Fishing action for migratory species, sharks heat up
Look for migratory fish around nearshore structure and close to the beaches this week.
If you can find the bait schools, expect to encounter kings and Spanish mackerel, as well as bonito, jack crevalle and numerous species of shark.
For the macks and jacks, live shiners are the best live bait. For artificials, a quick retrieve of a Clark spoon or a small white jig will get you connected. For the sharks, fresh-cut mackerel or bonito will get you into the battle of a lifetime. Expect to see shark weighing 50-150 pounds. Bull, blacktip, spinner and sand sharks are the norm.
For the backcountry, catch-and-release snook, reds and trout are staged up on grassflats with good water flow. As it gets warmer, try fishing early in the morning or late in the evening to beat the heat. You also may notice the bite is better. Live shiners are the bait of choice for bait chuckers. Anglers who prefer artificials, should try a topwater plug just before sunrise for some explosive flats action.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are being reeled up daily to the deck. Catches of fish up to 20 inches to the fork are occurring during the morning and evening tides. He says small white crappie jigs are producing the best bite.
Sharks are on the move for pier anglers. Small pieces of frozen squid or cut mullet are resulting in bonnethead and blacktip sharks in the 3-foot range. For larger sharks, try cutting a fresh caught mack in thirds and cast a chunk to the bottom. Blacktip and catch-and-release lemon sharks up to 75 pounds are being reported.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel says Spanish mackerel are making a showing. Pier fishers using white speck rigs or Gotcha plugs are catching fish up to 20 inches to the fork. Mixed in with the macks are small jack crevalle, blue runners and ladyfish. Kilb warns that while targeting mackerel, you may have to wait for the fish to pass by the pier. The schools of baitfish have not arrived, so you have to catch the mackerel in passing.
Pier fishers using live shrimp or sand fleas are catching the occasional pompano. Although these fish haven’t arrived in strong numbers, catches are becoming more frequent. You can also use a pompano jig to stalk these tasty little fish.
Finally, Kilb says he’s seeing some mangrove snapper under the pier. Live shrimp or small live shiners will get you connected with these tasty reef fish. Try being as stealthy as you can when rigging for mangrove snapper at the pier. Some 20-pound fluorocarbon for a leader, a split-shot and a No. 4 hook should do the trick.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is beginning to heat up. He suggests looking for schools of bait to find predatory fish. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, blue runners and jack crevalle are cruising the Gulf shoreline in search of small baitfish. To get hooked up, Mattay suggests silver spoons, white jigs or Gotcha plugs.
Shark also are being caught along the area beaches. Anglers using frozen squid or shrimp are catching small blacktip and bonnethead sharks off the shore break. Those opting to use bigger baits are being rewarded with blacktip and spinner sharks up to 100 pounds. For the big fish, try fresh-cut mackerel on bonito for bait.
Finally, pompano have arrived on the beaches during the early morning. Mattay likes using a yellow pompano jig to catch these golden nuggets. If you don’t have any jigs, try scooping up some sand fleas for bait.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters reports fantastic fishing this past week. The inshore trinity of catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout and redfish has been active on the moving water, providing some drag-screaming action and some nice bags of fillets for the dinner table.
Howard found spotted seatrout schooled up during the full moon were very cooperative, feeding on shiners. “We have had no trouble getting enough slot-fish to chew and provide for some steady action and tasty fillets,” Howard says.
Spotted seatrout in all sizes, from schoolies to gator, are all over the bay in a variety of water depths. With the one-over-20-inch rule for your creel, and a gentle release by using a dehooking tool on the big ones, ensures many more spotted seatrout for the future.
Redfish have been cooperating with some big over-slot fish landed on Howard’s charters. Mike Osborn of Essex, England, hooked a 32-inch redfish after it inhaled a large shiner rigged on a 1/0 Owner circle hook under a popping cork while fishing in 3 feet of water. After taking a few photos, Osborn’s biggest ever fish was released to fight another day. Finding areas where redfish have not been over worked by other anglers has been the key to hooking the big ones.
Snook are on a tear, Howard says, feeding heavily as they slowly move out of the backwaters and toward the passes to begin their spawn. The long closure on harvesting snook has resulted in a lot more big ones on the flats. Hopefully, we can look for the FWC to open the season this fall, Howard adds.
Looking forward as the new moon approaches, Howard says the saltwater fishing scene will stay active as we experience bigger tides and fast-moving water. Look for the tarpon to invade our waters in big schools and give us an opportunity to battle the silver king.
Capt. Warren Girle is going beachside in search of migratory species. He’s finding Spanish and king mackerel are patrolling nearshore structure joined by bonito, cobia and plenty of shark. Girle is anchoring and chumming to get these fish in the mood.
Once the feeding frenzy begins behind the boat, Girle’s clients are casting live shiners into the mix.
With almost immediate action, Girle’s clients are reeling up kings up to 30 pounds and plenty of Spanish macks and bonito. Once the sharks show up, Girle is casting out chunks of cut mackerel to get the bite from blacktip, spinner and bull sharks weighing 50-100 pounds.
In the backwater, Girle is targeting redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. For each species, Girle is using free-lined live shiners. Redfish up to 31 inches and trout up to 20 inches were topping the scale for Girle this past week.
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