Josh Bibler, left, and Jon Pearman, right, won the 2012 Flatsmaster Elite Pro Championship for redfish at Marina Jacks Nov. 11. Winning weight was 14.46 lbs.
A cornucopia awaits local fishers
With calm and clear waters, fishing around Anna Maria Island is improving. Now that the fish and fishers can move along the waters with ease, rumors of a variety of species are being reported.
From the beaches expect to catch Spanish mackerel, blue runners, ladyfish and jack crevalle on top-water and subsurface lures. The high tides are the best time to fish these species. During the high water, these fish move close to the shoreline to corral bait schools. This makes it easy to cast to feeding fish. Small bonnethead and blacktip sharks also are cruising close to shore on the high tides. Try a chunk of mackerel or ladyfish to get these sharks to bite. Sharks up to 30 pounds are the norm —although you never know when a 6-footer may hit your line, so be ready.
Reports from the piers are similar to those from the beaches but you can add redfish, black drum, flounder and sheepshead. For these species, live shrimp or shiners are getting the bite. The method to catch these species is to keep your bait on or toward the bottom.
From the flats, fishers are returning to the dock with respectable catches of redfish and spotted seatrout. For these species, you can use either live baits or artificials. For live bait, you can’t beat a lite shiner although live shrimp will work. For the artificials, try top-water plugs in low light conditions and once the sun rises up high switch to soft plastics or suspending lures.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the focus this past week was black drum, redfish and sheepshead. Pier fishers using live shrimp fished on the bottom under and around the pilings of the pier are catching keeper-sizes of all three species mentioned. For rigging, try some 20-pound fluorocarbon for leader. Slide a 1/2-ounce egg sinker on your main line and tie on a small swivel. At the other end of the swivel, tie a 12-inch piece of 30-pound fluorocarbon. At the end of the fluorocarbon tie on either a No. 2 or No. 4 hook and you’re ready to fish. Using this rig you’ll have a direct line to the hook to feel the bite. Stab on a live shrimp on your hook and lower it down under the pier to the bottom. Wait for the bite and set the hook.
Spanish mackerel also are being caught from the pier, although Malfese feels the bite is starting to slow down. “The calm days we had right after the last front were great,” says Malfese, “but now we’re seeing fewer mackerel being caught.” Those that are being caught are hitting Gotcha plugs or small white speck rigs.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says King and Spanish mackerel are still dominating the bite. Pier fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are reeling up limits of Spanish mackerel daily. Average size of the macks is 1-3 pounds. For the kings, live greenbacks or blue runners are producing fish up to 20 pounds.
For pier fishers opting to use live shrimp for bait, Medley suggests bottom fishing under the pier and around the small reefs that surround the pier. Black sea bass are making a showing in abundance. These tasty little fish are being caught daily. Remember, the size limit for black sea bass is 10 inches overall and, according to Medley, there are plenty being caught in the 10-12-inch range. For the flounder, Medley suggests either live shrimp or small pinfish. Flounder up to 24 inches are being caught daily.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says this past week has been action-packed and very productive with his clients taking some nice fillets for the dinner table. Howard’s clients battled schools of redfish, catch-and-release snook and spotted seatrout.
Redfish are on the flats feeding on the huge schools of bait flooding our area waters. Howard suggests looking for the diving birds to get a location of the bait schools. “Throw a shiner rigged under a popping cork into the area. Pop the cork to make it gurgle and draw the fish to your bait offering,” says Howard.
Catch-and-release snook and spotted seatrout have been on the flats and are feeding heavily as winter approaches. Chum with shiners to get the snook and trout into the feeding mode. Howard predicts that the spotted seatrout fishing will improve as we move into the colder weather.
Catch-and-release snook are feeding in the potholes. Try using a large shiner to get them to chew.
Looking forward, the fall season is at its apex and wintertime fishing is just around the corner. Shiners are still plentiful around the bridges, piers and flats. Load up your live well with these lively baits to get the party started. They will soon leave our area and shrimp fishing will take center stage.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing just off the beaches of Anna Maria Island targeting migratory species such as bonito, Spanish mackerel and small sharks. For the bonito and mackerel, Girle is looking for diving birds to find the fish. Once he’s located a school, he is casting live free-lined shiners into the feeding frenzy. The shark are being caught in the same areas as the feeding macks and bonito. Girle suggests putting a small strip of bonito on a circle hook with a wire leader to get some drag-screaming action on these small sharks. Black tips and Atlantic sharpnose sharks are the norm, with fish up to 25 pounds being caught.
In the backcountry, Girle is fishing artificials for redfish and spotted seatrout. In the early morning when the sun is barely up, Girle is fishing top-water plugs such as the Rapala Skitter walk to target spotted seatrout. Using top-water plugs, Girle is catching trout up to 24 inches.
Once the sun is up higher in the sky, Girle is switching to soft plastics on a jighead to target redfish and trout. Girle likes to use the MirrOlure Lil John with a 1/8-ounce jighead to get these fish to bite. Redfish up to 26 inches was the norm this past week.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says beach action remains consistent for migratory fish such as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and blue runners. Beach fishers using Gotcha plugs are getting in on the action. Keyes suggests walking the beach in search of diving birds to locate the fish.
On the grass flats, Keyes is hearing of spotted seatrout and redfish. For both species, flats fishers are using live shiners. For rigging, you can either free line a shiner or attach a popping cork to your line to keep the bait toward the surface. Artificials are also producing catches of reds and trout. Keyes suggests Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jighead or a small MirrOdine from MirrOlure to get these fish to bite.
Finally, pier fishers are still reporting decent catches of Spanish mackerel. Artificials are the ticket to get these high-activity fish to bite.
Expect to catch jack crevalle, blue runners and plenty of ladyfish while targeting Spanish mackerel.
Also at the piers, Keyes is hearing of an abundance of flounder. He suggests bottom fishing with live baits such as shrimp or shiners.
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