Instead of waiting, try wading to get a bite
We’re approaching a new moon July 23, which will provide exaggerated low tides in the evenings. It will be the optimum time to fish the outgoing tides in the backwater for catch-and-release snook, redfish and spotted seatrout.
During the evening low tides, your best bet is to get out of the boat and wade. It is cooler, and enables you to sneak up on fish that you typically spook with a boat. Areas such as Palma Sola Bay, Sarasota Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway provide excellent opportunities to do this.
For bait, try using artificials like the Top Dog Jr. by MirrOlure or Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jig head. Live bait will work, too, but you’ll have to drag a bait bucket along behind you. Fishing artificials is easier because carrying a couple of lures is effortless. And it can be just as productive as live-bait fishing, since you cover more area by making multiple casts.
If you’re wondering where to wade, try looking for lush grass flats that contain sandy potholes or where water dumps into deep channels or ditches. During low tides, predators use this deeper water as ambush points to catch their prey. Good water flow is also key. If you can combine these two conditions, you can target a fish for dinner.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says, “This week’s report is easy— jacks and macks.”
Pier fishers using small white jigs, silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are getting good action at sunrise on jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel.
If you opt to use live bait, shiners are the bait of choice. Remember, when live baiting for mackerel, you want to use a long shank hook. Also, since the shiners are small, try using a size 2 or 4 long shank. This smaller size hook will not only be less visible, but it will allow these small baits to swim naturally, resulting in more bites.
If shark is your target, try taking a fresh-caught mackerel or jack and cast it out on a heavy rod.
Recent catches on the pier include an 8-foot bull shark and numerous nurse sharks. Remember, we’re close to spawning season for shark, so handle with care, and let them go quickly.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says mangrove snapper are beginning to appear although most fish being caught are undersize. Pier fishers catching keeper-size fish are getting results on either live shrimp or shiners.
“People can buy the shrimp here,” says Malfese. “But for the shiners, you need either a cast net or a Sabiki rig.”
Malfese also warns that most of the shiners are very small, you need to use a cast net with a 1/4-inch mesh.
While targeting mangrove snapper, pier fishers are catching flounder, small gag and red grouper and a few black drum. All of these species are being caught on either shrimp or shiners. “You can tell when someone hooks a grouper,” says Malfese, “because they usually get broken off under the pier. You need heavy tackle to stand a chance at landing a decent-size grouper.”
Lastly, pier fishers are still catching moderate numbers of Spanish mackerel. Try using small pink or white jigs to get the bite. Remember to use at least a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader when targeting macks. This will give you an added advantage against the mack’s sharp teeth.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good action offshore for gag grouper and mangrove and red snapper. For the gags and the mangoes, offshore fishers are starting out around depths of 50-60 feet. Live baits such as shiners and pinfish are getting the bite, although frozen sardines and squid are working, too. Pushing out past depths of 100 feet, offshore fishers are catching limits of red snapper in the 10- to 15-pound range. Again, both live and frozen baits are getting results. For live bait, a fat pinfish is a good bet. If you’re using frozen, you can’t beat a sardine paired on the hook with a strip of squid to get the bite.
Inshore, fishing around Anna Maria Sound is producing good numbers of spotted seatrout. Keyes suggests using artificial baits, such as the MirrOlure MirrOdine or a DOA Cal jig, cast over deep grass flats to get in on the action.
Beach and pier fishing are proving prosperous for fishers targeting shark. Reports of bull, black tip and nurse sharks are coming in daily. Best baits for these fighters are chunk baits, such as mackerel, bonito or mullet.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters reports an excellent inshore bite during the moving water phases of the tide. Redfish have been active in the potholes along mangrove shorelines. Howard suggests using a popping cork with a live shiner or pinfish tossed into the shade of the mangroves for good results on the copper-belly bruisers.
Catch-and-release snook are active around the passes with some explosive action in just a few feet of water against the beach shoreline. They are gathering in big schools around mangrove shorelines for the upcoming full-moon spawn.
Shiners have recently spawned, so there is a lot of small-sized fry in the bay. Howard has downsized hooks from an Owner 2/0 to a 1/0 or size 1 hook. “Put two small shiners on a hook for a more appealing bait,” Howard says, and “don’t forget to try dead bait” — as the water heats up, the fish get lazy.
Looking forward, Howard predicts the tides will be high midday with a huge drop in the evening, which will result in moving water that triggers excellent fishing action.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is taking advantage of gag grouper season being open. Gross is fishing nearshore structure with live shiners or live pinfish to get these tasty gags to bite. “We’re catching some decent-sized fish in around 40-50 feet of water,” says Gross. “A few of them were big enough to pull us right into the rocks and that was with our drags locked down.”
Along with gag grouper, Gross is finding success with mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and Spanish mackerel. “It’s kind of like a one stop shop,” he says jokingly.
On his inshore expeditions, Gross is targeting spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook, on mangrove edges with good tidal flow. By casting live shiners up under the bushes, Gross is pulling out respectable sizes of both species. For the trout, Gross is fishing deep grass flats with live shiners or DOA shrimp under a popping cork to get the bite. Average size of the trout this past week was 18 inches.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for migratory and reef species. By free-lining live shiners behind the boat, Girle’s clients are hooking into king mackerel in the 30-inch range. Spanish mackerel are in the mix, averaging 20 inches to the fork of the tail.
While bottom fishing, Girle is catching gag grouper in the 24-inch range as well as numerous juvenile red grouper. For both species, Girle is using live shiners or pinfish.
While fishing offshore, Girle is encountering small sharks working his chum slick. By casting live shiners behind the boat, Girle’s clients are bending rods on both silky and lemon sharks.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says mangrove snapper are dominating the bite for yet another week. Pier fishers using live shiners or shrimp are catching mangoes exceeding 16 inches in length. “That’s almost offshore quality,” Medley says with a chuckle, “and they’re catching limits of them, too.”
When targeting mangrove snapper at the south pier, it’s in your favor to be stealthy with your rigging. I suggest 17- or 20-pound fluorocarbon for a leader. Try using 6-8 feet of it to be on the safe side. Next, tie on a No. 2 circle hook and pinch a small split shot about 18 inches above your hook. Your split-shot size will be determined by how fast the tide is flowing. If it’s barely moving choose a small split, and when the tide picks up, add more weight. Stab a live shiner or shrimp on your hook and pitch your bait under the pier. You may find certain areas of the pier hold more fish than others; so if you’re not hooking up, try moving to different areas until you do.
Macks are making a good showing at the south pier. Both live bait and artificials are producing the bite. For live bait, shiners or threadfins are the ticket. If you choose to use artificials, you can’t beat a small white jig or Gotcha plug. Average size of the mackerel this week is 16 inches to the fork of the tail.
Finally, shark fishing for night fishers at the south pier is resulting in bent rods. In recent nights, pier fishers are catching decent numbers of bull and nurse sharks. Cut bait such as Spanish mackerel, bonito and mullet are getting the bite.
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