Monthly Archives: January 2017

New Cortez Bridge study to begin

The Florida Department of Transportation will begin a study in January for a replacement of the Cortez Bridge.

Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Mike Howe told members of the Island Transportation and Planning Organization Dec. 10 that the study would take about a year.

He said public meetings will be held after the study’s completion to discuss options, much as they were in 2006, when the DOT began discussing the possible replacement of the Anna Maria Island Bridge on State Road 64/Manatee Avenue.

The DOT study will look at all possible scenarios for the bridge on State Road 70/Cortez Road, Howe said, including cost of a major rehabilitation of the bridge, if feasible.

During DOT public meetings in 2009 for a new Anna Maria Island Bridge, residents gave opinions of the various options presented by the DOT. The majority of written comments favored a new, two-lane, low-rise bascule bridge with emergency traffic lanes. The public rejected a high-rise bridge. The DOT has yet to include the new bridge in a five-year plan.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy said the type of bridge is not as important as where the DOT puts it.

“Right on to Longboat Key,” he said tongue-in-cheek.

“Every afternoon rush hour, all the Longboat Key traffic backs up in Bradenton Beach,” Shaughnessy said.

Politicians have discussed a bridge direct from the mainland to Longboat Key for more than 40 years without success.


Cortez bridge rehabilitation

The DOT has one bridge project for Anna Maria Island in its tentative five-year plan for capacity, resurfacing and bridge projects.

Rehabilitation and repair of the Cortez Bridge for an estimated $6.1 million is in the plan, but no start date for construction was listed. The repairs would be for the bridge and State Road 684/Cortez Road to just west of 127th Street, Cortez.

Plaintiffs to appeal watercraft wrongful death verdict

A not-guilty jury verdict in the three-year-old lawsuit waged by the family of a Deltona man who died in a watercraft accident near a staging area for an artificial reef project at Longboat Pass at south Coquina Beach appears headed to yet more litigation.

“We’re appealing everything,” plaintiff’s attorney Tiffany Faddis of Faddis & Faddis P.A of Orlando said last week.

As one of two attorneys for the personal representative of Jose H. Medina and Christie L. Soto during the five-day trial ending Nov. 19, Faddis said an appellate lawyer has been retained for the appeal in the wrongful death case.

A week after the verdict, the plaintiff’s attorneys filed motions seeking a new trial and 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Diana Moreland’s recusal from further proceedings.

An affidavit by Medina’s widow claims Moreland deprived her of a fair trial, and listed 17 grounds, including improper evidentiary rulings as well as anger, hostility, animosity, disrespect and a demeaning attitude toward plaintiff’s trial attorney Eric H. Faddis.

The recusal motion alleges a “well-founded fear she will not receive a fair hearing on account of the bias and prejudice of Judge Moreland against plaintiff and her counsel.”

Earlier this month, Moreland denied Faddis’ recusal motion.

A five-day trial, alleging negligence and involving admiralty law, ended with a defense verdict that found no negligence on the part of McMulley Marine Services Inc. and Pine Island Towing Company. Manatee County awarded McCulley Marine Services the contract for the reef project in May 2009. Pine Island Towing operated the barge.

The judge dismissed the county from the suit on a summary judgment motion before the jury was seated Nov. 13. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the other defendants, Tug Champion Inc. and captains of the vessels, John W. McCulley, Michael Hollingsworth and Roland Blakely.

Medina drowned under the barge while attempting to preserve his disabled personal watercraft July 4, 2009, after he and friends had launched recreational vessels from Coquina Beach Bayside Park.

The tug and the barge were brought from Marco Island to Longboat Pass July 3, 2009, and were moored in the 530-foot channel. It is undisputed that at the time of the accident, the tug and barge were stationary, and the personal watercraft was drifting.

The trial included expert and other testimony relating to admiralty law and an issue about mooring in narrow parts of the waterway on the day Medina and friends ventured out on the watercrafts.

