New year’s virtues — patience, persistence pay off
Well, its time to start a new year of fishing around Anna Maria Island. Both inshore and offshore are producing fish, although being at the right spot at the right time is imperative. This time of year, fishing becomes challenging due to cold-water temperatures, wind, fog, etc. A little patience and a lot of persistence is a virtue.
On the flats around Anna Maria Island, spotted seatrout are lingering in deep sandy potholes and channels before moving into canals and up the Manatee River to escape the cold of winter.
Slow down your presentation by using live shrimp or slowly dragging a soft plastic on a jig head along the bottom to get a bite.
Snook and redfish are making the move into the canals and creeks in search of warmer water. Again, live shrimp will do the trick when these fish decide to bite. Another option is a Berkley Gulp shrimp worked slowly along the bottom.
You can expect to catch flounder and black drum using the same methods. These species will be hiding out from the cold like the snook, trout and reds.
On an added note, the new recreational fishing regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are out, so don’t forget to stop by your local tackle shop and pick up a copy.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters was working two tactics this past week depending on the weather. On the warmer, sunnier days, Gross is venturing out one the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay in search of spotted seatrout. On the cooler, windier days, Gross is tucking back into protected waters such as canals and small bays in search of sheepshead and flounder.
While fishing the flats, Gross is using soft plastics on a jig head. Soft plastics like the MirrOlure Lil John or DOA Cal jigs are catching trout in the 15 to 20-inch range. By doing a slow drift over the flats and casting the sandy potholes Gross’ clients are catching near limits of these tasty fish.
While fishing canals and docks on the cooler days, Gross is using live shrimp fished on the bottom to catch flounder and sheepshead.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says silver trout was the highlight of the past week. Anglers targeting the little trout are using one of two methods.
The first method is to free-line a live shrimp weighted with a small split-shot in the current flowing away from the bridge.
The other is to use a speck rig — two small jigs fished in tandem on one leader. With this rig you can catch two fish at once. Silver trout up to 18 inches are being caught daily. There is no size or bag limit on these fish so only keep what you can cook up in a few days. These fish don’t freeze well and are best eaten fresh.
Sheepshead are still swirling around the pilings of the south pier feeding on barnacles and small crustaceans. Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching their share, although those using live fiddler crabs are dominating the bite. Most sheepies being caught are in the 12-15-inch range although every so often a 20-plus-inch fish is being reeled up.
Finally, flounder and mangrove snapper are being caught on live shrimp fished on the bottom either under the pier or around the structure that lies just out from the pier on the west side. Keeper sizes of either species are being landed daily.
Capt. Warren Girle is working deep grass flats in south Sarasota Bay in search of a variety of species. To start, Girle is drifting over the flats jigging for pompano with shrimp tipped pompano jigs. While doing this, Girle is averaging five or six pompano per charter. Also while jigging for pompano, Girle’s clients are catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish. Not only is this method of fishing rewarding, with pompano, but it provides non-stop action with the bycatch.
After pompano fishing, Girle is switching to bottom fishing under docks in deeper canals for black drum and sheepshead. For both species, Girle is using live shrimp. Black drum up to 18 inches are the norm, and they are plentiful. Most of the sheepies are running a little small although Girle is catching a few big enough to put in the box.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of decent action occurring in canals and around docks, especially in Bimini Bay. Fishers using live bait such as shrimp or fiddler crabs are catching a variety of species during the last stages of the incoming tide and the beginning of the outgoing tide.
Sheepshead, black drum and flounder are lurking under and around docks awaiting small crustaceans drifting by, resulting in keeper-sizes of all three species being caught.
Keyes suggests scaling down your the leader size to either 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon due to the water clarity. Match this up with a No. 2 hook and a small split shot and you’re ready to fish.
Fishing the openings or mouths of canals is proving prosperous for fishers targeting spotted seatrout and redfish. Again, live shrimp is the ticket to convincing these fish to bite, although Keyes says Berkley Gulp shrimp can substitute.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing this past week was good with the wintertime patterns in full effect. On Howard’s charters, client’s reeled in sheepshead, spotted seatrout, redfish, black drum and pompano.
Howard is finding the bite underneath deepwater docks. He suggests rigging a live shrimp on a 1/0 circle hook and a No. 5 split-shot with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. Toss this rig under the shade of deepwater docks to produce excellent action and some keepers for the dinner table. “Use the small or dead shrimp in your live well and cut them up into bite size pieces for chum. Draw the fish to your location and toss your rig in the middle of the chum,” Howard says. “The fish cannot resist the smell the bait bits put out and will feed on them and hopefully your rig.”
Spotted seatrout and pompano have shown up on the flats and in deep holes along the Intracoastal Waterway. Pompano to 6 pounds and spotted seatrout more than 20 inches have moved into our waters and will provide for some excellent fishing action and delicious table fare. Again, the bait of choice is a live shrimp rigged with a popping cork.
Looking forward, the tides will be extra low in the mornings, which will provide for some opportunities to scout the flats and find the highways the fish use to move onto and off the flats and potholes. Howard suggests marking these spots on your GPS for future opportunities to ambush the fish on a moving tide.
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