Cody Kongk, 8, brags about bringing home the most trout while visiting from Virginia. The family targeted fish in Sarasota Bay, taking home both redfish and trout from a charter trip with Capt. Warren Girle
September fishing, true to form for island-area anglers
Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains true to form for the third week of September. Redfish are carousing the flats from Miguel Bay to the south end of Sarasota Bay. Look for schooling fish during low tides in potholes and on the outside edges of the grass flat.
Spotted seatrout are feeding on deeper flats during incoming tides. Expect to catch bigger fish mixed in and a lot of fish ranging 12-15-inches. You may catch silver trout in the mix.
Snook are beginning to move back into the bay waters after spawning along the beaches. The numbers aren’t strong yet, but hopefully will be in a few weeks. Expect to catch fish 20-30 inches, with bigger fish being a real trophy.
Finally, mangrove snapper are inhabiting nearshore structure. If the water is clear, remember to use the lightest possible fluorocarbon leader. Snapper have a tendency to get wise after you pound on them for a while. Stealth is key if you want to keep the bite going.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore with good results on both migratory and reef species. To start, Girle is locating structure in water depths of 30-50 feet. Once the anchor is set, Girle chums with live shiners to draw predatory fish to the surface. He says kingfish and Spanish mackerel are responding to chum within 15 minutes.
Once these fish begin to feed, Girle’s clients cast free-lined baits to the fish. Although a little sporadic, the kings are ranging 20-30 inches. The same range applies for the Spanish macks, although they are more abundant than the kings.
After getting their fill of migratory fish, Girle’s clients are dropping baits to the bottom to see what they reel up. Baits, such as live shiners or pinfish are resulting in keeper-size red grouper and flounder. Girle warns that you may have to catch a fair amount of red grouper before catching a keeper, but determination can bring rewards.
Moving inshore, Girle is fishing redfish, trout and snook on the flats of Sarasota Bay and in the Intracoastal Waterway. For all three species, Girle is primarily free-lining live shiners to the fish. On some occasions, artificials are working better. Redfish are responding to Berkley Gulp shrimp and even topwater baits in the right scenarios. The same applies for the spotted seatrout. As for the snook, he says, you can’t beat a lively shiner.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is watching anglers reel up mangrove snapper on the morning outgoing tides. “The guys that know what they’re doing are limiting out in no time,” says Malfese. For baits, small hatch bait-sized shiners or small live shrimp are working. Expect to catch snapper 10-14 inches.
Spanish mackerel are making a strong presence this week at the pier. Most are only 12 inches to the fork, but the sheer numbers of fish are providing good action for even a novice angler. Speck rigs in either all white or pink are a good option, although you can’t go wrong with a No. 00 dark spoon.
Finally, snook fishing is heating up around the pier. Good numbers of keeper-size fish are being spotted, but most fish on the hook are undersized. For baits, shiners, pinfish or select shrimp are working. If you’re looking for trophy-sized fish, try increasing the size of the bait. Ladyfish, alive or cut in chunks can result in a prize for dinner.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are the mainstay. Early morning pier fishers are having no trouble catching their limit of 15 fish. Clark spoons, speck rigs and Gotcha plugs are good choices for artificials. If you plan on live baiting, tie on a long shank hook and bait up with a live shiners. Average size of the macks is 12-14 inches to the fork.
Mangrove snapper are hanging put at the pier, where fishers in the know are limiting out on the tasty fish, and with no trouble at all. Small live shiners or shrimp are working great. If the bite slows down, try using a small pinfish of mojarra to get the snapper back in the mood.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is taking advantage of the off season to do a little fishing on his own. During the slow times you would think of staying out of the office, but not Gross. Then again, his office is Fishy Business. I don’t blame him for heading out on the water.
This week Gross suggests fishing outside edges of the flats and around sandy potholes. Gross is either slow-drifting or anchoring in these areas, depending on the concentration of fish. By using a Cotee jig head with a root beer and gold fleck grub tail, Gross is catching a variety of species, including flounder, redfish and spotted seatrout. He also suggests using topwater plugs, which are one of his favorite lures, but only when fishing low light conditions.
While baiting live shiners, Gross is getting good results on mangrove snapper. Again, Gross is fishing outside edges and, in some instances, artificial reefs and small rock piles. Limits of mangrove snapper are attainable with most fish ranging 12-14 inches.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good numbers of mackerel coming from the local piers on the north end. Pier fishers targeting macks are stocking up on white jigs, Clark spoons and Gotcha plugs. The mack catch being this past week was in the 12- to 20-inch range.
Flats fishers are reporting good numbers of redfish beginning to show from Miguel Bay all the way to Siesta Key. Most fishers are using natural baits, such as live shiners or pinfish. Those using artificials are hooking up on Berkley Gulp shrimp or the old standby — the gold spoon.
Finally, shark fishing from the local beaches is proving prosperous. Beach fishers using fresh-cut mackerel or mullet are connecting with numerous sharks, mostly blacktips in the 4-5 feet. Expect to also catch bonnethead and sharp nose sharks on small baits.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters in encountering exciting fishing action in our area waters. He’s finding huge schools of bait invading our inshore waters, supercharging the inshore bite with the redfish, spotted trout, mangrove snapper and snook taking center stage.
Howard says the redfish are feeding heavily on shiners and pinfish. “We start fishing on the outside bars at low tide and follow the water current and predators up into the bushes. This can provide for some extended rallies and plenty of fillets for the dinner table,” says Howard.
Mangrove snapper are abundant and chewing heavily around the Anna Maria area. From the docks of the Intracoastal Waterway to the artificial reefs inside Tampa Bay, Howard suggests finding structure to find these fine-tasting fillets. Live shrimp, shiners, and pinfish rigged on a No. 2 hook with 20-pound fluorocarbon leader will trick these sharp-eyed predators to come to the party.
Looking forward, with the full moon on Sept 19, the tides and current will pick up and the fishing action will shift to overdrive. Howard says the big swing in tides and fast moving current flow will factor in a golden opportunity to have some of the best fishing of the year.
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