Fishing AMI waters as good as it gets
Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving prosperous for flats fishers. Spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook action is as good as it gets.
The best bait to target any of these species is live shiners. Free-lining shiners on a rig consisting of nothing but 20-pound fluorocarbon and a 1/0 live bait hook will get you in on the action.
Try anchoring in an area and then chum the waters with live shiners. Once you see fish eating your chummers, cast a bait and hang on.
Don’t forget, it’s time for spotted seatrout to spawn. Fish exceeding 20 inches will most likely be full of roe. Handle them with care and release them quickly, helping to ensure there are trout to catch in the future.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing nearshore structure when the wind allows. Gross likes to anchor and chum to lure fish to his boat. Once anchored in the area he plans to fish, Gross chums with live shiners behind the boat.
He says reef predators, such as bonito, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and shark, were the norm last week. Gross said as soon as his clients see fish feeding on the chummers, they cast a bait and it’s game on.
Moving into the backcountry, Gross is stalking redfish, trout and snook on shallow grass flats during high tides. Gross prefers to sit in the tower and slowly cruise mangrove shorelines in search of these species. Once he locates the fish, he likes to use the same method as on the reefs — anchor and chum.
Gross says it works well, and his clients are catching limits of spotted seatrout, most in the slot, although fish up to 26 inches are coming to the boat. A combination of redfish and snook are mixed in, keeping the action steady. Most of the catch-and-release snook have been in the 20-inch range, as are the redfish, in the slot.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure when the wind permits. In water depths starting at 30 feet, Girle is hooking up kingfish and Spanish mackerel by free-lining live shiners behind the boat. Also at these depths, Girle is finding numerous lemon and silky sharks in the 30- to 40-pound range on live shiners or fresh-cut mackerel.
Moving inshore, Girle is fishing artificials, such as Berkley Gulp shrimp and Bomber Badonk-a-donk, to stalk bull redfish and spotted seatrout. Girle is working shallow grass flats with deep, sandy potholes to find these fish. When using Gulp shrimp, Girle is catching redfish up to 30 inches. And when switching to top water, the Badonk-a-donk is producing trout in the 20-inch range.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel fishing charters also is targeting spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook around mangrove edges and grass flats with good tidal flow. On most days, Johnston’s clients are catching limits of spotted seatrout on live shiners. Johnston suggests fishing deeper grass around channel edges to find this action.
Catch-and-release snook action also is heating up on Johnston’s charters. “Most are in the 20-inch range,” says Johnston. “But we’re getting some slot-size fish, too.”
Again, Johnston is using live shiners to get the bite. As far as redfish go, Johnston says the fish have scattered. “We’re still catching some,” he says, “but they’re mixed in with the snook and trout. They’re not schooled up.”
Phil Kirkland at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says flounder are biting there. Pier fishers using either live shrimp or live greenbacks are reeling up flounder in the 12- to 16-inch range. Depending on how strong the tide is, you’ll need to add some weight to get to the bottom where the fish are. On slower tides, a jig head baited with a shrimp or greenback is producing. Remember, flounder are notorious for spitting the hook at the surface when you’re trying to land them, so reel quickly. While targeting flounder, you can expect to catch mangrove snapper and sheepshead as a by-catch. Not a bad mix.
Spanish mackerel are being caught by pier fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs. Live bait such as greenbacks are producing, too. With the macks come sharks, so bring a heavy rod if you want to tango with one of these toothy predators. For bait, simply cut a steak from a legal-sized mackerel and toss it away from the pier into the schooling mackerel. While the macks are feeding on top, the sharks are just below waiting to strike — so be ready. Black tip sharks in the 40-pound range were the norm last week.
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