Fishing – 01-23-2013

Catches vary day by day for AMI anglers

If you were lucky enough to fish before the mild cold front we had at the end of the past week, you may have caught a variety of species around Anna Maria Island. With temperatures in the 80s and light winds, fishing around the island was not only enjoyable, but prosperous.

While fishing along the beaches with live shrimp, I’m seeing good numbers of sheepshead, black drum, ladyfish bluefish and small sharks.

Pompano are cruising the beaches now, although finding numbers of fish can take some searching. To target all of these species, try using a knocker rig — a No. 1 circle hook and a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce egg sinker that rests right on the eye of the hook.

If you’re strictly in search of pompano, try a pompano jig. Walk the beach casting into the shoreline trough with your jig. You may pick up a fish here and there, or you could find a school and start catching fish on every cast. While jigging, expect to catch ladyfish, mackerel and bluefish as a bycatch.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is targeting spotted seatrout on the grass flats of Sarasota Bay. By using either live shrimp under a cork or soft plastics on a jighead, Gross is catching good numbers — most fish being in the 15-inch range, although larger fish are in the mix.

By fishing canals and docks, Gross is finding decent numbers of redfish and sheepshead. For these fish, he’s using live shrimp fished on the bottom under and around the docks. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught, he says.

Finally, Gross is working the beaches in search of pompano. Using either live shrimp, pompano jigs or a combination of the two, Gross is hooking up with these elusive fish. Again, keeper-size fish are coming to the boat, although most are 12-15-inches.

Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says Spanish mackerel and bonito are a consistent catch for his anglers. Pier fishers using either live bait or artificials are getting the catch. For live bait, he says to try using shiners. For artificials, silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or white jigs are working well.

For those opting to use bait, Medley suggests live shrimp to hook up sheepshead. “The sheepies are here,” says Medley, “and they are biting, too.” Live shrimp and fiddler crabs are working to catch these striped fish. He says, while using shrimp, anglers can expect to catch a stray flounder now and again.

Capt. Warren Girle is catching a variety of species in Sarasota Bay. To do this, Girle is using techniques based on the species and location he’s working.

During the morning low tides, Girle is fishing shallow flats using artificials like Berkley Gulp shrimp or topwater plugs.

During these tides, Girle finds schools of mullet and casts into the school to find mixed-in redfish and spotted seatrout. As mullet school over the shallow flats, they spook small shrimp and crabs out of their hiding places.

When this occurs, hungry redfish and trout are waiting to strike anything that moves among the mullet. He’s finding keeper trout and redfish, although he warns the fish are spread out. You have to be patient, he says.

Moving to deeper grass flats, Girle is rigging with small pompano jigs tipped with fresh shrimp. By doing a drift and casting in all directions, his clients are catching Spanish mackerel, trout, ladyfish, bluefish and pompano.

Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is hearing reports of a variety of species being caught along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, working around Bean Point with good results. Oldham suggests using a yellow pompano jig rigged to some 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to get in on the action. Oldham also suggests tipping your jig with some fresh-cut shrimp to add some attraction if the fish are being finicky.

Flounder are being caught from the beach, especially in areas where there is rock or bottom structure.

Oldham suggests a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp in white with a red jighead to get these tasty, flat fish to bite.

Finally, sheepshead are showing in numbers and beginning to bite. Live shrimp or sand fleas are easily accessible and are great bait for the convict fish. Oldham likes to use a stout No. 2 hook with a small split-shot to get his bait to the bottom where the fish are waiting.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says bonito and Spanish mackerel are making a showing. Schools of glass minnows are gathering around the pier, which in turn is attracting the bonito and macks. Pier fishers are casting white speck rigs to get these migratory fish to bite. These jigs are effective because they are about the same size as a glass minnow.

What’s the old saying? Match the hatch? Well, in this case it’s true.

You can probably catch these fish on spoons or Gotcha plugs, too, but use only small ones.

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