AMI fishing: As good as it gets in summer
Inshore and nearshore fishing still are producing good numbers of fish — provided you try to fish during the cooler parts of the day. Fishing pre-dawn until shortly after sunrise is providing great spotted sea trout action on top-water lures. Try wading the shallower flats to find gator trout lurking in potholes and on edges of troughs and ditches.
Redfish and snook are lingering around mangrove edges and grass flats on higher tides. You can find snook on the beaches, too, especially close to the passes on the north and south ends of the Island. For best results with these catch-and-release snook, you want to use live shiners or pinfish. If you’re going to use artificials, try a Yozuri Pins Minnow in a greenback-silverside pattern.
Offshore fishers are preparing their boats to travel long distances into the Gulf of Mexico, where reports of black fin tuna, bonito and dolphin are coming in from water depths of 150-180 feet.
To get in on this action, look for schools of bonito crashing the surface, and put a bait right in the school. If you can get a bait past the bonito, you have a chance at hooking a tuna. In these same depths, bottom fishers are catching limits of mangrove snapper as well as red grouper. Catch-and-release gag grouper is still as good as grouper fishing gets.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says inshore fishing has been challenging due to the hot water temps. Fishers willing to fish at dawn are catching upper slot-size spotted sea trout on top water plugs. Wading is the best approach to sneak up on these summertime trout. Redfish are hanging around oyster bars and along mangrove edges. Gold spoons and Berkley Gulp shrimp are two good options to try on the shallow water reds. Keyes is hearing about good catch-and release snook action on the beaches around Longboat Pass and at Bean Point.
Offshore fishers are having good results targeting mangrove snapper on both the nearshore and offshore structure. The same is true of the red grouper. Frozen sardines and or frozen squid are working well in water deeper than 100 feet. Heading out to depths of 180 feet-plus, fishers are catching dolphin, bonito and black fin tuna.
Tom Cassetty at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper being caught on live shiners. “The bite has been early in the morning,” says Cassetty. “Sunrise has been the best.” For pier fishers using shrimp, flounder and black drum are the primary catch. “There are still a lot of bait stealers around the pier,” says Cassetty. “They make it tough to get your shrimp to the bottom where the drum are, so bring an ample amount of bait.”
Redfish also are being caught under the pier on live shrimp or cut pieces of blue crab.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel fishing charters is targeting “bull reds” in Sarasota Bay using “slab white bait.” Most fish are upper slot fish with the biggest in the 30-inch range. Eight-year-old Kai Hunkeler of Bradenton caught a 30-inch bull red on 4-pound test line while fishing with Johnston. “It took a little while for Kai to reel him in,” says Johnston, “but he stuck with it and landed the fish.”
Besides redfish, Johnston also is catching spotted sea trout up to 25 inches on the flats of Sarasota Bay. Again he says bigger white bait is catching the bigger trout. He also is catching flounder in the passes using smaller baits fished on the bottom.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting spotted sea trout along the eastern shoreline or Sarasota Bay. “The shallower flats are producing good fish early in the morning,” says Girle. Wading is the most effective way to fish these areas. Girle also is finding schooling reds while wading these shorelines. He suggests looking close to the shoreline for schools on the higher tides. Artificials like the Rapala Skitterwalk, a top-water plug, are working well just after dawn. Plastic baits on a 1/8-ounce jig head also are producing, but be careful not to make a big splash close to schooling reds.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is having great luck with redfish around flats adjacent to mangrove edges on the higher tides. On a recent charter, Gross boated 22 redfish while working a shoreline. “Most of the fish have been upper slot,” says Gross, “ but we’ve been catching fish up to 32 inches.”
Gross also is catching trout in these same areas, although he says they’re not as abundant as redfish. Moving on the deeper flats, Gross is catching decent numbers of Spanish mackerel with a few blacktip sharks in the mix. On the outgoing tides, Gross is targeting catch-and-release snook using small shiners for bait. “The hookup ratio has been better using the smaller shiners,” says Gross. The snook have been averaging 22-25 inches with fish up to 29 inches being caught.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Charters says he saw steady action and a variety of fish on recent charters. Speckled trout, redfish, mangrove snapper, bluefish and mackerel are some of the varieties landed.
He notes that the abundant small shiners in area waters are the bait of choice. He recommends using a 1/4-inch net to get these smaller baits and down size hooks and leaders to pait the tackle to the bait.
Speckled trout and mangrove snapper are feeding heavily on the smaller shiners in 4-6 feet of water with abundance and vigor. Just throw a handful of shiners behind your boat to fire up the bite. In this shallow of water, Howard says, “The mangrove snapper are perfect eating size when cooked Bahamian style — scaled, gutted, seasoned and heads off on the grill.” Better yet, he says, take advantage of summer’s bounty and add some mango salsa to the grilled fish.
Howard says redfish schools are still scattered in the mangroves at high tide and in the potholes on low tides. He says to use a cork to float bait tight to the bushes, and also “try a variety of baits as redfish can be choosy. Shiners, shrimp and pinfish, live or dead, will usually do the trick,” he says.
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