The appeal will seek to overturn the jury verdict, as well as Manatee County’s dismissal due to its limited participation, having hired independent tug and barge contractors, according to plaintiff’s attorney Tiffany Faddis.

As of The Islander press time, the court had not ruled on the request for a new trial.

Holmes Beach commission seeks Mainsail update

There were more questions than answers for Holmes Beach commissioners Dec.11 on the future of the proposed Mainsail Anna Maria Lodge at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives.

        Earlier in the day, Mainsail Lodging and Development president Joe Collier and two others showed Mayor Carmel Monti, Commissioner Judy Titsworth and the city building staff a site plan for a 120-seat restaurant, bar and lodging complex of 20 buildings, including 31 townhomes and nine hotel units at 5325 Marina Drive. The project also includes a marina that has operated for several years, with the city leasing a portion of the docks to Mainsail.

        In 2001, the commission approved the proposal for the property known as Tidemark Lodge, when Carlingford Development Company was the developer.

        It was linked to a commercial zoning change, with special exceptions and conditions, including 111 parking spaces, lodging limited to transient guests of no more than 120 days and an Old Florida architectural style. The Tidemark property was sold after a bankruptcy in 2004 and, according to county records, is now owned by Mainsail AMI Marina LLLP of Tampa and George Glaser of Bradenton.

        Commission Chair Jean Peelen said the ownership has changed numerous times.

        Peelen and Commissioner David Zaccagnino said Mainsail should have made a presentation before the commission. Zaccagnino asked whether Mainsail knew it needed to be briefed with their plans, and was responsible for approving any site plan changes.

        Monti said he wasn’t sure the current developer knew the politics of the city. He said he agreed to Collier’s staff visit to discern the developer’s intentions, although the developer advised he was unable to make the commission meeting.

        “Frankly I’m glad they didn’t waste the city council’s time because it was not a very meaningful meeting,” Monti said, referring to the city commission and adding there are complicated site-plan expiration issues the city needs to fully understand.

        Later in the meeting, Titsworth reported Mainsail representatives showed the group a site plan, but not floor plans. They want to move slowly, building-by-building as units sell, she said. Titsworth questioned how that would work with a resort community.

        The city’s 2001 resolution approving the development tied the site plan to elevations, special exceptions and parking requirements, and there’s no longer a valid lease for parking with the bank, she added.

        Commissioner Marvin Grossman said he is “very concerned” about the parking.

        Titsworth said she had a “ton of questions” Mainsail representatives weren’t prepared to answer, but they offered to make a future presentation to the commission. She asked Monti to make sure that happens.

        While she hoped the city could work with Mainsail, she said if the commission is not satisfied, she favored moving to revoke or amend the site plan.

        Building inspector David Greene said he expected to be working with the old site plan’s footings, foundation, building location, height and design.

        At the staff meeting, city officials asked for Mainsail’s civil design plans and a current schedule of proposed construction, he said.

        The developer’s most recent project schedule called for a Nov. 1 “start date” for site cleanup as well as for site and civil designs plans for two buildings, and set Nov. 26 and Dec. 15 for architectural designs and Dec. 1 for permit submission and review.

        None of these items have been submitted, according to city building officials.

        After the meeting in a phone interview, Collier said Mainsail would be revising the project schedule. He blamed the recent change in the city building department staff for delays, but said he was “ready to march forward.”

        “We’re spending money for engineers and architects and pre-development sales and marketing,” he added.

        He expected construction to begin in the first quarter of 2013.

        A Nov. 27 meeting had been set for the Mainsail presentation before the commission, but the city rescheduled the meeting to Nov. 20. Monti said two dates for a commission presentation had been canceled by the developer.

        Collier said he’s waiting to hear back from the city staff to arrange a meeting after the holiday “so their architect and project manager can walk through the sequencing,” and then, he said, Mainsail will be ready to submit for permits.

        He said he did not know anything about the city commission wanting a presentation.

        In September, then-Mayor Rich Bohnenberger asked the commission to begin a revocation process for the project, calling it an abandoned construction site, and commissioners agreed.

