A little floundering never hurt anyone
Flounder are the highlight catch this week, and rock piles or reefs you come across in the area are holding these tasty flat fish. Simply anchor up around the structure of your choice and fish the sandy areas around that structure.
Try live shiners, pinfish or grunts as an offering for bait. For rigging, I like to use a fish-finder rig, which consists of an egg sinker, swivel, 18 inches of fluorocarbon leader and a circle hook. On my recent charters, clients were reeling up flounder exceeding 22 inches in length, which is no joke for anyone who knows anything about flounder in our area.
To prepare these fish, I like to cut the fillets into nuggets, add salt and pepper, drop the nuggets in some egg wash and, finally, some panko bread crumbs. Set your pan on medium flame with a generous amount of oil and cook the nuggets on both sides until golden brown. Once cooled a little, tartar sauce and lemon will complete your flounder fish fry — and, of course, a cold beer.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the backcountry waters of Sarasota Bay with good results on redfish and catch-and-release snook. Shallow-water flats are producing a good bite for reds and big trout. For bait, Girle is using live shiners either free-lined or under a cork. To find the snook, Girle is working the mangrove edges adjacent to grass flats with sandy potholes. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice.
Moving offshore, Girle is putting clients on keeper-size gag grouper and mangrove snapper in water depths ranging from 40-60 feet. Fresh-cut shiners are the bait of choice and are resulting in gags up to 20 inches, as well as 18-inch mangrove snapper. Expect to catch doormat flounder in the same areas.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel being caught during high tides. Small white crappie jigs or Clark spoons are getting the bite. Most macks being caught are just at the keeper-size of 12 inches to the fork, so make sure you measure your fish.
Mangrove snapper are making a showing at the pier. Try using the small hatch bait around the pier to entice these tasty little snapper to bite. A light fluorocarbon leader and a small live bait hook are necessary if you plan to catch enough snapper for dinner.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says bottom fishing has been productive at the pier. Pier fishers dropping live shrimp under and around the pier are hooking up with black drum, flounder and mangrove snapper with good results. Remember to use a light fluorocarbon leader, especially when targeting snapper. Just add a small live bait hook and a split shot and you’re ready to fish.
Other catches at the pier include catch-and-release snook and Spanish mackerel. For the snook, try dropping a hand-sized pinfish or a large live shiner under the pier deck to get a bite. Stout gear is recommended when targeting these snook, both due to their size and you may catch a 20-inch fish or you may catch one exceeding 40 inches.
Finally, just before giving his fishing report, Malfese was assisting a pier fisher in landing an 8-foot nurse shark. They were able to successfully land the shark in the shallows by the foot of the pier, revive it and release it.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is fishing offshore with good results. On a recent expedition with Capt. Mac Gregory and fellow IDT worker Johnny Mattay, Keyes managed to reel up a variety of reef species.
By using shiners, pinfish and sardines for bait, Keyes is reeling up keeper gag grouper, as well as red grouper. Capt. Gregory is anchoring over reefs and ledges to locate the fish and them dropping down live bait offerings to hook up.
Along with grouper, the boys are catching 20-pound kingfish, as well as respectable-sized mangrove snapper. Again, the bites are occurring on live shiners and sardines.
To add a variety, Mattay was able to hook up with a 10-foot tiger shark, which got everyone on the boat excited. After three times getting the fish to the boat, they were finally able to cut the line and release the fish.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is fishing offshore for mangrove snapper and gag grouper. His clients are bottom fishing with live shiners to get these tasty fish to bite. In the same areas, Gross is helping his clients hook up flounder, scamp and plenty of Key West grunts.
Moving inshore, Gross is targeting redfish on the shallow flats of southern Tampa Bay. To hone in on these wary fish, Gross is baiting small pinfish under a popping cork, and catching keeper-size catch-and-release snook in these same areas.
Spotted seatrout are on the agenda for Gross. By moving to slightly deeper grass flats with good water flow, Gross is putting anglers on slot and over-slot fish on live shiners.
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