Harry Crosbee of Charlestown, S.C., shows off his 11-pound redfish, caught on a live shiner with Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters. Howard reports the fish was released to fight another day.
Chris Schilling of Anna Maria caught this nice cobia while fishing offshore of Anna Maria Island.
Capt. Skip Shipley says he was working the 7-mile reef July 11, “piddling around, catching snapper and diving,” and then decided to troll for whatever would bite. After about 15 minutes, this sailfish shot up 4 feet above the water line. My crew and some Kentucky cousins were excited to hook up this “champ.”
Anglers avoiding sun, heat, get the bite
With temperatures reaching the mid 90s during the day, Anna Maria Island fishers need to change techniques to beat the heat.
By fishing early in the morning or late in the evening, you still can find the bite without dealing with the grueling midday sun. You may even find fish will bite better at these times than during the afternoon hours.
It may take a little extra planning to catch an early morning bite, but the payoff also can be worthwhile. Typically, during the summer, inshore species such as snook, redfish and trout will feed during low light conditions. Slightly cooler water temperatures and the cover of twilight seem to result in more activity by predatory fish.
As the sun rises higher in the sky and the water heats up, these predatory fish seek refuge from the heat — just like you — by migrating to cooler areas, such as in the shade of mangroves, under a dock or deeper water. As these fish move to these areas, they become lethargic and harder to find.
Later in the day, when the sun is setting and possibly throughout the night, these fish will move out of their midday haunts and begin their search for food. Again, with the cooling of the water and low light, anglers can find fish on the feed.
So, on your next fishing trip, beat the heat by fishing early morning or late evening. You’ll find it’s more comfortable for you and the results will be better, too.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing good numbers of migratory species caught in the early morning. Spanish mackerel, juvenile king mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and blue runners are being caught on small white jigs or small Clark spoons. These fish are feeding on small shiners, which is why pier fishers are having success with small lures.
Pier fishers using live bait are catching gag grouper up to 19 inches as well as a few keeper mangrove snapper. This bite is occurring under the pier, around the pilings. Small shiners, mojarras or shrimp are producing the bite.
Last but not least, pier fishers using chunk or fresh-cut mullet are catching small blacktip and bonnethead sharks. For these small sharks, a 2/0 long shank hook on 50-pound leader will suffice, and use some lead to keep your bait on the bottom.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says mangrove snapper and flounder are being caught by pier fishers using live shiners and shrimp for bait. Using a small split shot, pier fishers are casting baits under the pier where these snapper and flounder have taken up residence. Try using a No. 2 hook with 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to trick these fish into biting.
Macks also are being caught around the north pier, most on white or pink speck rigs, although Gotcha plugs are working, too. If you choose to use a Gotcha plug, the smallest size is your best bet.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says mangrove snapper are still dominating the bite. Pier fishers using live shrimp or small greenbacks are reeling up limits of snapper with some fish exceeding 15 inches.
Gag grouper are being caught around the pier in the same areas as the mangrove snapper. Try fishing either around the pilings under the pier or around the small rock piles that are just away from the pier. For the gags, a large greenback or pinfish will get the job done. Remember, you’ll need heavy tackle to stand a chance at landing this tasty reef species.
“I’ve seen several gags over 30 inches caught this week,” says Medley. “The biggest was 37 inches.”
Finally, pier fishers in search of a shark encounter are finding variety around the south pier. Pier fishers using fresh stingray wings or chunks of fresh bonito are catching nurse, bull and lemon sharks. The largest was a lemon shark that measured 9 feet.
Capt. Warren Girle, in between dodging thunderstorms, is fishing offshore for gag and red grouper. Girle is using live shiners or pinfish to get a bite, starting in 40 feet of water and moving out until he finds the fish. Average size of the gag grouper this past week was 26 inches. For the red grouper, 22 inches was the norm. Girle also is catching plenty of porgies and Key West grunts in these same areas.
Moving inshore, Girle is stalking redfish in the shallow flats of Sarasota Bay. He is following a school of reds, which have temporarily taken up residence in the bay. These fish are averaging 20-27 inches and are quite spooky. For Girle, this isn’t a problem. He turns on his trolling motor and sneaks within casting range of the school.
Using 3-inch Gulp shrimp, Girle is catching redfish on just about every cast to this school, and mixed in are rogue bluefish. As the reds cruise along the flats, the bluefish ride along with them and feed on small baitfish and shrimp that are spooked by the school. These blues are averaging 3-5 pounds and put up a worthy fight when hooked. They may not taste as good as redfish, but their stamina on the end of your line makes up for it.
Spotted seatrout also are in Girle’s sights. Fish up to 19 inches are being caught on deeper flats around the Intracoastal Waterway. Don’t be surprised to catch some jack crevalle and ladyfish in these same areas. Live shiners under a popping cork or a 3-inch Gulp shrimp on a jig head will get the bite.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says fishing has been good in spite of the heat and fresh water flowing in from the Manatee River.
Howard also suggests adjusting fishing patterns to avoid the heat and yield some excellent catches of inshore species.
Redfish have been active on the moving tides, eating shiners and small pinfish. At low tide, look for the redfish in the outside potholes of flats and, as the tide flows in, move closer to the mangroves as the fish seek shade under the foliage.
Looking forward, Howard predicts this week will provide some excellent fishing opportunities as the tides will produce big water movement.
He says, “The key to a successful fishing trip is to be at your spot when the tide is moving and have a live well full of shiners to chum the fish into a feeding frenzy.”
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