Fishing writer and charter guide Capt. Danny Stasny, right, and Pippa Phelps of England check over her snook catch before releasing the fish.
The Phelps family of the UK with their catch at the Island Discount Tackle marina in Holmes Beach, home port for Capt. Danny Stasny.
Spanish mackerel action remains hot for pier anglers
Despite chilly morning weather and some windy days in the past week, Spanish mackerel were still swarming bait schools around both the Rod & Reel and the Anna Maria City Pier.
For non-stop rod-bending action, try fishing the piers early in the morning during strong moving tides. During stronger tides, the bait schools congregate all around the piers, which, in turn, keeps the mackerel captive during feeding. Small white speck rigs, Gotcha plugs and the Clark spoon rigged with a popping cork are producing catches in the 1- to 3-pound range. While targeting mackerel, expect to catch blue runners, jack crevalle and ladyfish.
Fishing the grass flats of Anna Maria Sound is resulting in good numbers of spotted seatrout. Try using DOE Cal jigs and targeting sandy potholes while drifting the grass flats. Once you’ve located some fish, drop anchor and work the area thoroughly. Most trout catches are resulting in undersized fish, although limits of keepers are attainable with a little persistence and some luck.
Redfish and catch-and-release snook are frequenting the same areas this week. Try fishing mangrove shorelines with lush grass flats surrounding them. Live shiners are the bait of choice. Slot-size fish are being caught in good numbers, although most of the catch-and-release snook are in the 20- to 24-inch range.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is targeting trout and redfish on the grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Gross is switching from white bait to artificials to add a little variety to the day. Using top-water plugs, he’s producing over-slot size trout in the early morning. Then, as the sun gets higher in the sky, he’s switching to DOA Cal jigs and Cotee jigs to keep the bite going. Gross is either anchoring in area where there are concentrations of fish, or drifting the flats and casting into sandy potholes. For the DOA Cal jigs, Gross is using a 1/4-ounce jighead with a soft plastic in the nuclear chicken color. For the Cotee jigs, Gross is using a dark green soft plastic.
The popular DOA shrimp is also working for Gross. He is using shrimp in either the glow or measles shades. Also, he suggests fishing these shrimp in one of two ways, either tied directly to some 20-pound fluorocarbon or rigging the shrimp behind a Cajun Thunder popping cork. Slot-size fish and under are the norm when using these methods.
While fishing with shiners, Gross is catching good numbers of redfish and catch-and-release snook. Reds up to 26 inches are being caught in sandy potholes adjacent to mangrove islands during the incoming tide. As for the catch-and-release snook, Gross is releasing fish up to 32 inches in the same areas.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount tackler is hearing good numbers of spotted seatrout making a showing in Anna Maria Sound. “You can fish the deeper grass flats behind the tackle shop and get good action on trout right now,” says Keyes.
Keyes suggests drifting the flats and casting soft plastics or suspending lures into sandy potholes to find the bite.
Spanish mackerel action is still steady along the beaches and piers at the north end of Anna Maria Island. Fishers using white jigs, Gotcha plugs or Clark spoons trailed behind a popping cork are catching fish in the 1- to 3-pound range. Along with mackerel, Keyes says to expect some ladyfish, blue runners, jack crevalle and bluefish on the hook.
Moving onto the shallow grass flats adjacent to mangrove shorelines, Keyes is hearing of good action on redfish and catch-and-release snook. For either species, flats fishers are using live shiners to get the bite.
Finally those interested in catching shark can still target blacktips and Atlantic sharpnose sharks. The clock is ticking as the water temps drop. As it gets cooler, a lot of the sharks will move south or to deeper water, making now the time to catch a few for the year. For bait, try using mullet, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish or jack crevalle.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says Spanish mackerel are dominating the bite there. Pier fishers using white speck rigs or Gotcha plugs are catching macks up to 3 pounds. Malfese suggests fishing strong moving tides to find concentrations of fish around the pier. Malfese says artificials rather than live shiners are producing more catches.
While targeting mackerel with artificials, pier fishers also are catching bluefish and ladyfish. Remember, always use pliers to remove hooks from bluefish. They have very sharp teeth and strong jaws that can easily latch onto one of your fingers and inflict a painful bite.
Pier fishers using live shrimp for bait are managing to catch redfish, sheepshead and even some Atlantic croakers. Try soaking your shrimp under the pier around the pilings in get into this action.
Finally, casting live shrimp out from the pier is resulting in bonnethead sharks on the end of the line. These sharks provide excellent catch-and-release action on light tackle.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier also is seeing good numbers of Spanish mackerel being caught. “As long as the bait is here, so are the mackerel,” says Sork.
Pier fishers using a Clark spoon trailed behind a popping cork are getting the best results, although small white jigs or Gotcha plugs are producing, too.
Bait fishers at the pier are catching decent numbers of flounder as well as the usual suspects — pinfish, small grouper and lizardfish.
With water temps on the decline, it’s also wise to start targeting sheepshead. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs or sand fleas dropped around most water structures will entice the tasty striped fish to your hook.
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