        City officials then said the sales trailer permit expired and the condition of the site amounted to a code violation.

        In October, the developer told Bohnenberger Mainsail intended to kick start the project, and if need be, defend its right to the entitlements with litigation.

        The commission agreed to back off revocation proceedings, and instead called for sunset provisions for future site plans.

        Those provisions were on the Dec. 11 agenda, and commissioners unanimously approved them as an amendment to the land development code.

        City attorney Patricia Petruff said developers will now be required to show “reasonable continuous progress” and clarifies current requirements for site plan expiration.

        The amendment also requires:

        • A building permit applied for within 90 days of site-plan approval, with a one-time 90-day extension.

        • Additional extensions approved by the commission.

        • If an active permit is not maintained, the site plan will be voided.

        • Site plan shall expire three years after the date of the site plan unless decided otherwise by the commission.

        Giving an example of the new law, she said, “It doesn’t allow someone to get a building permit for an underground sewer connection, and that be the only permit they would receive for five years.”

        Petruff added, however that for the amendment to make sense, additional proposed LDC changes — adopting the state building code as required by the state’s Emergency Management Division — were needed. She said she’d left with the city’s building department for review a couple months ago, and they were never returned and added to the code.

Objectors to HB moratorium rise, city limits terms

While Holmes Beach residents have been packing city meetings in the past year to complain about huge houses, investors moving residents out of the city’s housing stock and renter-related problems, at a Dec.11 meeting, it was the turn of new owners, contractors and others to voice their opinions about a proposed building moratorium.

        About 20 peaceful protesters wore green imprinted shirts, stating “No Construction Means No Jobs,” and two Holmes Beach police officers monitored the Dec. 11 meeting.

        A draft ordinance to stop tear downs, rebuilds and new construction for six months in the R-2 district was discussed. It included a Dec. 6 retroactive date so as not to cause a rush on building permits.

        Fourteen contractors and owners voiced their opinions — mostly against the retroactive date and six-month provision — and by the meeting’s end, the commission was swayed to take out the retroactive date and replace it with Dec. 25, a “Christmas present,” as suggested by Commissioner David Zaccagnino, and change the draft moratorium’s duration to “up to” six months.

        Along with these revisions, at a second meeting last week, a consensus of commissioners agreed to limit the impact of the moratorium to future construction equivalent to 50 percent of a home’s existing market value.

        The proposed moratorium is expected to be up for a commission vote at the meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18.

        Jack Sandleman of Gulf Drive spoke to the duration issue. “Perhaps six months is a bit too long,” he said, suggesting a 90-day moratorium.

        Janice Martinez said she’d begun demolishing a home Dec. 11. “And now I found out we can’t start construction for six months. What’s up with that?”

        She told commissioners she wants to live in Holmes Beach with her children — who have been coming to the island every summer — and her grandchildren.

        “Be fair to people like us. We’re not building a home to rent,” Martinez added. “Can you make an exception for people who want to live in this community and be part of this community and help this community grow?

        “What about our economy? And all the people out here in green shirts who earn their living on the island, in a very honorable       and noble profession? Think about that before you start taking away our rights, please.”

        James Martin, a contractor from Bradenton, said, “We’re a small company and don’t have a lot of employees, but they have families. To stop all construction for six months is too much. It’s tough enough with the economy as is.”

        Code enforcement board member John Wise said, “You’re talking only about 10 houses” and listening “only to the squeaky wheel,” not a satisfied majority of citizens.

        Scott Boyd of Baronet Lane told commissioners to consider the possible cost of litigation.

        Eric Yonkee, who’s been building a home for the past several months, feared he’d be held to the backdated moratorium.

        However, Commission Chair Jean Peelen said so long as a permit is filed with the city building department before the moratorium effective date, he would not be affected.

        Bradenton attorney Louis Najmy, representing Beach to Bay Construction, among other contractors, businesses and property owners, next approached the podium.

        “I get that you want to ensure the island isn’t overbuilt,” he said, adding he understood the big house focus.

