Capt. Billy Alstrom caught this 25-pound gag grouper while on charter with Capt. Chris Galati aboard the Miss Anna Maria about 45 miles off Anna Maria Island. Big mangrove snapper and Cobia also were landed on the trip. Islander Courtesy Photo
Fishers seek fish in shelter from windy conditions
Due to strong, cooler and drier winds out of the northeast, fishers are migrating to the leeside of Anna Maria Island to find the bite and escape the wind.
Beach fishers using live baits, such as shrimp and shiners, are catching a variety of species. Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, blue runners, flounder and small shark are coming to the hook.
Pier fishing on the north end of the Island is resulting in some of the best Spanish mackerel fishing the area has to offer. Macks measuring up to a whopping 28 inches to the fork of the tail are being caught daily. Gotcha plugs and white jigs are producing the bite. Also, a popping cork combined with a Clark spoon is a surefire way to get some action.
Flats fishing around Anna Maria Island is fair as long as you can get out of the wind. On my charters, clients are catching good numbers of catch-and-release snook along mangrove edges, and live shiners are the bait of choice. Spotted seatrout also are being caught, but again, its best to find areas out of the wind to find the fish.
Within a mile of the beach, macks and bonito are being caught with little effort. Look for diving birds or mackerel skyrocketing through bait schools to cast your bait. For rigging, I’m using 4 feet of 40-pound fluorocarbon tied to a 2/0 extra long shank hook. Using this rig, you’ll still get cut off occasionally, but the bite ratio will improve greatly as opposed to using a wire leader. Remember, if you’re planning on macks for the dinner table, only keep what you plan to eat for one or two meals. Mackerel is best if eaten shortly after being caught.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime charters says fishing this past week has resulted in some action-packed rallies of the three premier inshore game fish — catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout and redfish.
Howard says the fall pattern is in full swing with huge schools of baitfish and predators staging in area waters while preparing for their winter migration.
Redfish have been gathering in tight schools on the flats, feeding on the moving tides. Catch-and-release snook are moving off the beaches and into the backcountry, providing for some exciting action. Both species share much the same habitat, and you should be able to catch both in the same areas. Howard suggests setting up near a mangrove shoreline to chum shiners and get the bite going. Spotted seatrout are feeding just about everywhere there is clear water and lush sea grass. “Use a popping cork to draw their attention to your bait offering,” Howard says.
Looking forward, with more of the windy conditions we are experiencing, Howard suggests fishing on a leeward shoreline. The coming full moon period will provide for some days with strong current flow and some amazing fish-catching opportunities.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier suggests fishing for Spanish mackerel and kingfish during the early morning incoming tides. Pier fishers using Gotcha plugs or silver spoons are casting into oncoming bait schools to find the macks. The same applies for the kings, although live baits such as large greenbacks or blue runners are attracting the bigger bite. Mackerel up to 5 pounds are being caught daily. As for the kingfish, count on catching fish up to 30 inches, and don’t be surprised to find large fish mixed in.
Pompano are frequenting the shallows around the south pier feeding on small shrimp and crabs. Pier fishers using Love’s lures pompano jigs are catching fair numbers of these tasty golden nuggets, but you can use natural bait, live shrimp or sand fleas, to get in on the action.
Lastly, Medley says there are numerous sheepshead around the pilings of the pier, but he says few are being caught because, “No one is fishing for them.”
With this in mind, now is the prime time to target the convict fish before they get wise to biting a hook. Live fiddler crabs are the suggested bait.
Dave Sork at the Historic Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are chewing the bottom out from under the pier. Pier fishers targeting these toothy fish are being rewarded with some of the largest mackerel of the season. Macks up to 28 inches to the fork of the tale are being caught daily. Both artificials and live baits are achieving hookups. While targeting macks, expect to also catch jack crevalle, blue runners and skipjacks.
Pier fishers willing to stay out after dark are catching good numbers of spotted seatrout and a few silver trout on live shiners or small white jigs. Try looking around the lights that shine into the water to spot these fish. As they feed, pitch your bait around the outskirts of the light to get the bite. Most of these fish are undersize, although a little determination can result in some slot fish to take home for the skillet.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing just off the beaches of Anna Maria Island for macks, bonito and kingfish — all three species. Girle is anchoring and chumming with live shiners to draw the fish to the boat. For rigging, he uses 30-pound fluorocarbon tied to a long shank hook. Although fluorocarbon doesn’t stand much of a chance against the mackerel’s teeth, the long shank hook aids in keeping the fish on long enough to get them to the boat. Average size of the macks is 3 to 4 pounds. For the kings, expect fish up to 30 pounds.
Moving inshore, Girle is fishing sandy potholes for redfish and spotted seatrout. When fishing the holes, Girle likes to use a small egg sinker that can slide right to the eye of the hook — a knocker rig. By rigging this way, he can keep his shiner right on the bottom where the reds are feeding. Along with redfish and trout, Girle is catching an occasional snook in the same areas.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay in search of schooling redfish. Once he has spotted the fish, Gross is anchoring, chumming live shiners and putting the reds in casting range for some drag-screaming action.
While targeting reds, Gross is having success with spotted seatrout in keeper-sizes as well as catch-and-release snook.
Moving out to the Gulf of Mexico, Gross is looking for diving birds or bait schools to locate kingfish, macks and bonito. When the fish are schooled up, Gross anchors, casts free-lined shiners behind the boat and starts the hookups. If the fish are spread out or hard to find, Gross slow-trolls live shiners. Either method is effective, depending on the conditions. Spanish mackerel up to 4 pounds are the norm. For the kingfish, Gross is gaffing fish up to 30 pounds.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says numerous fishers frequenting the tackle shop are boasting on their flounder. Whether fishing the passes or piers, beach flounder are being caught on both live and artificial baits. For live bait, shiners and small pinfish are getting the job done.
As for artificials, Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead are producing a bite. Whether using live bait or artificials, you want to drag your bait along the sandy bottom to find flounder. When bait fishing, Oldham suggests using a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a No. 2 hook tied on the end. For weight, use either a large split shot or a 1/2-ounce egg sinker.
Oldham also is hearing tales of good action for Spanish mackerel, especially at the Rod & Reel pier and the Anna Maria City Pier. Mackerel fishers using artificials, such as Gotcha plugs and white jigs, are reeling up fish, although those in the know are using a popping cork rigged with a Clark spoon to catch limits of fish. Average size of the macks is 18 inches, although fish up to 26 inches are being reported.
Finally, Oldham says good numbers of sheepshead are arriving at the piers and pilings. He suggests using fiddler crabs or sand fleas to get these fish to bite. “Since they are just arriving,” adds Oldham, “you can probably catch them on fresh shrimp, too.”
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says he’s seeing good numbers of Spanish mackerel being caught. Pier fishers using artificials are tying on Gotcha plugs or silver spoons. Early morning is the time to get the best action, and macks up to 24 inches are coming to the pier deck daily.
Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching good numbers of both flounder and mangrove snapper. Sizes for both species are on the small side recently, but a few keepers are being caught, too. When rigging for these fish, try using about 3 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon tied to a No. 4 hook. Add a split shot about 12 inches above the hook and you’re ready to fish. Remember, both of these species like to hang around structure so place your bait accordingly.
Finally, pier fishers lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time are seeing schools of breeder-size redfish passing by the pier. Some schools — averaging 200-300 fish — are within casting distance, with the average size fish exceeding 40 inches. Remember, if you catch one of these beautiful fish, land it carefully, snap a quick photo and release it quickly. These are the fish that breed to produce more reds for the future.
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