September brings morning bite, evening showers
With the heat beating down and reflecting on our local waters, it will be best to adjust your fishing times. Try fishing early mornings until about 10 a.m. to find the most active fish. As the heat increases, so does the water temp, which around noon or 1 p.m. can be 90 degrees or more on the flats. While plenty of fish like warm water, this can be extreme, even for our area.
Anglers will likely find lethargic fish during the heat of the day. You may not even find fish because they will move under the mangrove roots or into deeper water to escape broiling.
You also need to keep in mind that any fish you catch and release will need more care on the release end. With water temps in the high 80s to low 90s, the fish’s survival increases with a quick release. And make sure they are fully revived — hold them alongside the boat in the water a moment or two — before releasing them. This will aid in the survival rate.
Capt. Warren Girle is back from vacation, which is not good news for the redfish of Sarasota Bay. Now that Girle is back on the water, reds in the slot and bigger are being hooked consistently during early morning hours. Girle is using cut-baits, such as ladyfish and pinfish, and for artificials, he says you can’t go wrong with a Berkeley Gulp shrimp.
If you noticed, Girle is using a variety of baits to target his prey for his clients. The reasoning behind this is different schools contain different fish with different temperaments. Some schools of reds are spooky, which requires the stealth of a small, live shiner or a chunk bait, while other fish are motivated to eat. The hungry, motivated fish will readily hit a Gulp shrimp when presented to them.
Moving offshore, Girle is hooking up his clients with respectable-sized mangrove snapper. Using live shiners or pinfish for bait is resulting in snapper up to 20 inches on Girle’s charters. Along with snapper, Girle is putting clients on keeper red grouper, Spanish mackerel and even some cobia.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is getting good results on live bait on the flats and around artificial reefs in Tampa Bay. First thing in the morning, Gross is anchoring over the reefs to target snapper. By using a small circle hook with a 1/4-ounce lead added, Gross drops live shiners to the bottom to entice the feisty snapper. Limits of snapper are attainable. Most catches range 10-14 inches.
After his anglers put a few snapper in the box, Gross is moving to shallow grass flats adjacent to mangrove edges. Areas with good water flow are key in finding fish. Once anchored at the spot, Gross is chumming with live shiners, which is resulting in redfish, snook and trout catches. To target these species, Gross is free-lining live shiners or pinfish and using 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a small, live bait hook. Slot-sizes of reds and trout can be expected, although a little luck may be required to catch a keeper snook. Out-of-slot snook catches, ranging 22-26 inches, are common, although fish up to 33 inches are coming to the boat for Gross’ clients.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the mangrove snapper have arrived and are biting. Pier fishers using live shrimp or shiners are catching keeper-size fish, and near limits, too. Remember, during high tides the water at the pier can be extremely clear, so plan accordingly on rigging — stealth is key. Some 15-pound fluorocarbon connected to a No. 2 or 4 live bait hook should do the trick to fool the pier snapper. You may even be able to add a small split shot to your rig when the current is moving quickly.
If you’re looking for some really good light tackle action, try getting to the pier really early to plug for Spanish mackerel. Macks are showing in good numbers at the north end of the island during early morning tides. Small white jigs or silver spoons will get you connected with these bait slashers.
Finally, pier fishers targeting snook are managing to catch a few. Live pinfish are the bait of choice, although smart fishers targeting big snook are free-lining live ladyfish under the pier. Slot-size linesiders are being reported, as well as some ranging 22-26 inches.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing good numbers of mangrove snapper at the pier. Morning and evening tides are producing a good bite resulting in catches of 10-14 inches. Make the rig as light as you can get away with, as those snapper at the pier can get wise fast. Live shiners or shrimp will get the bite.
Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are swarming bait schools at the pier during early morning tides. Gotcha plugs, silver spoons or crappie jigs will entice the trio of species mentioned. A quick retrieve is necessary, especially when these fish are chasing a bait. Expect to catch macks in the 12- to 18-inch range.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is hooking up with some good numbers of shark right off the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Mattay likes to “set up shop” somewhere near Bean Point to target these large predators. Using stout gear and a little skill, Mattay is reeling in blacktips and bull sharks on a regular basis. For bait, Mattay likes to use fresh-cut Spanish mackerel, bonito and mullet. Average size of the shark catch this past week was 4-8 feet.
Mangrove snapper are plentiful in our local waters and Mattay suggests fishing areas such as piers and passes to locate a tasty dinner. “Basically anywhere you can find structure,” says Mattay, “you’re going to find snapper.”
Live shrimp, shiners and mojarras are Mattay’s baits of choice.
Finally, Spanish mackerel are showing both off the beaches and in the bays. Mattay suggests small white jigs, Gotcha plugs or silver spoons to get in on the action.
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