Patience, persistence pay off
With frequent cold fronts and steady north winds, fishing around Anna Maria Island will require persistence along with a little luck.
We’re in between our fall and winter patterns, which means you’ll need to get out on the water and do your homework. You may find that the fish in the backcountry that you were fishing have disappeared. Or, more likely, they just moved in search of food and warmer water. Now is the time to start checking canals, creek mouths and docks to locate a bite. You may even want to consider switching over to shrimp instead of shiners if these cold fronts persist.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the Spanish mackerel bite. Reports from the beaches to the piers and even up in the Manatee River prove that these toothy fish are still abundant and on the feed. As long as schools of shiners and threadfin herring remain in the area, we should get a couple more weeks of catching these high-activity fish.
Sheepshead are appearing around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge fishing piers. I’m also noticing quite a few on the flats, especially around oyster bars or areas with rocky bottom. Live shrimp for bait will catch these fish, although you can’t beat a fiddler crab or tubeworm. Remember, a small strong hook is key in catching these bony-mouthed fish.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business fishing charters is fishing the backcountry in search of redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook. To catch these fish, Gross is either using live shiners or artificial baits such as DOA Cal jigs or MirrOlure Lil Johns.
For the spotted seatrout, Gross is fishing grass flats with depths of 3-6 feet. Anchoring in areas abundant with sandy potholes, Gross instructs his clients to cast live bait around the edges of the holes. When using artificials, Gross is not anchoring but simply doing a slow drift. Again, he’s targeting flats with sandy potholes. Fishing either method Gross’ clients are reeling in seatrout up to 26 inches.
For the redfish and catch-and-release snook, Gross is moving to shallower grass flats. A depth of 2-3 feet is perfect. For these fish, Gross is chumming with live shiners to get the fish in a feeding mood and also to give his clients a target to cast to when the fish break the surface while feeding. Not only is this technique rewarding to catch a keeper-size redfish but to catch one that you can see feeding is pure enjoyment. Slot-size reds are the norm this past week as week as catch-and-release snook up to 30 inches.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier is still seeing a few kingfish being caught by pier fishers targeting Spanish mackerel. “The largest king this past week came in as 25 pounds,” says Medley.
Spanish mackerel are abundant during the morning hours around the pier. Gotcha plugs or silver spoons are getting the bite. Expect to catch ladyfish and blue runners when targeting mackerel.
Pompano are being caught at the landside of the pier in the shallow water. Love’s lures pompano jigs are the primary bait, although live sand fleas will suffice if you can find them.
Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching respectable numbers of sheepshead. Fish up to 3 pounds are being caught, but expect to catch more in the 1- to 1 1/2-pound range. Also while fishing with live shrimp, pier fishers are reeling up black sea bass. Most are in the 12-inch range, but bigger fish are being caught.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure targeting Spanish mackerel and bonito. For fantastic action on drag-screaming fish, these two species pack a punch. Bonito in the 8- to 10-pound range are providing bent rods for Girle’s clients during the early morning hours. The same applies for the Spanish mackerel, which are reaching sizes of 5 pounds. To catch these fish, Girle is anchoring over structure and chumming with live shiners. Once these fish have dialed in on the chum, Girle instructs his clients to pitch their baits into the feeding frenzy. Then it’s game on.
On the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout and redfish. For either species, Girle is anchoring around sandy potholes that are surrounded by grass flats. The idea depth where Girle is finding these fish is 3-5 feet. By pitching free-lined shiners into the holes, Girle is catching a mix of spotted seatrout and reds. Slot-size trout are the norm, while reds up to 27 inches are being caught.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says, “If you can deal with the wind, there are plenty of mackerel to be caught.”
The Spanish mackerel in the 2-3-pound range are being caught on white jigs, Gotcha plugs and Clark spoons trailed behind a popping cork. While targeting mackerel, expect to catch ladyfish, blue runners and jack crevalle.
Pier fishers using live bait such as shrimp or shiners are catching good numbers of flounder. Catching flounder above 12 inches, keeper size, is a challenge, but attainable.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says despite the winds out of the north, the Spanish mackerel bite is hot and heavy in the early morning. Pier fishers using white jigs or Gotcha plugs are catching macks in the 2-3-pound range.
Along with the macks, pier fishers are catching blue runners, ladyfish and a few jack crevalle.
Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching decent numbers of black drum, sheepshead and slot-size redfish. All three species are being caught on bottom rigs. Pier fishers targeting these fish are casting baits right next to the pier or up under the pier as far as they can get it. When using shrimp for bait, purchase an ample amount. There are plenty of “bait stealers” line pinfish and grunts under that pier that love to nibble your shrimp away before a red or a black drum can get to it.
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