and the fish.
Plastic baits on a jig head are working equally well. The MirrOlure “Lil John” has been a good choice. Try the watermelon red-glitter color for good results.
While fishing the deeper flats for trout, don’t be surprised to also catch some Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and, if you’re lucky, a pompano. You can still catch rat reds around the docks and canals of Sarasota Bay, as well as Anna Maria Sound. Live shrimp is still the best bait, but you can catch them on a Berkeley Gulp shrimp, too.
Sheepshead are still congregating around docks and piers. Don’t miss this winter-cycle action.
Moving out in the Gulf of Mexico to where you no longer see land, fishers are catching a variety of species. Amberjack in the 30- to 40-pound range are being caught on white bait and pinfish. Bottom dwellers such as red and gag grouper are still being caught and released in good numbers. Mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper and hogfish have joined the list of offshore species, along with Key West grunts, porgies and triggerfish.
James Followell at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says sheepshead still are a regular catch. Fiddler crabs and frozen sand fleas are catching the most fish, although shrimp are working, too. Pier fishers opting to use shrimp also are catching silver trout.
There’s no size or bag limit on silver trout, so it’s best for the fishery to only take what you need. Spanish mackerel are still carousing the man-made reefs around the pier and chasing glass minnows, so don’t forget to have some Gotcha plugs handy.
If its catch-and-release gag grouper action you’re looking for, try dropping a live pinfish under the pier and hang on tight. Daily catches of gags are happening using these little “rainbow porgies.” Last but not least, Followell says pompano are making a showing. He suggests trying a Doc’s goofy jig or a reasonable facsimile.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says reports are coming into the shop that beach action is picking up. These fishers are encountering ladyfish, mackerel and shark from the shoreline of Anna Maria Island. Keyes suggests using a “shiny lure,” such as Gotcha plugs and spoons, for the ladies and the macks. “The shark are hitting frozen threadies or squid,” Keyes says.
In the backwaters, redfish are still being caught on live shrimp around docks. “Shrimp has been working well for trout, too,” Keyes says. “Try fishing a live shrimp using a Cajun thunder cork.”
Moving offshore, fishers willing to go 20-30 miles out are rewarded with amberjack and red and gag grouper. “Pinfish is the bait for the AJs and grouper,” Keyes says. Switching over to a select shrimp results in yellowtail and mangrove snapper, as well as hogfish.
Dave Sork at the Historic Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are making a good showing. He’s seeing sizeable macks of lengths up to 25 inches. “Now that the bait is starting to show up,” Sork says, “so are the mackerel.” Sork added he’s seeing gator trout blasting ballyhoo at night around the lights on the pier.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters says he is targeting a variety of species while fishing the nearshore structure and backwaters of Anna Maria Island.
While fishing the reefs, Gross is catching Key West grunts, also known as imperial snapper, using live shrimp. He’s also catching sheepshead, hogfish and black sea bass on shrimp.
Moving into the backwater, Gross is boating spotted sea trout up to 22 inches using Cotee cracker shrimp in the measles color. While targeting trout, Gross, also is catching Spanish mackerel in the 24-inch range. “A lot of times you’ll get hit before your jig can even reach the bottom,” Gross says, “resulting in a Spanish mackerel.”
Capt. Steve Salgado of Compleat Angler Fishing Charters says offshore action is going strong. Salgado is targeting amberjack in 100 feet of water or more. “We fished a school the size of two football fields out there the other day,” Salgado said. “They were jumping out of the water like tuna.”
Salgado is also catching mangrove snapper up to 5 pounds and catch-and-release gag grouper in the 30-inch range. “We left the grouper biting again,” Salgado added.
Inshore, Salgado is using artificial baits for spotted sea trout. Slot-sized fish have been the norm, although some have been up to 22 inches.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure with good results. While fishing ledges, Girle is seeing catch-and-release gag grouper in the 8- to 10-pound range. Also in the mix are mangrove snapper up to 16 inches. “It’s been on fire out there,” Girle says. Other catches aboard Girle’s boat include hogfish, Key West grunts and flounder up to 2 1/2 pounds.
Girle also is having success in the backwater in Sarasota Bay with spotted sea trout, redfish and sheepshead. Golden bream Exude Darts are working well for the trout. A tasty live shrimp has been Girle’s choice for the sheepies and redfish.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Charters is reeling up Spanish mackerel in the Intracoastal Waterway using live shrimp. Fish ranging from 18-20 inches has been the norm, although some as big as 26 inches have been caught.
Johnston is catching limits of sheepshead — up to 2 1/2 pounds at inshore structure. “There’s a ton of sheepies out there right now,” Johnston says.
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