Bruce Earle says he landed this 29-inch Jack “somewhere” on an Anna Maria Island beach. Earle fought the jack for 73 minutes, from hookup to beach. Islander Photo: Ted Earle
Kathie Earle of Rutland, Vt., caught this 17 1/2-inch pompano at the beach on Anna Maria Island using a gold-and-orange 3/8-ounce jig. Photo submitted by her out-fished husband, Ted Earle.
Springtime fishing resulting in great catches
Fishing around Anna Maria Island is getting better and better as we settle into a springtime pattern. With warm, calm days, accessibility to just about every type of fishing is attainable. Whether you’re fishing from the shore, off a pier or beach or running 30 miles offshore, now is the time for some exciting action on the water.
Catch-and-release snook, redfish and trout are staging up on the inshore grass flats, waiting to ambush small baitfish and shrimp that cross their path. Free-lining your bait is a good bet, but if you’re in an area with a lot of grass, try using a popping cork set at the appropriate depth.
Along the beaches, piers and passes, expect to find Spanish mackerel, blue runners, jack crevalle and ladyfish feeding on schools of glass minnows or white bait. Artificials like silver spoons, white jigs or Gotcha plugs will get your rod bent. There also are a few pompano cruising the beaches. So be prepared with sand fleas to bait up these feisty fish.
Moving out to the nearshore reefs, expect to encounter king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and shark. Kings up to 40 pounds are being reported. As for the sharks, blacktip and spinner sharks are feeding on chunks of cut mackerel. Expect to catch shark in the range of 50-150 pounds.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure with good results on a variety of species. By using live shiners for bait, Girle’s clients are getting consistent action during half-day trips.
To start, Girle is arriving at the structure, anchoring and chumming with live bait. Once the chum hits the water, hungry kingfish and Spanish mackerel are making quick work of the disoriented shiners. While the fish are voraciously feeding, Girle casts out a free-lined shiner to get a bite. Kingfish up to 40 pounds are being caught along with plenty of Spanish mackerel in the 20-inch range.
Once all have had their fill of macks, Girle is switching to bottom fishing. Again, Girle is using live shiners for bait. By dropping baits directly to the bottom, Girle’s clients are reeling up mangrove snapper and keeper-size catch-and-release gag grouper. Mangrove snapper in the 18-inch range are being reeled up, although Goliath grouper are swarming hooked fish, making it hard to land them before they’re eaten.
On the flats, Girle is stalking redfish, trout and snook. Fishing flats with good tidal flow and plenty of sandy potholes is key to catching these fish. Girle is using live shiners free-lined behind the boat or rigged on a popping cork. Snook and reds are being caught in the 30-inch range. Slot-sized trout can be expected, too.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says action is beginning to pick up as we settle into spring. Schools of threadfin herring are gathering around the pier during strong moving tides, which in turn attracts snook, mackerel and redfish.
Pompano are making a showing for pier fishers using either live shrimp, sand fleas or pompano jigs. Although the bite is sporadic, patience and determination should result in a couple of gold nuggets for dinner.
Finally, mangrove snapper are being caught around the structure under the pier. Malfese suggests casting live shrimp weighted with a light split-shot under the pier to get a bite.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is heating up for a variety of species. With baitfish showing up along the shoreline, Mattay is catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, pompano and some nice catch-and-release snook.
For the migratory fish — jacks, macks and pompano — Mattay suggests using artificials like silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or pompano jigs. If you’re on a snook mission, you’ll have to find some live shiners.
Also, along the beaches, you can expect to catch small bonnethead and blacktip sharks. Mattay suggests fresh-cut mackerel, bonito or jack crevalle to get a bite. Frozen squid or shrimp will work for the smaller sharks, too.
On the flats, Mattay is hearing of good action on spotted seatrout, redfish and snook. Live shiners are the bait of choice, when available, although live shrimp will work in areas where the pinfish are not abundant. For artificials, Mattay likes to use soft plastics on jig heads or the MirrOlure MirrOdine.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of Tampa Bay in search of the usual trio, redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook. Using live shiners for bait, Gross is catching respectable numbers and sizes of all three species. For the snook and reds, Gross is finding shallow flats with good water flow. Once he locates the fish, he anchors and chums to get the fish in a feeding mood. As this occurs, Gross directs his clients to cast free-lined shiners directly to the fish.
For the spotted seatrout, Gross is fishing slightly deeper grass flats. Again, anchoring and chumming is the key to getting slot-size fish in the cooler. Artificials like soft plastics combined with a jighead are producing trout, too.
Finally, Gross is anchoring over small rock piles in Tampa Bay to catch a variety of fish. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, small snapper and even gag grouper are being caught in these areas. Some of the gags being caught are exceeding 24 inches, but they have to be released due to the season being closed.
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