        Najmy told Peelen, “I can’t stop connecting your manifesto to this ordinance that is solely targeted to demolitions in R-2 district properties and a potential goal to stop one builder — Beach to Bay Construction.”

        Najmy suggested the city “do it for all zoning districts,” and only for three months.

        Resident and contractor Darrin Wash of Wash Family Construction said he understood the moratorium was about duplexes and underground footers, but asked why six months. “It’s going to hurt the green shirt people here. It’s going be a big impact on us contractors,” he said.

        City attorney Patricia Petruff said the planning commission needed time for its review, and both the city and planning boards had to follow legal requirements for public hearings and notices.

        Peelen said, “Our commitment up here is that we’ll do it absolutely as expeditiously as possible.”

        Wash continued, “Six months to you is like business as usual for you guys. We aren’t coming to your jobs and saying you can’t work for six months.”

        Commissioner Judy Titsworth said, “This issue is not just about the duplexes. We have a developer, developers, who haven’t been looking at the comprehensive plan.

        “The multi-family seasonal tourist has crept into our R-2 district while we were sleeping,” she added, referring to the change from small rental houses for one family to many families sharing the new multi-story homes.

        David Scott of Palm Drive added another consideration, “The moratorium is going to discourage people from buying because of the uncertainty.”

City to honor police chief

The city commission of Holmes Beach was to hold a reception for retiring Police Chief Jay Romine after press time for The Islander, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, in city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

    Romine will retire Dec. 20 after 19 years in the top law enforcement spot.

    Commission Chair Jean Peelen welcomes all to attend the gathering as well as a formal presentation in Romine’s honor immediately following the reception and during the 7 p.m. commission meeting, also in city hall.

    At the time of his appointment, Romine was the youngest police chief in the state. He served the city more than 26 years, beginning as a patrol officer in 1979, and advancing to patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, lieutenant, assistant chief and chief.

    Romine also chief contributed his expertise and experience to numerous local, state, national and international associations and boards.

    He currently serves as secretary/treasurer for the Florida Police Chiefs Association; a member of Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice Executive Institute Policy Board; state representative to the State Association of Chiefs of Police; member of Tampa Bay Chiefs of Police Association; chair of the Manatee County Law Enforcement Council; and chair of the Manatee Technical Institute Criminal Justice Academy Advisory Board and Board of Governors.

        For more information, call Peelen at 941-896-5827 or email at

Osborn isn’t talking about FDLE request to cooperate

Kelly Osborn isn’t answering whether she will cooperate with a Florida Department Law Enforcement request to release requested evidence needed to conclude the investigation into her daughter’s 2009 death in Bradenton Beach.

Sheena Morris, 22, was found dead in a BridgeWalk Resort room hanging from the shower head by a dog leash. Her death was ruled a suicide, but later changed to undetermined in 2011 after a private forensic pathologist spoke to the medical examiner about his conclusions.

It was Dr. Michael Berkland’s contention — hired by Osborn — from the file photos that the crime scene could have been staged. However, Berkland’s reputation was called into question when it was discovered that he had twice been fired from medical examiner duties. A storage unit belonging to Berkland also was found to have human organs being stored in common household containers.

Osborn’s contention is that her daughter was murdered and a public campaign to have her daughter’s death investigated further came to fruition in September when an FDLE SMART panel recommended that the Bradenton Beach Police Department take additional steps in its investigation.

BBPD Police Chief Sam Speciale administratively reopened the case, and FDLE agents were assigned to assist the department.

The investigation stalled last month when BBPD — at the behest of FDLE — requested Morris’ computer, medical and psychological records. Osborn refused to release the items to BBPD.

She has maintained that BBPD botched her daughter’s death investigation and, in a letter back to Speciale, said she had no intention of releasing anything to his department.

Her refusal to cooperate spurred a Dec. 3 letter from FDLE Special Agent in charge John Burke to Osborn asking for her cooperation in releasing the requested items. Osborn has insisted that BBPD be removed from the investigation and that FDLE take charge.

