Fishing – 03-20-2013

Spring break offers little break in windy March weather


March has arrived bringing plenty of spring breakers, eager anglers and windy days.

March on Anna Maria Island can be a great month for fishing — when the weather permits. Windy days and winter’s remaining cold fronts can sometimes put a damper on fishing plans, but don’t be discouraged. These fronts usually last only a couple of days and then the weather and fishing turn to some of the best to be found.

Sheepshead are the highlight again this week for both pier fishers and boating anglers. Reports from both piers on the north end of Anna Maria Island are promising if you’re in search of some sheepies for the dinner table. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas are producing a bite.

On the flats, the main focus is redfish. Try fishing high tides to locate fish along mangrove edges and in sandy potholes close to shore. Live shiners or pinfish are the primary baits, although a chunk of fresh-cut ladyfish will get the job done, too.

Finally, spotted seatrout are making a showing on the deeper grass flats of Anna Maria Sound. Try drifting and working a soft plastic combined with a lead jig head to find the fish. Once you get on the right drift, you should be able to jig up your limit in no time.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is fishing nearshore reefs when the weather permits. On these reefs, Gross is catching a variety of species, but the main focus is sheepshead. Using live shrimp on a knocker rig allows his clients to reel up sheepshead up to 4 pounds — and in good numbers, too. Other catches while targeting sheepies include keeper-size flounder, porgies and Key West grunts.

Spanish mackerel are frequenting nearshore reefs and Gross is taking advantage of the action. By casting small white jigs, Gross is hooking up Spanish mackerel up to 18 inches.

Moving to the flats of Tampa Bay, Gross is using live shiners to target redfish. Slot-size reds were the norm last week. On a recent charter, Gross managed to put his clients on some keeper reds up to 25 inches.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure when the Gulf is calm and the winds are down. By using live shrimp, his groups are reeling up good numbers of sheepshead and keeper-size flounder. Also on the reefs, Girle is seeing bonito and mackerel, which he’s hooking up on small white jigs.

Moving to the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is targeting schooling reds during the high tides. Using chunks of fresh-cut ladyfish, Girle is putting his clients on reds up to 30 inches. Soft plastics combined with a lead jig head also are producing bites from reds. Girle suggests either Berkley Gulp shrimp or Exude Darts.

On the deeper flats, Girle is jigging for spotted seatrout. An Exude Dart in the Golden Bream color combined with a red jig head is Girle’s choice of lure. Trout in the 16- to 20-inch range are the norm, although fish up to 27 inches are being caught.

Finally, Girle is still targeting pompano and permit in south Sarasota Bay. He’s using a pompano jig tipped with fresh-cut shrimp to get a bite. Along with pompano and permit, expect to catch plenty of ladyfish and Spanish mackerel.

Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says sheepshead are attracting fishers to the shop this past week looking for a variety of baits, including live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas. Those fishing nearshore structure are using live shrimp. Both pier fishers and boaters are reporting good numbers of sheepies around local docks and nearshore reefs.

Beach fishers are finding success when the waters are calm. Along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, expect to find black drum and flounder, as well as a few pompano. Live shrimp are producing the bite. Berkley Gulp shrimp combined with a 1/4-ounce jighead is a good combination for those who prefer artificials. Cast into the trough that runs along the shoreline to hook up.

On the flats, fishers are catching good numbers of redfish. Using live shiners or pinfish, flats fishers are reeling up reds in the 15- to 30-inch range. To find these fish, Keyes suggests fishing during the higher tides along mangrove edges.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are the primary catch there. With cold nights, dropping water temps and strong winds from the north, you would think that fishing the pier would be tough. You’re partly right, but conditions like this don’t affect the sheepshead bite. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas are the ticket to catch these tasty fish at the R&R.

As of this week, Malfese says he’s seeing the sheepies being reeled up are running a little smaller than previous weeks.

“They must have spawned out,” says Malfese. “We’re still catching keepers, but not the big females like we were last week.”

Flounder are on the fishing menu at the R&R. Keeper-fish are being caught although the bite is sporadic at best. Try dragging the bottom around the pier with a Berkley Gulp shrimp combined with a 3/8-ounce jighead to locate and catch flounder.

Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing respectable numbers of sheepshead being caught on live shrimp, fiddlers and sand fleas. Determined pier fishers willing to brave strong north winds and cold temperatures are being rewarded with sheepshead in the 1- to 3-pound range. Sork suggests carrying a variety of baits. Some days the finicky sheepies are feeding on shrimp and the next day they only take a fiddler crab and then it’s sand fleas.

Other catches at the pier include small mangrove snapper, flounder and a few stray mackerel. For the snapper and flounder, live shrimp are working. For the Spanish mackerel, try using a white crappie jig to imitate the glass minnows that the mackerel are feeding on.

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