Anglers await calm, clear waters after storm
As Anna Maria Island recovers from Tropical Storm Debby, backwater fishers await calmer, clearer waters.
With vast amounts of freshwater draining from the Manatee and Hillsborough rivers, the usual green and turquoise bay and inland waters surrounding Anna Maria Island mostly resemble the color of coffee.
Under these conditions, the usual spots to find fish may not live up to expectations. But you can spend a couple of days while you await the settling of stormwater runoff scouting the local waters to get a handle on where the fish are congregating. Then once the water clears up, you’ll already know where to go.
The same applies for catching bait. With so much fresh water mixed with the usual saltwater, you may have to do a little searching to find shiners. It’s probably time to switch to a 1/4-inch mesh net, too, if you haven’t already.
Moving offshore may be a wise move to find better salinity levels —especially with the opening of gag grouper season, which began July 1. Yes, the long-waited season opening is finally here and with good reason.
Catch-and-release gag grouper action remains strong both inshore and offshore. Live baits, such as pinfish, grunts, shiners and threadfin herring are producing keeper-size fish. For frozen bait, try Spanish sardines or squid.
Remember, the recreational bag limit for gag grouper is two per person per day. The minimum size limit is 22 inches overall with the tail pinched.
The tarpon status is undetermined as of now. Before the storm, the fish were scattered throughout the beaches and passes. Average daily catch was one or two fish jumped, with the occasional fish being brought to the boat. Hopefully, once the waters clear up, the silver kings will get organized and targetable in schools in the upcoming weeks.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently voted to extend the closure of recreational harvest of snook in Gulf of Mexico waters for another year. This closure was extended to offer additional recovery time for the species after the 2010 cold kill. The Gulf of Mexico recreation season was scheduled to reopen Sept. 1, 2012, but the new opening date will be in September 2013.
During the extended snook season closure, anglers can continue to practice catch-and-release techniques. To ensure the snook’s chances are good for surviving the catch, return fish to the water as quickly as possible. Other proper handling techniques include handling fish with wet hands, supporting the fish in a horizontal position while out of water and avoid holding the fish by the gill plate and handling the eyes or jaw.
While the snook season closure news limits the local catch, the FWC has decided to permanently extend the north Florida bay scallop season by two weeks. The recreational season that started July 1 and was scheduled to close Sept. 11, will now end Sept. 25.
Bay scallops can be recreationally harvested in Gulf of Mexico waters from the Pasco-Hernando County line northward to the west bank of the Mexico Beach canal in Bay County. Bag limit is two gallons of whole bay scallops or one pint of meat per person per day.
Scallop harvesting is prohibited in local waters.
For more information on the snook season closure or bay scallop season, visit myFWC.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations.
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