Burke explained to Osborn that FDLE has no jurisdictional authority to take over an investigation and that BBPD remains in control of the investigation, but with FDLE assistance.

The Islander obtained a copy of Burke’s letter under a public records request and Osborn then expressed displeasure over the letter’s release, although other communications between Osborn and BBPD have been made public.

Following The Islander Dec. 12 report on Burke’s letter, Osborn sent an email to the city of Bradenton Beach, calling once again for FDLE to take over the investigation. She also called for disciplinary action to be taken against Speciale for the release of the letter as public record.

Osborn complained that the letter was “confidential” and it should not have been released.

However, in spite of Osborn’s protest, the letter was not marked confidential.

FDLE also has confirmed that the letter was not marked confidential.

Osborn would not answer questions from The Islander if she would cooperate and release the requested items to BBPD.

Burke further offered to have FDLE agents pick up the items, but she cited a request from Burke to limit her public comments on the investigation as a reason not to respond to further questions.

Burke explained in his letter to Osborn that her continual public appearances discussing the investigation could be harmful to the investigation.

However, on learning of The Islander’s Dec. 12 story, she contacted other media outlets insisting to them that Speciale released a “confidential” letter during an open investigation.

She also accused The Islander of wrongdoing by reporting FDLE’s push for her cooperation.

“Your paper will reap the repercussions of your actions,” she said in a Dec. 11 email to The Islander.

In regards to whether she will comply with the FDLE request, Osborn told The Islander, “I cannot respond at this time. The release of this letter is under review,” but she would not say by whom.

“You will be hearing plenty about this article that was published, and it won’t be from me,” Osborn wrote to The Islander.

Osborn accused The Islander of misleading the public by reporting that the investigation is an “administrative” action, but Speciale is in charge and can and has termed the reopening as administrative in nature.

In a Dec. 13 email, Osborn backed away from her statements against The Islander, saying, “My issue isn’t with you publishing the article. My issue is with the chief releasing it … the chief knew or should know as law enforcement that this is an open investigation.”

However, it is not classified as an open investigation, according to Speciale.

The Islander pressed Osborn for a yes or no answer if she intended to cooperate with the FDLE request, but she has opted not to reply.

As of press time, BBPD and FDLE say there was no response as to her intentions.

Roser celebrates holiday fellowship in Bethlehem walk

Steve Gianiotes readies Lima the llama for the Bethlehem Walk in Anna Maria.

Four generations in Hal Kesyer’s family, including 101-year-young Hal, BJ Love, Rosanne Tennyson and Emery Vulgan, gather before the Dec. 15 Bethlehem Walk with others from the Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria.

Solemn onlookers learn there is no room at the inn for Mary and Joseph to spend the night Dec. 15 during the Bethlehem Walk at Roser Memorial Community Church in Anna Maria.

With the Rev. Gary Batey presiding, three kings bear gifts for Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus Dec. 15 at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

Bosun Duytschaver as Jesus, Julia and Shawn Duytschaver as Mary and Joseph greet the crowd Dec. 15 in front of Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, after the Bethlehem Walk.

State of Tourism: locally strong despite economy

“You have done exceptionally well despite the economy,” said Walter Klages of Data Research Services, who presented the State of Tourism to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council Dec. 10, at Bradenton Beach City Hall.

“The reality of the economy is not exciting,” said Klages. “At best, it’s slugging through very rough waters. Unfortunately, the recovery is slow. There is no inflation yet, but if you go into the grocery store, you probably have a different opinion and gas prices are so volatile no one can predict prices for tomorrow.”

Despite a struggling economy, Klages reported increased tourism throughout the county, especially on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

Through 2012, visitation to the county was up 9.9 percent from 2011, and the total economic impact to the area was up 12.9 percent. Occupancy in area hotels was up 8 percent.

Visitor origin was up across the board, especially from Europe. Klages said European visitors to the county rose by 23.3 percent in 2012. European visitors to the area in 2011 were 53,296 compared to 65,720 this year.

