Fishing – 11-13-2013

Settling into fall fishing, migratory species don’t disappoint


As we settle into fall, the waters around Anna Maria Island can be a host to a variety of migratory fish. The favorite of these is probably pompano, although Spanish mackerel, bonito, kingfish and shark are becoming readily available.

To target pompano, try fishing the beaches with a Doc’s Goofy jig or some sort of Cannon Ball-style jig. If you prefer live bait, sand fleas or shrimp will get you connected. For the macks and bonito, silver spoons are deadly — just cast to feeding fish and retrieve your spoon quickly for a hook up.

On the flats, redfish are still schooling, although this will diminish as water temps drop. If you can’t find the schools, try dock fishing with live shiners, pinfish or shrimp, but don’t be ashamed to cast a small chunk of mullet or ladyfish under the dock. Redfish will definitely respond to dead bait in the right conditions.

On another note, the gill net ban controversy is ongoing. As of late Wednesday, Nov. 7, an appeals court had decided to allow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to continue enforcing the net ban as the case continues through the court system.

You can visit FWC’s website at for more information.

Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing the usual suspects coming to the pier. Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle are being caught on small crappie jigs or silver spoons. Generally, if there’s a good showing of bait around the pier, you can expect to catch macks and jacks. If there’s no bait, you’re better off using live shrimp under the pier for flounder and snapper. There also are a few keeper-size grouper under the pier, so be ready.

Other catches at the pier include ladyfish, lizardfish and a few sand sharks. For the sharks, try casting out a chunk of fresh-cut bonito or Spanish mackerel. Make sure to use stout tackle as you never know what size shark will chomp your bait. Sharks up to 8 feet are not uncommon.

Aaron Lowman of Island Discount Tackle — running charters and working the shop — says he’s targeting migratory fish along the beaches. To start, he anchors and chums to get fish around the boat. As the fish swarm, his clients to cast into the frenzy. Expect to catch macks, bonito and jack crevalle. The macks are increasing in size as we settle into fall and fish in the 5-pound range are not uncommon.

Once finished with the light-tackle action, Lowman pulls anchor in search of bigger prey — sharks. By cruising along the beach, looking for diving birds — he’s finding big schools of threadfin herring attracting black tip and spinner sharks. Lowman’s clients are casting chunks of fresh-cut mackerel into the bait school and hooking up 50-100 pound sharks.

Moving inshore, Lowman is still locating schooling reds, although the fish are spooky. His clients are putting a gold spoon ahead of the school, reeling it up in front of their noses, but chasing a school of redfish can be tough. Patience is a virtue for catches of reds up to 30 inches.

Capt. Warren Girle is working his boat nearshore for migratory species — Spanish mackerel, bonito, kingfish and jack crevalle. By using live shiners for bait, Girle’s clients are getting drag-screaming action without venturing more than a few hundred yards from the beach. While targeting these fish, expect to encounter shark, too.

Moving out a little further, Girle is catching keeper-size gag grouper on nearshore structure as well as limits of mangrove snapper. For the gags, Girle is bating up with pinfish and shiners. The same applies for the mangoes. Expect to encounter grouper up to 30 inches and mangoes in the 15- to 20-inch range.

Finally, Girle moves inshore for a payoff on redfish. He’s leading his clients to slot- and over-slot reds and some spotted seatrout. As for the trout, 15-20 inches is the norm.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting schooling reds from Terra Ceia south to Sarasota Bay. Once a school is located, Gross is cutting the motor and using a push pole to slowly, quietly approach the fish. Live shiners cast just ahead of the schooling fish are producing fish for his clients.

Snook are being reeled up on the Fishy Business boat, too. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice. When targeting snook, Gross is chumming with live bait, which not only gets the linesiders in a feeding mood, but also provides a casting target. Most snook are in the 20- to 24-inch range, although keeper sizes are not uncommon.

Finally, Gross is targeting macks and bonito off the beaches of Anna Maria. Diving birds lead Gross to schooling fish and non-stop action for his clients. It’s possible to make a catch on every cast when the macks and bonito are feeding heavily.

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