Choose the right lure for red-hot redfish action
Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is still going strong for backwater fishers targeting redfish.
Fishing the potholes and troughs on the lower low tide is the key to finding good numbers of redfish. During these low tides, the reds gather in the deeper potholes and troughs awaiting higher water. With the fish consolidated in the potholes, you can catch plenty without having to cast all over the flat. Once the tide gets higher, the fish leave the holes and ditches and spread out, making them harder to locate.
A number of baits are working to catch the schooled-up reds. Live baits such as shiners and shrimp are a great option, although some fishers swear by live or cut pinfish. I’ve heard the saying, “pinfish means redfish,” more than once.
And I’ve seen days where this was true.
For anglers using artificials, there are three options that will produce results. There are probably more, but I know this trio works for me. I like to use top-water plugs, gold spoons or soft plastic baits on a jig head. There are numerous brands of all three of these lures, so try some out and see what works for you.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel fishing charters is targeting flounder in sandy potholes and troughs in the grass flats of northern Sarasota Bay.
On a recent charter, Johnston boasted his clients caught 20 flounder with the biggest fish coming in at 21 inches. Johnston is using live shiners on a 1/0 hook rigged with 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Catch-and-release snook are accommodating Johnston’s charters with a consistent morning bite on the lower tides. He says “live-lining” shiners is getting the bite going.
“Where we are fishing,” Johnston explains, “we’re catching both snook and flounder. If the bait stays on the top, we catch snook. If the bait swims to the bottom, we catch flounder.”
On the deeper grass flats, Johnston is producing good catch-and-release spotted seatrout. He likes to rig a shiner under the popping cork so his clients don’t only feel the bite, they can see it happen. While fishing deeper areas in Sarasota Bay, Johnston is catching ladyfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on the same rigs.
Last but not least, Johnston is catching slot-sized redfish in Anna Maria Sound on incoming tides. Both live shiners and live shrimp are working effectively to lure these reds to the hook. “We’re also catching a few sheepshead on shrimp that are mixed in with reds,” says Johnston.
Capt. Sam Kimball of Legend charters is fishing both nearshore and offshore structure, finding a nice variety of species for his clients to enjoy.
Starting around 40 feet of water, Kimball is catching cobia up to 40 inches on live pinfish. “We’re really targeting gag grouper and mangrove snapper,” says Kimball. “But sometimes you’re lucky enough to hook a cobia.”
Kimball is producing limits of gag grouper for his clients. “Most of the gag grouper are ranging from 24 to 28 inches,” says Kimball, “but once we get to deeper water, we’re catching bigger ones.”
Spanish mackerel and kingfish still are patrolling nearshore structure and Kimball is taking advantage of the bite. By throwing a large-sized shiner or threadfin herring out on a flat line, Kimball is hooking up kingfish in the 30- to 40-inch range. When targeting kingfish, he uses a 4/0 extra-long shank hook with a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader.
Moving offshore to water depths of 80-100 feet, Kimball is hooking up with red grouper and mangrove snapper on hard bottom and small ledges. Depending on current, Kimball likes to use 2 or 3 ounces of lead to get his baits to the bottom. For leader, he uses 50-pound fluorocarbon with a 4/0 circle hook.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing both inshore and offshore with good results on a variety of species. Gag grouper and mangrove snapper are dominating the offshore bite, while redfish are still dominating inshore.
Starting offshore, Girle is beginning in depths of 45-60 feet of water, producing red grouper practically every time he drops a bait down. Although the action is consistent, most of the red grouper are undersized.
When the conditions are right, Girle is moving out to about 25 miles offshore. Here he’s catching keeper gag and red grouper as well as “slab” mangrove snapper.
“The mangrove snapper fishing is great right now,” says Girle. “We’re catching mangoes up to 22 inches. I think they even fight harder than some of the grouper we’re catching.”
Gag grouper in the 24-inch range are being caught on live shiners or pinfish. The same applies for the red grouper, while shiners are producing the snapper bite.
Moving inshore, Girle says the redfish bite in Sarasota Bay remains consistent. Live shiners fished in potholes on grass flats of 2-3 feet in depth is the ticket. Remember, due to water clarity, you want to scale down to 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon to get the bite.
Girle claims he’s catching 25-30 redfish per charter with the average size being 25-26 inches. “The biggest we caught in the past few days was 29 inches long,” states Girle. “He was a pig.”
Girle is getting good catch-and-release action on some trophy-size spotted seatrout. On the grass flats with a depth of 3-5 feet, he’s using live shiners to entice the bite. “Most of the fish we’re catching are between 18 and 20 inches, with the biggest coming in at 22 inches.
Tom Cassetty at the Rod & Reel Pier says the flounder bite is really starting to pick up there. Pier fishers targeting these tasty flatfish are using live shiners or live shrimp to get the bite. Since flounder are bottom feeders, you want to use some weight to get your bait to the bottom. Try using a 1/2-ounce egg sinker that slides right to the eye of a size-1 hook. We call this a knocker rig. This ensures your bait is directly on the bottom. Plus, your 20-pound leader slides freely through the egg sinker to feel the bite.
Other bottom-feeders being caught around the pier include black drum, redfish and a few sheepshead. All of these species can be caught using the same rig as flounder. The reds and black drum will hit a live shrimp or live shiners, but for the sheepies, you want to use a fiddler crab or a sand flea.
If you’re looking for something a little more active, try fishing for Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. Cassetty says the action is consistent in the mornings for both species. Silver spoons, Gotcha plugs and white jigs are producing a bite.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is fishing around nearshore structures for kingfish, Spanish mackerel and bonito. “We’re trying some different artificial baits to see which works best,” says Keyes. “So far, the Shimano wax wing has been the best — especially for the bonito. They tore it up.”
Gag grouper still inhabit nearshore structures. Keyes suggests using live pinfish to entice the bigger gags to come out of the structure and hit your bait. Depending on water clarity, Keyes says to use at least 30-pound fluorocarbon leader, but not more than 50-pound. Tie on a 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook and a 1-ounce egg sinker and you’re ready to go.
Redfish and flounder are dominating the backwater bite around Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay. Most fishers are still using live shiners for bait. Black drum are starting to show in numbers in the local canals and around the piers. Finally, sheepshead are showing around oyster bars and almost any structure on the beach.
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