Fred Coomley shows off a firetruck red grouper he caught on a sardine in about 120 feet of water offshore of Anna Maria Island while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters.
Flats, structure, reefs — great fishing action to be found
Flats fishers this past week are reporting good action on the grass in southern Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay. Using live shiners for bait, fishers caught good numbers of redfish as well as spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook.
If you’re looking for fast action, try fishing around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge for Spanish mackerel, bonito, jack crevalle and blue runners. These species provide good action on light tackle and will readily hit live bait or artificials. Look for diving birds to locate the fish.
Mangrove snapper are beginning to feed on nearshore structure. To get in on the frenzy, once anchored, try dropping a chum block over the gunwale to get the fish in the mood. Small live shiners fished toward the bottom should get you into the action.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing decent numbers of Spanish mackerel, blue runners and jack crevalle being caught during the early morning hours or before sunset. Pier fishers using white jigs or silver spoons are getting the bite. When this trio is feeding, it’s a toss up as to what you will catch. No species will dominate, as they all feed together. This at least provides some variety as well as drag-screaming action on ultra-light tackle.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing most fishing action occurring in the early mornings. Pier fishers targeting bottom species such as redfish, flounder and black drum are getting action on live baits such as shiners and shrimp. For the black drum, live shrimp fished far up underneath the pier are getting the bite. If you want to catch redfish or flounder, try using the same techniques, only switch from baiting shrimp to a live shiner.
Spanish mackerel are still being caught around the pier, although the bite is sporadic at best. Small white jigs, especially those on a speck rig, are getting results when the macks are present.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing for redfish in southern Tampa Bay with good results. Using live shiners for bait, Gross is catching reds in the 20- to 25-inch range. On the lower tides, Gross is having good luck fishing outer edges of bars and grass flats.
In these same areas, Gross is finding good numbers of spotted seatrout, as well as a few catch-and-release snook. As the tide rises, Gross moves onto the flat toward the mangroves. Knowing that these fish will move for cover on high water, Gross is able to follow them to the mangrove edges and keep the bite going.
Moving to deeper water in Tampa Bay, Gross is finding small structure to target mangrove snapper. Again he’s using live shiners for bait. Once anchored, Gross is dropping either whole live shiners or fresh-cut shiners to the bottom to catch the tasty little snappers. Along with mangoes, Gross is catching a few keeper-size flounder.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore with good results on mangrove snapper. Using live shiners for bait, Girle is pulling up limits of mangrove snapper that average 16 inches. Girle suggests fishing structure in depths of 30-50 feet.
In these same areas, Girle is catching good numbers of undersized red and gag grouper. Expect to catch a few keeper fish in the mix, although the majority are small. Again, live shiners are producing the bite, but a large pinfish may entice a bigger grouper to bite.
In the upper water column, Girle is finding Spanish mackerel, bonito and small sharks. For the macks and bonito, Girle is free-lining live shiners on a long shank hook behind the boat. The same applies for the sharks.
Moving inshore, Girle is catching keeper-size redfish and spotted seatrout. When fishing the flats in Sarasota Bay, Girle likes to locate sandy potholes to find the fish. Casting live shiners into these holes allows his clients some great flats action.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says Spanish mackerel and bonito are corralling bait schools during the early morning tides. Look for diving birds or skyrocketing macks and bonito, crashing the water through schools of frightened baitfish. Gotcha plugs are the lure of choice, although white jigs and silver spoons also are producing. Expect to catch jack crevalle and blue runners on the same lures.
Mangrove snapper are producing good action for Skyway fishers using live greenbacks for bait. Try using enough weight to keep the bait close to the structures around the pier. According to Medley, the outgoing tides are resulting in the most numbers of fish caught. Average size of the mangoes this past week was 16 inches.
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