Sebastian Sanders, 6, of New York City, was surprised to catch this 70-pound tarpon on 20-pound test. It took 1 1/2-hours for Sanders to reel this monster to the boat for release.
Migratory fishing action still hot in local waters
If you haven’t yet had your fill of Spanish mackerel and kingfish, you can still get in on the action.
Try fishing artificial reefs just west of Anna Maria Island to find the migratory fish. Live baits such as shiners and threadfin herring are producing the best bite, although trolling big-lipped plugs or spoons are working, too.
When fishing kings and mackerel on my charters, I’m using a 12-inch piece of 25-pound hardwire connected to a 2/0 long shank hook with a haywire twist. With a 30-pound swivel attached to the other end of the wire, I tie about 4 feet of 40-pound fluorocarbon and make a double uni-knot to connect my line. Using a wire leader, you’re able to prevent the kings or macks from cutting you off. If you’re fishing water that is very clear, you may need to omit the hardwire to get the bite. In this case, try using 50-pound fluorocarbon tied to a 4/0 extra-long shank hook.
While targeting mackerel at the reefs, expect to encounter barracuda, shark, jack crevalle and blue runners. Also while at the reef, try bottom fishing flounder and mangrove snapper. Now is a good time to catch these species, and they taste a lot better than mackerel.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says Spanish mackerel and kingfish are still dominating the bite there. Pier fishers using artificials, such as Gotcha plugs or Clark spoons, are reeling up limits of macks in the 2- to 3- pound range. The same applies for the kings, although when specifically targeting them, pier fishers are using live baits — small blue runners or large greenbacks, resulting in kings up to 46 inches.
Gag grouper are still providing rod-bending action at the pier. Pinfish or large greenbacks fished on the bottom are the baits of choice. Average size of the gags this past week has been up to 30 inches.
Finally, pompano are making a showing at the south pier in the shallow water near the landside. To target these tasty hard-fighting fish, try using Love’s lures pompano jigs. The color of choice is a combination of pink and yellow.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing beachside with nice catches of gag and red grouper. Trolling with Mann’s Stretch 30s or 25s around the artificial reefs, Girle is reeling up gags up to 32 inches. The same applies for the red grouper with fish up to 22 inches.
Moving in closer to the beach, Girle is live-baiting kingfish and Spanish mackerel. Using shiners, Girle is catching kings up to 36 inches. For the macks, Girle is using smaller shiners, resulting in fish in the 3- to 4-pound range.
Finally in the backcountry, Girle is working sandy potholes in search of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. For these fish, live baiting with smaller shiners is the ticket. Simply work some potholes on the grass flats and free-line your baits through for reds up to 30 inches and trout up to 21 inches.
Johnny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says a variety of inshore and migratory species are being caught around the piers and beaches. Both of these areas are convenient for folks visiting Anna Maria Island due to the fact that they are accessible without a boat.
On the beaches of Anna Maria, fishers are finding success walking the shoreline using artificials such as Gotcha plugs, silver spoons and soft plastics. On the shiny lures like the Gotcha’s and spoons, beach fishers are catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and blue runners. When targeting these species, Keyes suggests walking until you find shorebirds diving on bait schools. Once you do, start casting into the bait for a hookup.
Beach fishers using Berkeley Gulp shrimp are hooking into keeper-size flounder and an occasional pompano.
Those opting to fish the piers are reeling up good numbers of macks on Gotcha plugs and white speck rigs. Along with mackerel, expect to catch ladyfish and jack crevalle.
Also on the piers, anglers using shiners are catching flounder, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release snook. Don’t be surprised to pull up the occasional redfish, too.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters reports an action-packed week with a variety of fish chewing like it was their last meal.
On the nearshore waters, good weather has produced calm, flat seas and the fish are responding. Howard suggests looking for diving birds to locate schools of mackerel, kingfish, bonito and sharks as they hunt the massive bait schools forming in the Gulf.
This past week’s tides provided some exciting inshore rallies and some nice fillets for dinner. The redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder have been very active and are feeding on live shiners. Catch-and-release snook have been moving slowly off the beach on their way back to the mangrove bushes. “Look for the snook bite to explode as the fall season comes into its sweet spot,” Howard says.
The fall season offers some of the best fishing opportunities available on our waters, Howard says. Look for the frenzy to stay strong until after the first good cold front in December.
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