Stephen Thomas of Anna Maria, a student at University of Central Florida in Orlando, shows off a pair of 15-pound gag groupers he speared while diving in the Gulf of Mexico off the north end of Anna Maria two weeks ago. Islander Photo: Richard “Dad” Thomas
Roger Danziger hoists a 30-pound cobia he caught on a live cigar minnow while fishing west of Bean Point in 130 feet of water.
The Cramblit and Comegy families of Iowa hooked up with charter fishing Capt. Warren Girle while on vacation in the Anna Maria Island area to bring home their share of redfish. The fish were caught using shiners and pinfish for bait.
Patience and determination pay off for area anglers
Fishing around Anna Maria Island and nearby may require a little patience and some adaptability. Being on an opposite weather pattern of what we are accustomed to this time of year can make fishing both challenging and rewarding, once you get the bite.
With weather and waters varying from calm and sunny one day to windy and choppy the next, getting into a good fishing pattern is hard work. Don’t get frustrated, just be prepared to adapt to what’s happening.
Reef fishing on calm days has been producing mangrove snapper, flounder and gag grouper. All three species are responding to hatch bait and small pinfish. The flounder, from what I can tell, are especially fond of the pinfish. While on the reefs, try chumming for Spanish mackerel. Some days they’re around and some days they’re not. When they are, a No. 4 longshank hook with a small shiner will start your rod bending.
On the flats, redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook are lurking in water depths of 3-5 feet. Try using a popping cork, or a reasonable facsimile, when using hatch bait. This aids in casting small baits as well as indicating a strike. Remember, when using corks, be patient, and let the fish eat the bait before you try to set the hook.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay during morning incoming tides in search of redfish and spotted seatrout. By using hatch bait under a popping cork, Girle is managing to put his clients on daily limits of redfish, as well as a handful of keeper-size trout. Catch-and-release snook are responding to hatch bait, which is resulting in linesider catches up to 31 inches. To target any of these species, Girle is fishing in 3 to 5 feet of water and, by finding sandy potholes on the vast flats of Sarasota Bay, his clients are zoning in on the bite.
Moving offshore, Girle is targeting keeper-size mangrove snapper and gag grouper. Shiners and pinfish are the bait of choice. Girle is finding these fish in water 40 feet and deeper. While targeting gags and mangoes, expect to catch some red grouper and a stray hogfish now and again.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are responding to small white jigs and spoons during the sunrise tides. Pier fishers using hatch bait also are getting in on the bite. While targeting macks at the pier, expect to catch jack crevalle, ladyfish and blue runners.
Once the mackerel bite calms down, switch tactics and fish under the deck to target mangrove snapper, flounder and juvenile red and gag grouper. Add a little weight to your rig with either a split shot or small egg sinker to keep it on the bottom around the structure. Keeper-size snapper and flounder are being caught, although make sure you’re carrying a ruler, as most of the fish being caught are just at legal size.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing this past week took a little determination and patience. Mangrove snapper were dominating the bite, and keeper-size fish were being caught on small shiners. While targeting snapper, you may hook into the occasional flounder. Spanish mackerel also are being caught around the northernmost pier, primarily during the early hours of sunrise. Small white jigs or hatch bait will get you connected.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says the main catch this week is mangrove snapper and flounder. Most of the snapper are being caught on live shrimp, while most of the flounder are being caught on shiners.
Spanish mackerel are being caught around nearshore structure, as well as the local piers. Small white jigs or Gotcha plugs are getting the bite.
Finally, on the flats of Anna Maria Sound, you can expect to encounter the usual trio of spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook. Most of these catches are occurring on hatch bait, although small pinfish also are good to get things going.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the backcountry of southern Tampa Bay and its adjacent waters for redfish and spotted seatrout. By baiting small live shiners, Gross is putting his clients on spotted seatrout up to 28 inches, as well as some slot-size reds. While targeting reds and trout with popping corks, Gross is also bringing a few catch-and-release snook in the 22-26 inch range to the mix.
Girle is finding mangrove snapper and flounder are cooperating on the hatch bait. To find these tasty fish, Gross is working along small rock piles in Tampa Bay. A size-2 circle hook combined with a split shot is the rig of choice. Both species are ranging 12-14 inches in length.
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