Summertime fishing is hot all around Island
Summer arrived June 21, and with the warm weather, fishing the grass flats east of Anna Maria Island and throughout Sarasota Bay is resulting in good action for spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook.
Live baits, including shiners shrimp and pinfish, are working, or try your luck using some artificial baits, such as top-water plugs and soft plastics.
Look for snook and redfish during high tides under the mangroves, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting shiner. These fish will be lurking deep in the bushes, especially during the midday sun, so you may need to chum to entice the fish to targetable water. When you do, it’s game on. Remember, handle snook carefully, they’re still recovering from the severe cold in 2010.
If you’re looking for spotted seatrout action, try finding lush grass flats with good water flow. With that in mind, you may want to target flats around the passes and at the mouth of the Manatee River. Early morning top-water action is some of the best light-tackle fishing you can experience and now is the time to do it. If you step out of the boat, into shallow wading water, even better. You’ll discover how many more fish you can catch by being stealthy.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing moderate numbers of Spanish mackerel being caught in the early morning hours. Small white crappie jigs are the bait of choice, although silver spoons are working, too. While using spoons and jigs, expect a side catch of small jack crevalle, ladyfish and a few lizardfish.
Pier fishers using live bait, such as shiners and shrimp, are catching mangrove snapper, black drum and even a few catch-and-release snook. For the snapper and drum, try bottom fishing with shrimp under the pier. For the snook, try free-lining a shiner in the shallows around the beginning of the pier.
Last but not least, pier fishers using cut bait, such as ladyfish and mackerel, are catching a variety of shark. Expect to encounter lemon, bonnethead and blacktip sharks. The largest shark caught at the Rod & Reel Pier this past week was a nurse shark measuring 8 feet long.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good action for shore fishers. For those fishing the beaches, catch-and-release snook action is heating up. An assortment of baits are working, but you can’t beat a live shiner. Along the beaches, schools of jack crevalle are corralling bait schools on the shoreline. When you see this, you can cast just about anything in the water and get a bite. I suggest a white bucktail jig or silver spoon.
Sharks also are patrolling the beaches. Sightings of bull sharks, hammerheads, blacktips and bonnetheads are being reported. Keyes suggests using cut ladyfish or a jack crevalle to hook up with one of these predators.
From the piers, Keyes is hearing of Spanish mackerel and ladyfish being caught in both the early morning and late evening, and speck rigs, crappie jigs and small silver spoons appear to be getting the most attention.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting tarpon just off the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Using live shiners or threadfin herring, Gross is leading his clients to fish in the 75- to 100-pound range. Gross is fishing the passes using the same live bait methods as on the beach.
In the backcountry, Gross is targeting redfish on high tides, which causes the reds to lay directly under the mangroves. Chumming with live shiners, Gross is able to lure the reds out from the watery roots and put them in targetable range for his clients. Average size of the reds this past week was 21 inches with the largest coming in at 24 inches.
Spotted seatrout also are in Gross’ sights. Gross anchored last week on some deeper grass flats and chummed to get the fish in the mood. Once the trout are feeding, Gross’ clients are free-lining shiners to get the bite. His biggest trout this past week was 22 inches.
Finally, Gross is managing to get his clients on a few catch-and-release snook. Again, free-lining shiners is getting the bite. His largest linesider this past week came in at 33 inches.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting tarpon in the passes and off the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. With an average of six or seven hookups per trip, Girle’s clients are managing to get one or two fish to the boat for a quick photo. Average size of the catch this past week was 60-120 pounds. Live baits such as crabs, shiners and threadfin herring are Girle’s baits of choice.
Moving out to the nearshore reefs, Girle is finding good numbers of bonito. These fish don’t have any food value, but they’re fun to catch on light tackle. It’s not uncommon for a bonito to peel off 100 yards of line on its first run. And they fight to the bitter end.
Girle is finding flounder around the nearshore reefs, using live shiners on the bottom through sandy areas adjacent to the reef. Average size of the flounder is 18 inches. All you’ll need is some crab stuffing and you’re ready for dinner.
In the backcountry, Girle is targeting redfish and spotted seatrout. For the reds, Girle is fishing shallow grass flats with live shiners for bait. Girle suggests finding mangrove islands with good tidal flow to find the reds. For the spotted seatrout, Girle is fishing deeper grass flats with live shiners and Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says fishing for mangrove snapper is beginning to be prosperous. Pier fishers using live shrimp fished under the pier are catching limits of these tasty fish. Average size is 10-12 inches, although fish up to 15 inches are being caught. While targeting mangrove snapper at the pier, expect to also hook up lane snapper, flounder and possibly sheepshead.
Spanish mackerel are still ravaging bait schools around the pier on strong moving tides. Most pier fishers are using jigs or spoons, although a fresh greenback under a popping cork will get the job done, too.
Cobia have managed to stick around the pier for yet another week, and unsuspecting light-tackle fishers are finding themselves spooled by these brown bombers. To hook up, look for fish patrolling the bait schools and cast a live pinfish directly in front of them. Remember, you’ll need stout tackle and a landing net to successfully bring this sought-after fish to the deck.
Lastly, shark fishers are arriving at sunset in search of large species, including bull sharks, blacktips and hammerheads. As of this week, the largest sharks being caught are nurse sharks and blacktips, says Medley. Any cut bait will suffice, although a fresh slice of bonito or Spanish mackerel is like candy to these toothy predators.
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