Florida and Midwest visitors remain the highest percentage of visitors, accounting for more than 100,000 people from each area.

“What is most impressive of all is how well we have marketed into the off-season,” said Klages. “There’s no secret in marketing the high season. The trick is driving the other side of the shoulder.”

Klages said the sports marketing effort in the county is paying dividends.

“It’s the sports market that has been the key to driving those numbers in the off-season,” he said. “It’s been a fabulous year in spite of the economy.”

Bradenton Area Sports Commissioner Joe Pickett told the TDC board he is “very excited about where we’ve been and where we are going, as we continue to grow.”

Pickett said it’s important to understand the value of sports, youth sports in particular, “because sports isn’t going to go away.”

And in Manatee County, the effort is to attract a variety of sporting events. Pickett said the county offers a “totally balanced sports schedule.”

Baseball and soccer represent the two largest categories making up 40 percent of events recruited by the sports commission.

The remainder of the events recruited are from a variety of sports from softball to bowling.

“For the most part, we are a youth type sports area,” said Pickett. “We have 84 events secured for 2013 and we have already secured 64 events for 2014. We also are already booking events into 2017.”

Pickett said the county should understand its weaknesses, too.

“Some of our weaknesses include transportation issues, more team-suited hotels and our BASC budget,” he said. “We just lost a bid to Polk County that we worked on for 18 months because of transportation. It’s our No. 1 factor for losing bids.”

Pickett did have good news. Manatee County will host the baseball Travel Ball Select World Series in July.

“And US Soccer will see a lot more things going forward, and the same with USL Soccer,” he said. “Bowling also has had a tremendous impact to our communities.”

TDC vice chair and local businessman David Teitelbaum said he would like to see TDC be more proactive in assisting BASC with securing bids on events to make Manatee County more competitive.

The biggest sporting news came from Elliott Falcione, who announced the effort to secure the International Rowing Federation world championship took another positive step forward.

“Manatee County was well represented when we met with the federation in Switzerland,” said Falcione. “The U.S. rowing director joined us.”

Falcione said the event would draw competitors from more than 100 countries, “So this isn’t a Manatee County or Sarasota County event, this is a USA event.”

Falcione said the meeting to host the event in 2017 went well. The United States has not hosted a FISA world-rowing championship event since the 1990s, so “FISA is ready to have this in the U.S., and we are as well.”

He said two test events will take place in 2015 and another in 2016.

“This is a branding opportunity that our aquatics center can host a major world event,” he said.

Hotel space remains a concern, but Falcione said, with events such as this, “the hotels will come. This is an eight-day event so hoteliers will gain 500 rooms by 2015 or no later than 2016.”

He expects a minimum of 2,000 hotel rooms would be needed for the full eight days of the world championship.

Falcione said he would address the TDC again to discuss a budget for travel as efforts to secure the FISA world championship continues.

“Some of us will have to go to South Korea for the championships, because they will award the 2017 games there,” he said. “We would need to be there to accept that.”

Fishing – 12-19-2012

Warmer water, hot fishing action with shiners


With a slight warming trend, water temps are climbing into the upper 60s, which in turn is proving prosperous for flats fishers who are still using shiners.

Although baiting shiners during cooler weather a couple of weeks ago was hit or miss, using them now is a good bet. You may still want to carry some live shrimp just in case — especially if you plan on fishing any docks or around inshore structure.

Good numbers of black drum and sheepshead are frequenting local docks and canals around Bimini Bay and Key Royale. Live shrimp is a must for targeting either of these tasty striped fish. You can also expect to catch flounder and redfish while working these docks.

In southern Sarasota Bay, good action is occurring on deep grass flats for migratory fish, including pompano, bluefish and ladyfish. The pompano are sporadic at best, although the bluefish and ladyfish will fill in the idle time between pompano bites. Either style of pompano jig will work, although anglers are favoring small cannonball head jigs.

