Island anglers find consistent weather, consistent fishing
Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains consistent with mangrove snapper, flounder and Spanish mackerel catches coming from nearshore structure in the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. You can also find any of these species around the local fishing piers and bridges, although a little more determination might be required to get your limit.
On the flats, you need to fish early morning or late evening to find success. Beat the heat and get into some catch-and-release snook along mangrove edges and grass flats, especially those close to passes or inlets. Redfish are cruising the flats during high tides and schooling close to mangrove shorelines, although you may see them in open water, too. I guess you just need to keep a watchful eye out no matter where you are on the flats. Live shiners and pinfish under a cork should get eaten by a red.
Meanwhile, shark fishing along the beaches is proving adventurous. Rumors of fish 3-8 feet are being reported. Expect to encounter blacktip, bull, sandbar and bonnethead sharks along the beaches. If you’re lucky you may even tie into a hammerhead. Chunk baits such as mackerel, bonito, jack crevalle or stingray wings will get the sharks interested.
Check the charts for what’s a keeper and what must be released among shark species.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is seeing limits of mangrove snapper being filleted on the Keyes Marina cleaning tables. Mangoes in the 1- to 2-pound range are the norm for nearshore catches. Mattay suggests hunting at nearshore reefs, rock piles, deep mangrove edges and the piers for these tasty fish.
For bait, small live shrimp or shiners will suffice. For rigging, stealth is key. While fishing the piers or mangrove edges, rig with as light as 15-pound fluorocarbon leader combined with a No. 2 mosquito hook. If you’re fishing the nearshore reefs, you may want to increase your leader to at least 30 pound, but not more than 50 pound. When fishing the reefs, you may encounter larger snapper or even grouper, which require a larger leader.
Along the beaches, Mattay is experiencing drag-screaming action on catch-and-release snook. By using live shiners, pinfish or whiting, Mattay is hooking up snook up to 36 inches. When beach fishing, Mattay is using 30-50-pound fluorocarbon for leader depending on water clarity. Lighter leader for clear water, heavier for cloudy or stained water.
Other catches along the beaches include jack crevalle, mackerel, flounder and, of course, shark. For the jacks and macks, small white jigs or silver spoons will get a bite. For flounder, live shiners or pinfish will work. If you’re into using artificials, try a Berkley Gulp shrimp on a 1/4-ounce jighead. For the shark, use jacks or mackerel. Cut them into hand-size chunks and cast the bait in the strike zone past the sandbar. For the shark, expect to catch anything from 3-foot bonnetheads all the way to 8-foot bull sharks.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working nearshore structure in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico for mangrove snapper and flounder. By using live shiners and pinfish for bait, Gross is catching limits of mangrove snapper in the 1- to 2-pound range. Flounder catches are occurring on the same baits with an average size of 15-16 inches.
Moving to the flats, Gross is targeting redfish. By working the mangrove edges, he’s managing to find schooling reds on the high tides. For rigging, Gross is using a small cork attached to a 20-pound leader with a No. 2 hook. Small live shiners and pinfish are the baits of choice.
To finish up, Gross is fishing deep grass flats for spotted seatrout. While targeting trout, Gross is also putting his clients on Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks and bluefish.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore with good results — limits of both gag grouper and mangrove snapper. For bait, Girle is using live pinfish, shiners and threadfin herring. While fishing offshore, you can expect to catch Key West grunts, red grouper and Spanish mackerel.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting redfish in Sarasota Bay, where he quietly moves along shallow grass flats at peak high tide, to hook up with schooling reds. For rigging, he’s either free-lining baits or using a popping cork to aid in casting if the reds are far from the boat. Live shiners and pinfish are Girle’s baits of choice.
Also in the bay, Girle is catching spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. For the snook, Girle suggests looking in the same areas as for redfish. For the trout, Girle is fishing deeper grass flats of 4-6 feet, and finding good numbers of fish.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says night fishing for shark is resulting in numerous catches of blacktip and sandbar sharks. Chunk baits, such as Spanish mackerel, bonito, jack crevalle or stingray wings, are resulting in catches of 5-6 feet.
If night fishing isn’t your thing, Sork suggests working the morning bite at the pier. At sunrise, Spanish mackerel are swarming on schools of hatch bait. Joining the macks are schools of ladyfish and jack crevalle. To catch any of these species, a small white crappie jig or silver spoon is the trick.
Under the pier, around the structure, pier fishers are catching flounder, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper. Live shrimp, shiners or a pinfish will get you connected with these species.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing flounder, snapper and black drum being reeled up from under the pier. Fishers using live shrimp or live shiners are getting the bite. If you’re planning on bringing fish home for dinner, make sure you’re equipped with a ruler to measure your catch. Most of the fish are just barely keepers, so you need to be measuring.
When the bait schools are abundant around the pier, Malfese says you can expect to catch Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and blue runners. The key to cashing in on this bite is right place, right time. These species are schooling fish that will quickly come in and ravage the bait schools and leave just as quickly as they arrived. Small white speck rigs or Gotcha plugs are a good way to lure the fish to your hook.
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