Anglers: Get a little structure in your life
Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is shaping up for the month, especially around structures. Just about any structure you can find is holding mangrove snapper. Whether you’re fishing bridges, piers, artificial reefs or wrecks, now is the time to catch your limit of this tasty, hard-fighting fish.
Small live shiners or shrimp are working well, although small pinfish are good when you feel it’s time to switch baits. Sometimes the snapper will get wary of the same bait being presented to them. So keep a few tricks up your sleeves.
Since we’re talking about inshore structure, we should bring up flounder. The voracious flat fish are taking up residence in the same sort of spots — under structure. Fish up to 24 inches are not uncommon, although you should expect to catch more of the 14-18 inch fish. Either way, when the flounder are biting, it’s hard to pass them up.
Another species inhabiting inshore structure is Spanish mackerel. Most structures will have macks on patrol. Pull up in a boat and throw a few chummers, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not uncommon. Remember, if you’re fishing live bait, use a long shank hook. These hooks will save you from having to tie a new rig every other bite or so.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing structure just off the beaches of Anna Maria Island with water depths ranging from 25-45 feet. By free-lining live shiners behind the boat, Girle’s clients are hooking up with limitless Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. Of course, when this bite is occurring, it is sure to alert any sharks in the vicinity. Blacktip and spinner sharks up to 60 pounds are being caught on fresh-cut chunks of either Spanish mackerel or jack crevalle.
Once the mackerel bite winds down, Girle is switching tactics and bottom fishing. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice, although small pinfish are working. Mangrove snapper in the 16-inch range are being caught along with flounder up to 18 inches.
Moving inshore, Girle is fishing shallow grass flats with an abundance of potholes in search of redfish. By casting live or fresh-cut pinfish into the holes, Girle’s clients are reeling in slot-size fish.
On deeper grass flats, Girle is catching numerous spotted seatrout on live shiners. He is either free-lining the baits or using a popping cork. Trout measuring 12-18 inches are the norm.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of southern Tampa Bay with good results on catch-and-release snook. He’s warming up his techniques for season opening on Sept. 1.
Gross is finding fish ranging 20-26 inches are the norm, although snook exceeding 30 inches are attainable. To catch these preseason linesiders, Gross is fishing one of two rigs. When fishing deeper flats, Gross is free-lining live shiners with a stretch of 20-pound fluorocarbon connected to a No. 2 mosquito hook. When targeting snook on shallow flats, Gross is using the same rig, but adding a small cork a couple of feet above the hook. Using a cork in shallow water aids in keeping the shiner out of the grass.
On the same flats, Gross also is finding redfish and spotted seatrout. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught in between snook bites. Obviously, the same to rigs are being used with live shiners for bait.
Mangrove snapper and flounder are on the menu for Gross’ clients. He’s leading his anglers to limits with live shiners on a knocker rig.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle are dominating the bite. Pier fishers using artificials, such as white crappie jigs or silver spoons, are reeling in fish as fast as they can cast their bait. Those using natural baits are rigging live shiners on a No. 2 shank hook to get in on the action. Keeper-size macks are being caught, although, he says, the big mackerel have yet to show in good numbers.
Mangrove snapper can be caught at the pier by bottom fishing around the pilings with live shrimp, shiners and pinfish. Most fish being caught are in the 8- to 12-inch range. Along with snapper, expect to hook up an occasional flounder or juvenile grouper.
Steve Leonardy at the Rod & Reel Pier says you need to arrive early to cash in on the Spanish mackerel bite. The peak of the bite is 7-9 a.m. After that, the macks are moving to other areas. Gotcha plugs or white speck rigs will get you connected. Mixed in with the morning macks are jack crevalle and ladyfish.
Fishers in search of tablefare are dropping live shiners under the pier for mangrove snapper and flounder. Keeper-sizes of both species are common, but plan on catching many shorties. Keep your ruler handy, and don’t get caught with undersized fish.
Finally, small blacktip and bonnethead sharks are being caught from the pier. Chunks of squid or shrimp are getting the bite. On light tackle, these fish are exciting to catch. Just rig with a small piece of wire leader and either a long shank or circle hook.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is finding good action on catch-and-release snook by fishing the beaches. During the past week, he caught snook more than 30 inches, as well as plenty measuring 20-24 inches on live shiners, pinfish, mullet and whiting.
Mangrove snapper are next on the list for Mattay. Most catches are 10-14 inches on inshore structure, while fish up to 18 inches are attainable.
Finally, he’s finding macks at the piers, passes and beaches, working white jigs and silver spoons.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says fishing for his clients this past week has been hot and action-packed, just like the weather. Redfish, spotted seatrout, mackerel, flounder, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release snook have been feeding with reckless abandon on live shiners, according to Howard. “The key to productive fishing is to find moving water,” he says.
Redfish have been scattered and are chewing shiners and pinfish rigged under a popping cork. Toss your bait offering tight to the mangroves on a high tide and let the current sweep your bait along the edge.
Howard predicts the redfish will start schooling and feeding heavily under the Aug. 21 full moon.
Catch-and release snook are still on the beach and near the passes, and will continue to spawn until the Sept. 1 season arrives. They also finding snook staging on the outside bars of Tampa Bay waiting for the full moon. For the bigger-sized linesiders, fish away from the well-known holes and spots as they receive a lot of pressure and the bigger fish will avoid these areas.
Looking forward, the fishing will remain strong for the full moon and the corresponding tides will provide some major currents. He says to be on your fishing spot when the current is strongest to increase your chances of landing dinner.
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