Rain, rain go away — I really want to fish today
Well, we are back in our summertime patterns of extreme heat throughout the day combined with a reprieve of afternoon-evening showers. With temps in the 90s in the day and 70s at night, it’s advantageous to fish early or late.
You also want to come prepared with foul-weather gear, especially if fishing the afternoon or evening tides. If you have a smartphone, it’s a wise idea to occasionally check the weather radar for approaching storms. Holding a 7 1/2-foot piece of graphite in the air during a lightning storm can increase the odds of getting zapped. I think I’d prefer a big snook on the end of my line to a lightning bolt.
Keeper gag grouper are being reported on nearshore structure and out on the offshore reefs, wrecks and ledges. Shiners, pinfish or grunts are producing a bite if you’re using live bite. For frozen, try threadfin herring or Spanish sardines.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure with good results on mangrove snapper and Key West grunts. For bait, Girle is using whole live shiners or fresh-cut pieces of shiners. Snapper up to 16 inches are attainable, although you may have to weed through the small ones.
On the flats, Girle is hooking catch-and-release snook, reds and spotted seatrout on live shiners. He is finding schooling reds on shallow flats in the bays and along mangrove edges. To target these fish, Girle is anchoring and chumming with live shiners.
For the catch-and-release snook, Girle is fishing mangrove edges during strong outgoing tides to get a bite. Live shiners are like snook candy and Girle is taking advantage of their sweet tooth. By chumming, he gets his target in the mood and then offers them another bite on a hook.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria is seeing mangrove snapper caught on live shrimp and small shiners. Kilb suggests casting your bait under the pier deck. While targeting snapper, expect to catch black drum, flounder and an occasional redfish.
Spanish mackerel are showing at the pier. Small white speck rigs or Gotcha plugs are producing the bite. Remember, the early bird catches the mack. Try to get to the pier before sunrise. These fish are showing for maybe 30-45 minutes before they move into the bay. You have a small window of opportunity, but it can be an enjoyable 45 minutes.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing fishers reeling up Spanish macks. Again, early morning is the time. Crappie jigs, speck rigs and small Clark spoons are being ravaged by hungry little mackerel, blue runners and jack crevalle.
Fishers casting under the pier are catching mangrove snapper and the occasional flounder. Both species are barely keeper-size, although bigger fish are down there. Just be patient.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach fishing is where it’s at this week. For starters, Mattay is targeting catch-and-release snook with live baits and artificials. For live bait, Mattay likes to use shiners, pinfish and even small whiting and ladyfish to get these big snook to bite. Once Mattay has an ample amount of bait in his bucket, he patiently waits on the beach until he spots a big snook cruising through the trough. Once he spots a worthy fish, Mattay baits up and sight-casts to the fish. Not only is this method effective, but it also gives you an opportunity to watch as the fish eats the bait, which adds another aspect of excitement to the hunt. After hooking a monster snook, Mattay battles it to submission before wading into the water to gently release it to fight another day. Mattay can’t stress enough how important it is to take extra care in reviving these beautiful fish. When you’re in knee-deep water holding one of these fish and dehooking, it and you look into that big eye looking up and, studying you, you’ll know why such care needs to be taken.
Mattay also is targeting bull, blacktip, lemon, spinner and hammerhead sharks cruising close to shore.
To start, Mattay likes to catch Spanish mackerel, bonito or ladyfish for bait. He also likes to use Southern stingray wings when available. The size of the bait determines Mattay’s rigging. When targeting small sharks, Mattay uses small chunks of Spanish mackerel or ladyfish combined with 80-100 pound wire leader. When using bigger baits, such as bonito or stingray, Mattay will go as high as 275-pound cable to hold up to the bite of a shark exceeding 8 feet in length.
On a recent sharking expedition, Mattay hooked a shark that chewed right through his 275-pound cable. He was using a stingray wing for bait, and was not able to turn the shark before it chewed through the cable like it was a piece of thread. Both Mattay and I believe it had to have been an extra-large great hammerhead, and we’ve heard of sightings of fish exceeding 15 feet.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working the flats from Terra Ceia Bay all the way to Sarasota Bay depending on where the bite is most productive. Using free-lined live shiners for bait, Gross’s clients are catching respectable sizes and numbers of both spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook.
Gross is finding redfish on the flats. Although the fish are still spread out, Gross is managing to put a few keepers in the box. Again, he’s using live shiners for bait to hook up the reds.
Finally, when the seas are calm, Gross is migrating to nearshore structure in search of gag grouper and keeper-size fish are being brought to the cleaning table. For bait, Gross likes to use live shiners, pinfish or grunts.
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