Tarpon fishing heats up before tropical storm
Before our brush with Tropical Storm Andrea, the tarpon bite was beginning to heat up. Fish were spotted in the passes, along the beaches and at Egmont Key. Successful live bait offerings include pinfish, blue crabs, pass crabs, shiners and threadfin herring. Reports of fish 50-100 pounds were average.
Along the shorelines of Anna Maria Island, you should start spotting spawning snook cruising through the trough. A free-lined live shiner sight-casted from the beach or boat to the fish is a sure fire way to get your blood pumping. You can also use artificials like the MirrOlure MirrOdine or the Yozuri Crystal Minnow to get hooked up on the big catch-and-release fish.
Finally, spotted seatrout are responding to live and artificial baits. The grass flats on Anna Maria Sound are holding good numbers of fish in the range 12-20 pounds. For live bait, you can’t beat a shiner. For artificials, try a soft plastic such as a DOA Cal jig combined with a jighead to get a bite.
Finally, the highlight of this week’s fishing was a 50-pound sailfish caught by Bill Palmer on a live shiner while on a charter with Capt. Warren Girle. Girle spotted the fish while reeling in a bait. Once the fish was spotted, Girle instructed Palmer to stop reeling and the fish inhaled the bait, which started a 30-minute battle, to boat the fish, which was photographed and released.
Girle also is fishing for tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island with good results. Using pass crabs or small blue crabs, Girle is managing to find the fish and to get a bite. Girle likes a rig consisting of 60-pound fluorocarbon leader connected to a 5/0 Gamakatsu hook with a uni-knot to target these large silver fish. On the reel, Girle is spooling up with 50-pound braid, which aids in casting ability and in total capacity on the spool. Average size of silver kings this past week was 100 pounds.
Moving offshore, Girle is catching a variety of species around ledges and hard bottom. Keeper-sizes of both red and gag grouper are being reeled up from the depths while using live shiners for bait. Mangrove snapper up to 18 inches also are being caught on shiners, as well as a 20-pound kingfish.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel being caught on both morning and afternoon tides. With an abundance of bait, the macks are not just passing by like previous weeks. Now, upon arrival, macks in targetable numbers, are slashing through baits. Small white jigs lead the pack, but silver spoons and Gotcha plugs will get you hooked up, too. Expect to catch ladyfish and jack crevalle in the mix.
Pier fishers arriving for a nighttime hookup are being rewarded with blacktip sharks ranging 4-5 pounds. Hand-sized chunks of oily fish like bonito, jack crevalle or mackerel are getting the bite.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishers there are catching a variety of fish on live baits, including shrimp and shiners. Mangrove snapper, black drum and redfish are being reeled up from under the pier in addition to catch-and-release snook. Pier fishers casting live shiners away from the pier are hooking up with Spanish mackerel.
Artificials like small white jigs or Gotcha plugs are resulting in Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. For the jigs, pier fishers at the R&R like white speck rigs or crappie jigs.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle spent the past week beach and pier fishing with good results. Catch-and-release snook fishing is in the early stages on both the beaches and piers. For pier fishing, Mattay is using stout gear to manhandle big fish out from under the pilings. For the beaches, Mattay likes to scale down to medium-weight tackle. Catch-and-release snook up to 40 inches are being caught on live shiners, threadfin herring or pinfish.
Other catches at the piers for Mattay include mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and pompano. For the snapper, Mattay likes using a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a size-1 live bait hook. Adding a live shiner or shrimp and casting under the pier is resulting in snapper up to 14 inches. For the Spanish macks and pompano, Mattay is throwing small white jigs.
Shark fishing along the beaches is beginning to heat up, according to Mattay. On a recent trip along the beaches, Mattay managed to hook and land a 100-pound bull shark along with numerous blacktip sharks weighing 60 pounds. For bait, Mattay likes any oily fish such as mackerel, bonito or jack crevalle.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout and redfish in southern Tampa Bay. By free-lining live shiners, Gross is putting his clients on keeper-sizes of all three species. For the catch-and-release snook, some are even exceeding the slot of 28-33 inches. On the beaches and passes, Gross is targeting tarpon. By using live threadfin herring, large shiners or small crabs, Gross is finding success with the silver king. Average size of the fish this past week was 80-100 pounds.
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