Cold fronts bring tough times for anglers
Back-to-back cold fronts have made fishing around Anna Maria Island tough to nail down. With water temps falling, fish we normally target are beginning to fall into their winter pattern.
It’s time to switch to live baits such as shrimp and crabs. Redfish, sheepshead, black drum and flounder will readily strike these baits when the timing is right.
You can also start using Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jighead around docks and in canals. Just remember to slow down your retrieve, as the water gets cooler.
Night fishing around snook lights is proving prosperous in between cold fronts. Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are active around dock lights on calm nights. Try free-lining a live shrimp around the outskirts of the light to hook up. If that doesn’t work, a small crappie jig might be the ticket.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is fishing in between cold fronts to find a bite. He’s begun “switching tactics,” which means alternate baits and moving to different areas to fish.
For bait, Gross is using select shrimp, either fished on the bottom or free-lined behind the boat. As the water temps drop, the fish we target are becoming less motivated to chase a bait, in which case, shrimp works due to their slow movement, which enables predators to ambush them without exerting too much energy.
Another tactic for Gross is switching his location. Gross is starting to target fish around docks, canals and deeper channels. These areas tend to have warmer water, which, in turn, attracts concentrations of fish this time of year.
Around docks, Gross is catching redfish, flounder and sheepshead. For the reds and flounder, Gross is using a whole live shrimp with a small weight added to the rig to keep the bait on the bottom. For sheepies, Gross is using fresh-cut pieces of shrimp on the same rig.
Gross is fishing canal mouths with depths of 6 feet or more for spotted sea trout. In these areas, Gross is either free-lining shrimp or adding a small split shot to get the shrimp on the bottom.
Finally, Gross suggests using Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jighead if you can’t get live bait.
Berkeley Gulp shrimp will catch all but sheepshead, which generally take only fresh bait.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier is still seeing pier fishers reeling up bonito and Spanish mackerel despite falling water temps in the bay.
“Believe it or not,” says Medley, “there are still decent schools of macks and bonito moving in and out of the bay.”
Pier fishers using white jigs, silver spoons and especially Gotcha plugs are hooking up every few casts when the fish arrive. Be prepared to lose some lures due to the mack’s sharp teeth.
Bait fishers using live pinfish are getting decent results on flounder. By free-lining pinfish under the pier and around the artificial structure to the south of the pier, fishers are reeling up keeper-size flounder with the biggest catches topping 18 inches.
Sheepshead spottings are increasing with the cold front. Live shrimp is getting some of the action, although fiddler crabs are still the top bait. When using shrimp try hooking small pieces or halves of shrimp. If the sheepies seem finicky, try peeling the shrimp offering.
Finally, night fishers are catching small blacktip and bonnethead sharks. By using small pieces of cut bait, like mullet or plain old shrimp, pier fishers are reeling in respectable numbers of both species.
Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says the winter species — redfish, black drum and sheepshead — have been feeding under the deep water docks and biting. His bait of choice is live shrimp.
Howard says extra low tides will provide excellent opportunities to wade fish for redfish and speckled trout. His advice: wade to the potholes on the flats surrounded with exposed sea grass and, using artificial baits or live shrimp, slowly work your rig through the pothole for fishing in a barrel action.
Also, Howard says fishing along deepwater drop offs with a Berkley Gulp or a live shrimp rigged with a split shot will get some filets for the table.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing reports of respectable catches from canals and around docks. Fishers using live shrimp are hooking up flounder, sheepshead, redfish and black drum in the canals of Bimini Bay. Canal fishers are finding the bite by either free-lining or bottom fishing live shrimp around the docks.
Canal fishers willing to venture out after dark are being rewarded with keeper-size spotted seatrout and slot-size catch-and-release snook. By fishing around dock lights with free-lined live shrimp, you can sight cast to your choice of species.
Finally, flats fishers are reporting reasonable numbers of trout, ladyfish and bluefish being caught on the deeper flats of south Sarasota Bay. Jigging with soft plastics or pompano jigs is the way to get in on the action.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier reports the sheepshead bite is beginning to turn on. Pier fishers using crabs or tubeworms are getting good action. Live shrimp fishers are catching some, too, he says. Reasonable numbers of sheepies are showing up daily, although you have to be there when the fish decide to feed. “We had a great bite a few days ago,” says Malfese,” then they turned off for a couple of days.”
Flounder are making a stop around the pier. Fishers working live shrimp on the bottom are catching flounder in the keeper-size range. Try dropping shrimp around the edges of the pier and it from piling to piling.
While targeting flounder, expect to hook into a few black drum. Malfese reports daily catches of keeper-size drum are occurring. If you want to target the drum, try casting a live shrimp or a live crab as far under the pier as you can get it.
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