Beach casting proves prosperous for flounder, pompano
Beach fishing proved prosperous this past week. Beach fishers using artificials like Berkley Gulp shrimp are catching respectable numbers of flounder, especially around the passes, both to the north and south. When fishing the beaches with Gulp shrimp, try using light colors, such as white, glow or sugar spice. Add a red 1/4-once jighead and you’re ready to fish.
Beach fishers using Gotcha plugs or bucktail jigs are catching ladyfish, bluefish and an occasional mackerel. The best way to target the fish is travel light. Stay mobile and walk the beach casting into the surf. Look for diving birds, a surefire indicator of where fish are feeding.
Finally, stories of pompano catches are increasing. Try casting live shrimp or sand fleas if you like natural baits. For artificials, Doc’s Goofy jigs or the standard pompano jig with a mylar skirt will work. You can tip them with shrimp if the fish are stubborn.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says Spanish mackerel and bonito are the catch this past week. “I can’t believe they’re still here,” says Medley. “It looks like they’re going to hang on all winter.”
Pier fishers using artificials, such as silver spoons or Gotcha plugs, are reeling up keeper-size macks and plenty of bonito up to 10 pounds. Medley suggests fishing toward the farthest end of the pier. Once you’ve spotted a bait school, start casting lures in that area to hook up. The fish are just under the surface.
Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching decent numbers of sheepshead around the pilings. Fish in the 2-pound range are being reeled up daily. Other baits such as fiddler crabs or sand fleas, will work, too.
Finally, pier fishers targeting sheepshead with shrimp are catching good numbers of flounder. Fish up to 18 inches are the norm.
Capt. Warren Girle is working Sarasota Bay for a variety of species, and the weather has played a role in his targeting. On cold and windy days during the fronts, Girle fished deep-water canals for redfish, black drum and snook. By casting live shrimp under docks, Girle is catching keeper-sizes of the drum species.
On days with less wind, Girle drifted over deep flats in the middle of the bay in search of pompano. By drifting and jigging, Girle says he hooked up with a variety of mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, spotted seatrout and pompano.
Finally, on warmer, sunny days and light-wind conditions, Girle was working the shallow grass flats for redfish. By quietly moving from pothole to pothole, Girle put his clients on keeper-size reds on Berkeley Gulp shrimp.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says flounder are the highlight. Whether fishing the beaches, piers or flats, fishers are reporting good numbers of the flat fish. Fish up to 20 inches are being reported, too. Anyone who fishes for flounder around Anna Maria Island knows a 20-inch flounder is a nice catch.
To target the flat fish, Oldham suggests using a 3-inch shrimp on a jighead. Color may be a factor, too. For the beaches, Oldham likes a white or glow color. When fishing the backwater, he likes to switch to new penny.
Along the beaches, Oldham is hearing of good action on more than just flounder. Bluefish, ladyfish, black drum and an occasional pompano are being caught during daylight hours. Live shrimp is the bait of choice to target any of these species, but you can use artificials such as spoons, bucktail jigs or pompano jigs.
Finally, flats fishers are reporting catches of redfish and trout, although patience is a virtue for anglers. The reds seem to be spread over the flats, according to Oldham. The same applies for the trout. Oldham suggests doing a slow drift over the grass, using soft plastics on a jighead. This allows the angler to cover a large amount of area, which aids in finding fish.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp are capitalizing on the action this week. By bottom fishing under the pier and around the pilings, anglers are catching sheepshead and flounder. A small egg sinker combined with a swivel, 12 inches of 20-pound leader and a No. 2 hook will get you in on the action. The key is to keep your bait around the structure. Keeper-sizes of flounder and sheepies are being caught daily.
Pier fishers opting to cast their shrimp away from the pier are getting results, although the action is less consistent than fishing underneath the pier. Migratory species, such as bluefish and pompano, are being caught by bottom fishers during the moving tides. If you notice numbers of bluefish feeding, you may want to switch to a size-1, long shank hook to prevent being cut off by the bluefish’s mouth full of teeth.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says flounder are the pier’s the catch of the week. Anglers using live shrimp are catching decent numbers of these tasty flat fish. By dragging live shrimp along the bottom, pier fishers are reeling up flounder in the 15-inch range.
By casting away from the pier, fishers are finding an abundance of bonnethead sharks. Again, live shrimp is good bait, but any other cut-bait, like squid or fish, will work, too. Just remember to cut small bite-size pieces for bait, since the bonnethead have a small mouth.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing this past week has been challenging because of the weather. Adapting to the weather conditions will help in the pursuit of action and fillets for the table, Howard says.
With the cold weather, the fish were staging in their traditional wintertime spots — deepwater docks, creeks and deep channels. Using live shrimp rigged to a 30-pound leader with a 1/0 circle hook, Howard’s clients were landing redfish, flounder, sheepshead, black drum and mangrove snapper. The key was a small split shot to help the bait get to the bottom. Chopping up small-sized shrimp and chumming will draw the desirable species and fire up the bite, Howard says.
Looking forward, Howard says the tides will be favorable for some excellent morning action. Look for fishing to steadily improve as we get more tidal movement and continuing warm weather.
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