Summer flounder, summer not — they’re snapper
Now is the time to target flounder and mangrove snapper in the nearshore waters. That’s right, the summer bite for both fish is in full swing.
On a recent charter, my clients were lucky enough to land 14 flounder with six being 20 inches or bigger. Live shiners or pinfish on a knocker rig is working to hook up, although you can also place your sinker above a swivel and tie a leader to your hook. Both rigs work.
To target these tasty flat fish, look for structure in both Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico. The artificial reefs, just west of Anna Maria Island are a great place to begin your hunt.
After catching flounder, you can target mangrove snapper. It may seem a little redundant since you’re going to use the same rig as for flounder, same bait and fish in the same locations, but mangoes are infiltrating all nearshore and offshore structure. Remember, light leaders and small hooks will be your friend, especially when targeting the snapper.
That about sums up what’s been filling my cooler for a week or so. Spanish mackerel also can be found throughout the bay, just look for diving birds and go fish.
Rumors of schooling redfish in Sarasota Bay have been mentioned, although I’ve yet to see any concrete evidence. Redfish catches are occurring but the fish are spread out. That isn’t a bad thing, it just requires a little more determination on the angler’s part.
Spotted seatrout are being found over deeper grass flats of 5-7 feet. Most are in the 12- to 14-inch range, although bigger fish are not uncommon.
Finally, catch-and-release snook are being caught along the Gulf beaches as well as on the flats. Live shiners are the bait of choice and will remain so. If you’re in search of big snook, try big baits like ladyfish or pinfish at night in the passes or around the bridges.
Until next week, enjoy feasting on summer flounder and mangrove snapper. Beer-battered and dipped in chipotle-spiked tartar sauce is a tasty bet — along with a cold beer.
Capt. Warren Girle is beginning his fishing at depths of 50 feet and working his way out in the Gulf of Mexico from there. Keeper-size gag and red grouper are being reeled up by fishers baiting live shiners or pinfish. You can also expect to catch mangrove snapper on the same baits. Sizes on the mangoes are averaging 16 inches, although fish exceeding 18 inches are not uncommon.
Moving inshore, Girle is fishing sandy potholes spread out through the grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Using a knocker rig baited with a fresh-cut half of a pinfish, Girle is reeling in slot-size redfish. The occasional snook also is interested in cut-bait, which is resulting in fish up to 30 inches.
Girle is finding spotted seatrout inhabiting the deeper flats of Sarasota Bay. To target these fish, he’s free-lining small live shiners over the flats. Expect to weed through a lot of undersized fish before catching keepers, but persistence pays off.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says fishing this past week produced a mixed bag for the dinner table, as well as some exciting, tackle-busting action.
With the heat of the summer upon us, Howard has changed his game plan. He says the water temperatures on the flats have forced the fish out of the skinny water and into deeper water haunts. Spotted seatrout are feeding in 3-8 feet of water and will chew a variety of baits. Howard likes to fish the deep grass areas of Tampa Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Howard suggests locating the schools of slot fish and you should have no trouble hitting your limit.
He predicts redfish will start forming into big schools and feed aggressively on the moving current. “I have been finding reds on the fastest part of the moving tide. Using pinfish for bait has produced some nice slot-sized fish,” Howard says.
He’s also finding sharks are thick in the bay right now. They’re varying in sizes from 3-5 foot blacktips to 8-10 foot bull sharks. Howard says to fish around Egmont Key or the Sunshine Skyway Bridge with a big chunk of oily fish, put out a chum block and the bulls should be feeding in no time.
“Upsize your tackle as some have been in the 300-pound range and have made short work of my tarpon poles,” he says. “Breaking out the broom sticks and the 275-pound cable will do the trick.”
Looking forward, the bait hatch we had in June is finally starting to show some size. Look for the shiner situation to only improve as summer progresses.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are showing, along with large schools of baitfish at the pier. Along with mackerel, expect to see schools of jack crevalle, ladyfish and blue runners. Small white crappie jigs or Clark spoons will be sufficient for those using artificials. For the live bait anglers, hatch bait, is the ticket.
Once you tire of the mack bite, you can always try targeting flounder and mangrove snapper. Again, the small hatch bait is perfect for either species. Most snapper and flounder, as of yet, are barely legal-sized, although patience and a little luck may get you the big one.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is targeting catch-and-release snook along the beaches of Anna Maria Island. For bait, Mattay is working on variety, including live shiners, pinfish, whiting and even small ladyfish. If you choose to target beach snook, Mattay suggests fishing either early morning or late evening. If you notice, both of these times are best because the beaches are less crowded. “It’s kinda hard to target snook when you have swimmers among the fish,” says Mattay.
Moving offshore, Mattay is hearing numerous reports of gag grouper and mangrove snapper action. With water temps heating up, Mattay suggests fishing deeper water as opposed to nearshore structure. To target these species, hook up shiners, pinfish or big shrimp. For frozen bait, squid, threadies or sardines will get the job done.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says Spanish mackerel fishing may be on the upward swing. Large schools of hatch bait are frequenting the pier, which in turn draws in predators, such as Spanish mackerel.
Early morning is the best bite right now. Malfese says to try using speck rigs in white or hot pink or Gotcha plugs to plug for these high-activity, toothy fish. For live bait, you can’t beat that hatch bait that the macks are feeding on at the pier.
Mangrove snapper come in at a close second this past week at the pier. Pier fishers using live shrimp are pulling up good numbers from the shade under the pier, although most are barely keeper-size.
Black drum and flounder are being caught, although the numbers are sporadic at best. For either of these species, a live shrimp or small live pinfish should get you connected.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is reeling up fish-fry potential this past week. By fishing shallow-water rock piles, reefs and hard bottom in Tampa Bay, Gross is providing his clients with rod-bending action on mangrove snapper and flounder.
For both species, Gross is bottom fishing with either live shiners or small pinfish. Size ranges on the snapper are anywhere from 12-15 inches with a few bigger fish in the mix, As for the flounder, expect to catch fish in the 15- to 20-inch range.
After putting some meat in the box, Gross is moving to shallow flats in search of spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook. With water temps in the upper 80s, fishing the flats can be challenging. Even so, Gross is still managing to get a rally. For the reds, expect to catch slot-size fish under a small cork baited with a live shiner. As for the snook, most are in the 20- to 24-inch range. Free-lined baits or baits under a cork are producing. Spotted seatrout are responding to baits under a cork, although the bite is a little sporadic.
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