Weather changes create challenges for local anglers
Anna Maria Island anglers are catching a variety of species when the weather cooperates. As we enter March, springtime patterns should start emerging unless we get some late cold fronts like the one we experienced last week.
Strong winds, rain and a sudden drop in temperature can make fishing challenging.
As of two weeks ago, local fishers were using live shiners for bait. Redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook are readily taking live shiners, especially on the afternoon high tides. Now, due to the recent cold front, most fishers will switch back to shrimp for a few days. You may have to give flats fishing a break until it warms back up. Try fishing docks for reds, black drum and sheepshead. You can also walk the beaches when the surf is minimal and jig for pompano.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is flats fishing in lower Tampa Bay in search of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. By using live shiners for bait, Gross is leading his clients to respectable catches of all the familiar species. Gross feels that while using shiners, its best to fish with the smaller-sized baits. Trout and redfish are responding to small baits rigged with a No. 2 Eagle Claw live-bait hook. At a time when the fish are shallow, Gross is adding a Paradise Popper popping cork to keep his baits out of the grass. In deeper water, he is simply free-lining baits.
During cooler days, when the fish on the flats are not in the feeding mood, Gross is switching tactics. Gross is catching sheepshead, flounder and black drum around local docks on live shrimp.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing for redfish in Sarasota Bay. Girle is targeting the schooling fish during afternoon high tides. By quietly motoring through shallow water, Girle is locating the fish. They’re still a little spooked and not responding to live baits. By simply casting small ladyfish chunks towards the edge of the school, Girle’s clients are hooking up fish in the range of 24-27 inches.
Also worth mentioning, is a 28 1/2-inch, 8-pound spotted seatrout that was caught on fresh-cut ladyfish. It just goes to show that sometimes thinking outside the box can be rewarding. You never know what you might catch when using chunk baits.
Girle also is still jigging up pompano in south Sarasota Bay. Small bullet-head pompano jigs tipped with fresh-cut shrimp are the ticket. While jigging, Girle’s clients are catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle, small trout and bluefish.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says sheepshead are the highlight of the week. Pier fishers are reporting respectable catches of these tasty striped fish. For bait, live shrimp is working well. Other baits that attract a bite include fiddler crabs, sand fleas or tubeworms. Remember to use a small stout hook when targeting these boney-mouthed fish. Sometime removing hooks from a sheepshead’s mouth can be difficult, even with pliers. A stout hook will aid in removal and won’t be likely to bend when gripped and turned with pliers.
Spotted seatrout are responding to soft plastics combined with a lead jighead. Oldham suggests drifting over deeper grass flats and jigging for fish in the sandy potholes. As for bait, a Berkley Gulp shrimp in either New Penny or Molting colors is recommended.
Finally, beach fishers are still catching pompano, although the bite is sporadic. Using pompano jigs rigged with a stinger fly, beach fishers in between pompano are catching bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are dominating the bite. Sheepherders are using live shrimp or live fiddlers to get these buck-toothed fish to bite. Don’t be surprised to walk out on the pier and see stringers of these fish flowing in the tide. The bite is on. Average side of the sheepies being caught at the pier is 1-3 pounds.
Meanwhile, Spanish mackerel are beginning to show around the pier, which is a welcome sight. Pier fishers using Gotcha plugs or speck rigs are reeling up macks in the 12- to15-inch range. While targeting mackerel, pier fishers are occasionally hooking up with a stray bonito. Although these fish have no food value, they are a great sport fish. These fish will peel off all the line on your reel if you let them.
In closing, a few black drum and pompano are being caught on live shrimp by bottom fishing at the R&R. For the drum, cast a shrimp under the pier for best results. For the pompano, try casting your shrimp out away from the pier.
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