Finally, near-shore structure is still producing rod-bending action for anglers in search of bonito and shark. Try chumming with live shiners to get the bonito to rally. Once you catch one, cut a nice chunk from it and hook it on a shark rig. Black tips in the 50-pound range are the norm right now.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is targeting spotted seatrout on the flats of Sarasota Bay with decent results. On recent charters, Gross managed to put his clients on limits of spotted seatrout using live shiners on the grass flats. “With the water temps slightly rising, the fish are eating white bait,” says Gross. “Although, it’s still good to carry some select shrimp just in case.”

Also while fishing the flats, Gross is catching some keeper-size flounder. “We were having trouble with the birds trying to eat our shiners,” says Gross. “So I added a split shot to try to keep our baits a little deeper. When we did, we started catching flounder.”

To target flounder on the flats, try dragging your bait through the sandy potholes on the flat. You can also find them on channel edges or in areas that have rocky features, such as small ledges or docks.

Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says although there are large numbers of sheepshead around the pilings, the bite is a little off. “Either people aren’t fishing for them,” says Medley, “or they’re just not biting real good yet.”

Fish that are biting include pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and bonito. For the pompano and bluefish, Love’s lures pompano jigs are the ticket. Pompano in the 2-pound range are hitting these small jigs with a purpose. The bluefish are a bycatch for fishers targeting pompano.

Pier fishers using live shrimp and working on the bottom around the pilings of the pier are catching good numbers of flounder, mangrove snapper and black sea bass. These three species are some of the best tasting fish you can find on our waters, so if you’re looking to fill the freezer, you may want to head to the South Pier.

On a final note, Medley warns that the bite has been sporadic but, when it happens, it’s game on. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it this week,” says Medley. “You may catch nothing but pinfish for an hour and then all of a sudden everything changes and you fill your cooler.”

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structures for bonito. These fish provide drag-screaming action on medium-weight spinning gear. Using live shiners, Girle is chumming these fish to the boat and then casting free-lined baits into the frenzy. Average size of the bonito is 7 to 10 pounds.

Once Girle’s clients have caught enough bonito, they’re targeting black tip sharks by cutting a six-inch strip of bonito belly and placing it on a shark rig. The black tips are coming to the boat in the 50- to 80-pound range.

Finally, while structure fishing, Girle is dropping live shiners to the bottom on a knocker rig and reeling up keeper-size flounder. After all of that action on bonito and sharks, Girle’s clients are keen on reeling up fish they can take home for dinner.

On the deeper flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is drifting and jigging with pompano jigs. Not only is he managing to put his fishers on some keeper pompano, but various other species as well. Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish are biting in between pompanos, which supplies good variety and constant action.

Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of decent action on the flats of Anna Maria Sound, where spotted seatrout are being caught on deeper flats of 5 to 7 feet. While targeting trout, expect to also catch ladyfish and Spanish mackerel. You can either use artificials like DOA Cal jigs or suspending baits, such as the MirrOlure MirrOdine. If using live shrimp or shiners, try using a popping cork and drift over the flats and retrieve the cork slowly while popping it to cover more area.

Sheepshead are arriving on the flats and around local docks. Oldham suggests trying a fresh-cut piece of shrimp to start. If the sheepies won’t bite the shrimp, try fiddler crabs or sand fleas.

While fishing docks for sheepies, Oldham says to expect to encounter black drum, redfish and plenty of spot tail pinfish

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing decent action for pier fishers using live shrimp as bait. Using a small, stout hook and a half-ounce sinker, fishers are bottom fishing around the pilings and under the pier. As of this week, keeper-size redfish are being caught, as well as flounder and black drum.

Schools of baitfish such as shiners are still being seen around the pier, although Malfese feels that the better bite is occurring on live shrimp. If you choose to use shiners, try bottom fishing as if you’re using shrimp. Generally, flounder and redfish will readily take a shiner if it’s put in front of their nose.

On a final note, we wish Jim Malfese’s canine companion, Malcolm, who also works daily at the pier, a happy birthday.

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