Robert Sexton of Anna Maria and Orlando works to hold onto his tarpon catch while on a charter trip May 6 with Capt. Warren Girle. The silver king was hooked up near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and quickly released.
All fishing, all the time — plus tarpon show in Tampa Bay
Fishing around our little island is really getting serious. Trying to figure out what to target can be the hardest part of your day on the water? Take your pick.
With water temps falling into a normal pattern of mid- to upper-70s and calm winds, fishing conditions are about as good as they get. There’s even been a light, cool breeze lately. Enjoy that while it lasts.
On the flats of Anna Maria Sound and the surrounding waters, expect to find redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook staging up to blast that shiner you just cast into a pothole.
For the reds, check around oyster bars or rising tides. As the tide gets higher, these fish will be on the bar looking for crabs and small bait fish.
For good action on catch-and-release snook, try fishing in and around the passes. Live shiners will get you hooked up with a linesider.
And for spotted seatrout, shallow grass flats at sun up offer a great opportunity to catch a gator trout on a topwater plug.
On nearshore structure, migratory species like Spanish and king mackerel are patrolling bait schools. Along with kings and macks, expect to hook into bonito, blue runners and big jack crevalle. Multiple species of shark are cruising nearshore structure, offering some exciting action. Bull, blacktip, spinner and lemon sharks are following the mackerel schools in search of a bite to eat. You may even have sharks eating the fish on your hook while you’re reeling them.
Finally, expect to see tarpon numbers rise in the weeks to come. Small numbers of fish are being sighted, although the masses have not yet arrived. Now is a good time to get out your tarpon gear and make sure its in working order.
Kudos to Capt. Warren Girle for producing the first-of-the-season tarpon photo this week.
Capt. Warren Girle is working both near and offshore, finding sizzling action on kingfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, bonito and shark. For everything but the sharks, Girle is using live shiners or threadfin herring free-lined behind the boat. Sharks are hitting the shiners and threadies, but to catch a big fish, Girle casts out a fresh-cut chunk of mackerel or bonito. Expect to encounter blacktip, spinner, lemon and bull sharks.
Also on nearshore structure, Girle is sighting and hooking into the occasional cobia. For these brown bombers, Girle likes to pitch either a live shiner or pinfish right in front of the fish’s nose. After that, it’s usually game on. Or fish on. Fish up to 38 inches are being caught.
In the backcountry of Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook very accommodating. Girle is sight-casting with good results. The rest are in sandy potholes on the flats. When fishing the holes, Girle is anchoring and chumming to get the fish in that happy place. Then he casts live shiners into the mix for a hookup.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says he’s seeing good action on migratory fish, such as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, blue runners and jack crevalle. Pier fishers using live shiners or threadfin herring are catching decent numbers in the early morning, when silver spoons, white jigs or Gotcha plugs can produce a fairly consistent bite.
Sork also notes that numerous sharks are being caught during the evenings and overnight at the pier. Pier fishers using cut-bait, such as Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle or mullet, are catching sharks in the 3- to 7-foot range. Expect to encounter bonnethead, blacktip, lemon and sand sharks.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species caught daily. Bait fish are just beginning to show up, the migratory species such as Spanish mackerel, blue runners, jack crevalle, ladyfish and shark, are cashing in. All of these fish have sharp teeth, so plan accordingly for your rigging.
For all but the sharks, a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader will suffice. The alternative is a small wire leader, although these fish can see the leader and tend not to bite. The best scenario is to stock up on small white jigs or silver spoons and expect to lose a few when these predators are really biting.
If you’re rigging for shark, a 3-foot section of 120-pound hardwire tied to about 5 feet of 60- or 80-pound mono will do the trick. Combine that with a 6/0 quality circle hook and you’re in business.
Pompano also are making a showing at the R&R. Pompano jigs such as cannonball heads and Doc’s Goofy jigs are being gobbled up by pomps up to 20 inches in length. Live sand fleas on the hook are a good option to catch a tasty dinner.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle agrees, there’s good action occurring at both fishing piers on the north end. He’s working the pier and finding good numbers of catch-and-release snook on live shiners or pinfish. Slot-size snook and bigger are hooking up in the evening hours during outgoing tides.
Mattay also is having good results on Spanish mackerel, bluefish and big barracuda. For the macks and blues, he’s using whitebait or small white jigs. For the ’cuda, he’s using macks and blues. Last, but not least, Mattay is fishing pompano jigs from the piers with success on both pompano and permit.
On the beaches, Mattay suggests fishing for shark, while blacktip, lemon and bonnethead and bull sharks are prowling the shallows in search of a tasty morsel. For bait, Mattay likes fresh-cut bonito, mackerel or mullet.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the backcountry of southern Tampa Bay with good results. The main trio of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are responding to free-lined white bait with a purpose. Explosive strikes and drag-screaming action are occurring in water depths of 2-3 feet. Gross is fishing sandy potholes or grass flats next to mangrove edges to find his prey. Top size for the catch-and-release snook this past week was 34 inches with a lot of slot-size fish hooked up, too. For the reds, 33 inches is the “bull” of the week.
On deeper grass beds, Gross is fishing action on Spanish mackerel, big bluefish and flounder. White bait is the bait of choice here. Gross likes to chum up the macks first and then cast a free-lined bait into the mix. Expect to catch mackerel in the 24-inch range.
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