Sunny days, hot temps, cool fishing
With temperatures climbing daily into the low 90s, I think we need to talk about precautions to withstand the Florida heat. We all know what it feels like when you’re perched in the boat waiting for a bite in the hot sun without a breeze. Sweat drips into your eyes, your sunglasses fog up and the top of your head feels like a hotplate.
One way to beat the heat is to have shade on your boat. Whether it’s a bimini or a T-top, providing shade is a necessity. I’ve even seen fishers use a beach umbrella in a rod holder to produce shade on the boat. It feels good and also makes good sense to get out of the sun, even for a short time.
Next, you want to make sure you bring a cooler containing plenty of ice, water and perhaps a replenishing sports drink. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated while out on the water. If you don’t, you can end up with heat stroke, which can ruin your day. You may not feel it while you’re fishing, but you will when you get home.
Third, use sun block — whether sunscreen or sun protection clothing, or both — you need to protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Doing so can help prevent skin cancer, as well as alleviate the immediate problem — sunburn. I start with a 50 SPF-sunscreen. And don’t forget to reapply often to make sure you’re maximizing the amount of protection you get. In addition to sunscreen, clothing helps block the sun. Consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt, lightweight long pants, gloves, a wide-brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses. You don’t have to look like the next Columbia Sportswear model, but it’s a good idea to cover up with some of these items. Some shirts, pants and hats even have labels rating the fabric’s SPF protection. Most are pricey, but they do help block the burning rays.
Now that you’re ready to brave the heat without getting burnt to a crisp, go take advantage of the great spring catch occurring in local waters.
Capt. Sam Kimball of Legend Charters said he’s catching good numbers of amberjack on live pinfish or threadfin herring while on his offshore trips. Kimball is targeting offshore wrecks to find schools of these reef donkeys. He’s also catching mangrove snapper in the 3- to 5-pound range on live shiners.
Moving nearshore, Kimball is producing catches of Key West grunts, jolt-head porgies and triggerfish on live select-shrimp. Also on nearshore structures, Kimball is doing a lot of catch-and-release shark fishing. And he’s moving inshore to target tarpon.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore starting at depths of 40 feet to target gag grouper. Keeper gags are being caught on live shiners. While fishing for gags, Girle is catching mangrove snapper in the 3-pound range using the same bait. Girle suggests while fishing offshore to keep your eyes open for cobia looking for a closer look to cruise up to your boat. Girle is seeing cobia in the 30-pound range. Also offshore this week, one of Girle’s fishers caught and released a 100-pound hammerhead shark.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting spotted sea trout on the grass flats around Long Bar. He’s using top-water plugs for explosive action and big trout. The redfish in the bay have been scattered, but Girle says he’s managing to catch a few.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says pier fishers are catching Spanish mackerel on silver spoons and pink crappie jigs. “Now that the bait is starting to show up, so are the mackerel,” Sork says. He also expects to see mangrove snapper start appearing around the pier in the next few weeks. Pier fishers are seeing tarpon rolling, but no one has yet landed one.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters reports great offshore action. McGuire is catching red grouper and “all the catch-and-release gag grouper one could imagine.” McGuire also is producing limits of big amberjack, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snappers, a few kings and big bull sharks up to 9 feet long.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says the bait is still consistent at the pier. Fishers are reeling in keeper gag grouper as well as a lot of undersized fish. Medley suggests using live pinfish or threadfin herring. Pompano are being caught around the south pier on Love’s lures pompano jigs tipped with peeled shrimp. And if you’re interested in night fishing, the mangrove snapper bite has been steady. Fishers using small threadfin herring drifted under the pier are catching snapper in the 2-pound range. Spotted sea trout are being caught at night around the south pier. Fishers targeting trout are using smaller-sized threadfin herring. Last but not least, tarpon are making a showing around the piers.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says the spotted sea trout bite on the deeper flats of the surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island is still the best thing going. Limits of trout are being reported daily. Live bait such as shrimp and shiners are working well for these yellow-mouthed bruisers, but you can use artificials with good results as well. Redfish are still scattered, but reports of keeper fish are resulting from fishing schools of mullet on the shallow grass flats.
Fishing the beaches is equally good for fishers targeting pompano. Live or frozen sand fleas and shrimp are working as well as pompano jigs painted yellow, white or pink. Also on the beaches, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are being caught on silver spoons. “Keep your eyes peeled for rolling tarpon, too,” Keyes says.
Moving offshore, the gag grouper bite is still solid. Live pinfish, shiners or threadfins are the baits of choice. Frozen squid and frozen threadies are working, but not as good as live bait. Cobia, kingfish and big Spanish mackerel are patrolling the nearshore reefs, and fishing with live bait is a sure-fire way to hook up with these high-activity fish.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers are working hard to catch fish due to the water being so clear. Bottom fishing at the Rod & Reel is resulting in black drum, flounder and small sharks in the 2- to 3-foot range. Spanish mackerel are still being caught, although not in great numbers. Sheepshead are being caught under the pier using fiddler crabs and sand fleas. The water is so clear around the pier, you’ll need to scale down both your leader and hook size.
Capt. Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters says he’s still catching limits of keeper gag grouper on his offshore charters. While fishing for grouper, Genthner also is catching hogfish up to 24 inches on live shrimp. Flounder also are biting around nearshore structures. Genthner is catching flounder up to 24 inches using live shiners and shrimp on the bottom.
Moving inshore, Genthner is targeting spotted sea trout using Berkley Gulp shrimp or live shrimp under a popping cork with success on the deeper grass flats of Sarasota Bay.
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