AMI’s summertime fishing patterns develop
As we fall into an early summertime fishing pattern, Anna Maria anglers are experiencing good action in the early mornings and late in the evening.
This is the time of year to start fishing low light conditions. For one, the fish are biting better at these times and it’s cooler, which makes it easier for anglers. Midday fishing can still be productive, but the heat of the sun can be pretty intense.
Flats fishing with live shiners is productive for spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook. Try anchoring and chumming to get the fish in a feeding mood. Once you get the fish fired up, start casting live free-lined shiners into the mix. Remember, if you’re practicing catch-and-release fishing, you need to land your fish as quickly as possible and gently revive and release. With water temps climbing, fish burn more energy when hooked up, so to ensure a good survival rate, use extra care.
Tarpon are still taking up residence around Anna Maria Island and the surrounding waters. Both live and dead bait presentations are working. The key to hooking up the silver king is to get away from the crowd. When you see 20 boats on one pod of fish, you’re better off looking for fish elsewhere. The tarpon are beginning to show signs of feeling the pressure, so finding “untampered” fish is imperative.
It’s worth putting in the time for the thrill of seeing a silver king jump, and they won’t be working our waters much longer.
Offshore, the red snapper bite is heating up around depths starting at 150 feet. Live shiners and pinfish are producing the bite. And a frozen squid-sardine combo on a circle hook also is a good bet.
In these same areas expect to catch big red grouper and plenty of catch-and-release gag grouper. If you’ve limited out on red snapper and want some grouper, try moving away from the snapper to get a bait down to the bottom. Since red snapper are so aggressive, it’s hard to get down where the grouper are, but moving to a new area will solve that problem.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel coming to the deck on the outgoing afternoon tides. Pier fishers using white speck rigs or white crappies jigs are catching keeper-size macks. If you opt to use live bait, use a Sabiki rig to catch some live shiners and then freeline around the bait schools surrounding the pier.
If you want to beat the heat, try fishing the pier at night, where spotted seatrout are showing in good numbers under the lights. As bait gathers around a light, trout patrol the outskirts of the light-seeking shiners. You can either use small jigs or free-line a shiner to catch these fish. Don’t be surprised to see some big catch-and-release snook hovering under these lights, too, feeding on bait.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel fishing charters is targeting spotted seatrout in Sarasota Bay. Using live bait such as pinfish or shiners, Johnston is leading his clients to spotted seatrout up to 22 inches. “We’re catching a lot of trout,” says Johnston, “but you have to catch quite a few to catch a limit. There’s a lot of small ones out there.”
Along with trout, Johnston is hooking his clients up with good numbers of catch-and-release snook. To find these elusive fish, Johnston is fishing mangrove islands in areas that have good water flow. Live shiners are the bait of choice. Most snook are in the 20-24 inch range, although fish up to 36 inches are being caught.
When the weather permits, Johnston is venturing out into the Gulf of Mexico in search of tarpon. By using live crabs or shiners, Johnston is averaging five or six hookups per trip and fish exceeding 80 pounds.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says beach fishers are catching good numbers of migratory fish such as ladyfish, jack crevalle and bonnethead sharks. For the ladyfish and jacks, Keyes suggests using lures, such as buck tail jigs or silver spoons. If you want to target shark, try frozen squid or shrimp.
Tarpon action remains consistent, although with increasing numbers of boaters, the fish are wary to bite. Live baits include shiners, threadfin herring, pinfish and crabs. For those who anchor and chum tarpon, Keyes suggests frozen menhaden or shad.
On the grass flats, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are keeping live-bait fishers busy. Both species are being caught on shallow grass flats adjacent to mangrove edges. Live shiners are the bait of choice but, if you’re out at sunrise, you can’t beat a top-water plug.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers is seeing good action for bait fishers using live greenbacks under a popping cork. Spanish mackerel and juvenile kingfish are blasting baits drifted away from the pier on the strong moving tides. “You can use either live greenies or fresh-cut pieces under a cork,” says Medley.
Jack crevalle also are schooling around the pier, ravaging bait schools on the change of the tide in the afternoon. “They seem to show for about an hour when the tide changes,” says Medley. “When they’re schooled up like this on the feed, you can cast just about anything and hook up.”
Flounder are still being caught underneath the pier by bottom fishers. Medley says to use a live greenback or shrimp directly on the bottom to catch these tasty flat fish. Most are in the 12-inch range, although fish up to 18 inches are being reeled up.
Like last week, cobia are still on patrol around the pilings of the pier. Look for them cruising the length of the pier, especially on the edges of the bait schools. Remember, these fish are big and fight to the end, so make sure you have some heavy tackle if you plan on targeting them. Live pinfish or live threadfin herring are producing the bite.
Last but not least, both pier fishers and boaters are catching tarpon. Live baits include threadfin herring, ladyfish and pinfish. For those opting to use dead bait, you can’t beat frozen menhaden or shad. Fish in the 60- to 100-pound range are the norm, although bigger fish are being hooked up.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says due to the large amount of fresh water draining out of the Manatee River, fishing at the pier has slowed a little. When there are multiple days of rain in a row, water from the river pushes the bait schools out in the Gulf, which in turn takes the fish the eat that bait.
Fish that are being caught at the pier include Spanish mackerel, flounder and a few mangrove snapper. For the Spanish mackerel, pier fishers are using white speck rigs or white crappie jigs. For the flounder and snapper, live shrimp or shiners fished directly on the bottom under the pier will get the bite.
Summer season hit high gear for Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime, bringing, he said “hot weather and some excellent opportunities to tangle with many species of fish in the waters of Tampa Bay.”
The tarpon bite heated up, he says, with fish swarming the waters of Anna Maria, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. A stealth approach to the schooling tarpon is imperative to angling success, he says.
“My preferred method of fishing for these silver kings is to anchor up tide of the rolling fish and chum to draw them to the back of the boat — and your baits. Use heavy sized tackle so you have a good chance of landing the fish,” says Howard.
He also found snook, trout and redfish active at high tides around mangrove, where live shiners and cut bait thrown in potholes have resulted in some nice-sized redfish and snook. He says a circle hook works great on a cut piece of fresh mullet or pinfish. Bigger speckled trout have moved to 6-10-foot water depths in Tampa Bay.
Howard says fishing should be excellent as the tides of the new moon arrive. On days with big high tides around noon and extra low tides in the early evening, the strong current flow will be stimulate a great bite.
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