Inshore, offshore take your pick for nonstop fishing action
Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains prosperous for inshore and nearshore fishers. On the beaches, migratory fish are cruising the shallow trough in search of bait schools.
Sharks are following close behind the migratory fish, which is making it possible to catch respectable sizes from the shoreline.
On the flats, catch-and-release snook are out in full force. Try around mangrove islands, passes and bridges to locate fish.
Also, on nearshore structure, Spanish mackerel, bonito and kingfish are patrolling for baitfish. Try casting free-lined shiners behind the boat to get a bite.
Tarpon are in the early stages of their season. Fish are being caught around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key. Although the real numbers of fish have not yet arrived, there are still targetable numbers in the area.
Capt. Warren Girle is in the backcountry of Sarasota Bay fishing for redfish and spotted seatrout. For the reds, Girle is fishing shallow grass flats with good tidal flow and clear water. By anchoring and chumming with live shiners, he’s consistently hooking up upper-slot reds with some over-slot fish in the mix. For the trout, Girle is fishing slightly deeper flats. By using either live shiners or artificials, such as soft plastics on a jighead, Girle’s clients are catching spotted seatrout in the 16-20 inch range.
Moving to nearshore structure, Girle is finding a variety of migratory species. After anchoring over structure, he is chumming with live shiners to bring kingfish, mackerel and bonito to the surface to feed. Once the fish are feeding, Girle instructs his clients to cast out a free-lined shiner. Kingfish in the 15-pound range are the norm, as well as Spanish mackerel up to 22 inches.
Sharks also are being caught on Girle’s charters. Blacktip, bull and lemon sharks are responding to chunks of Spanish mackerel free-lined behind the boat. Expect to catch shark up to 175 pounds using this method.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are dominating the bite. Pier fishers using Clark spoons behind a popping cork are hooking up with fish. Small white speck rigs are producing as well.
Fishing the pier at night is proving prosperous for those targeting shark. Most fishers are using chunks of fresh-cut Spanish mackerel, bonito or mullet to get a bite.
Expect to encounter blacktip, lemon and bull sharks. Remember, a reel that holds a lot of line is advantageous when targeting big sharks at the pier. Once hooked up, a big shark can easily peel off a couple hundred yards of line before you can turn it.
Pier fishers at night are hooking into some respectable catch-and-release snook. A hand-sized live pinfish soaked under the pier will get you connected. Just remember to return these big breeder fish back to the water as quickly and gently as possible.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel pier says fish are cooperating, but you have to be there at the right time. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and pompano are being caught, but the bite is sporadic at best. Due to a minimal amount of baitfish around the pier, most of the migratory fish are cruising by the pier and then moving on in search of more bait. For the macks and ladyfish, Gotcha plugs or small white jigs are the lures of choice. For the pompano, live sand fleas or shrimp will get the job done.
Pier fishers using live shiners for bait are catching a few sheepshead, black drum and flounder. Casting baits under the deck or around the pilings of the pier will get your bait in front of these tasty fish.
Finally, small shark are frequenting the waters around the R&R. By using shrimp or frozen squid, pier fishers are catching small bonnethead, Atlantic sharpnose and lemon sharks. For larger species, such as blacktip and bull sharks, try using a whole Spanish mackerel or a chunk of fresh-cut bonito.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is still going strong. Beach fishers using artificials such as Gotcha plugs and small white jigs are catching a variety of fish by casting from the shoreline. Jack crevalle, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and even a few pompano catches are being reported.
For those interested in catching shark, the beaches are a good destination to get started. Mattay suggests first catching a jack crevalle or other oily fish and then cutting the fish in chunks to use for bait. By rigging a shark leader and casting out a chunk of bait, beach fishers are finding good action on blacktip and lemon sharks.
On the flats, Mattay is hearing of great catch-and-release action on snook. Live shiners are like snook candy to the linesiders, although reports of fish being caught on topwater plugs are coming in, too. Mattay suggests fishing strong moving tides around mangrove islands to find the bite.
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