Island fishing in full swing despite wacky fall weather
The hunt for backwater species such as redfish, trout and snook is in full swing for area anglers as water temps are beginning to cool as the temp at the St. Petersburg marker for NOAA for this week is closing down on 70 degrees.
The fall targets are migrating inland in search of warmer water, which is resulting in congregations of fish in certain areas. And if you know the area, catching 50 fish a day is possible.
Live baits — shiners and pinfish — are producing a bite. If you’re fishing artificials, a silver topwater plug is ideal. Silver is a good bet because of the vast number of mullet scooting over the shallow grass flats. If the topwater doesn’t work, try a soft plastic on a jighead.
Fishing from or along the beaches of Anna Maria also is resulting in a variety of species. Catches include Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and bonnethead sharks — and a good day also can result in flounder and pompano.
For these species, you may want to work a small white or chartreuse buck tail jig. If you’re targeting jacks and macks, use a silver spoon. If you’re looking to hook into a pompano, you’ve got to try a Goofy jig in colors from yellow to white to hot pink. You can see which one works best for you and the fish.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing on nearshore structure during those days with light winds and calm seas. By anchoring and chumming with fresh-cut shiners, Girle is attracting mangrove snapper and grouper to the surface with chum. Once the fish are spotted, his clients are free-lining fresh-cut shiners, resulting in mangrove snapper up to 21 inches. Limits of these tasty fish are going in the well, sometimes in less than an hour. The gags are require more work, although keeper-size fish are attainable.
Also on nearshore structure, Girle is getting into rallies on macks. Free-lining shiners behind the boat is resulting in multiple hookups and fish 18-22 inches. Expect to tie into bonito and kingfish in between mack bites.
Moving inshore, Girle is jigging for pompano on deeper grass flats during the outgoing tides. When working pompano, you’ll also find jack crevalle, ladyfish, mackerel, spotted seatrout and even flounder.
When the pompano hunt dies out, Girle is looking to catch redfish and trout. Spotted seatrout are responding to live shiners in depths of 3-5 feet. Fish 17-23 inches were the norm this past week. As for reds, Girle is finding some schooling reds in Sarasota Bay — although not in the volume of past weeks. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel landing on the deck. Though, with the bait around the pier sporadic, the mack bite is following suit. Small white crappie jigs or Clark spoons are a good bet to hook into the high-activity fish. While targeting macks, you might also hook up with jack crevalle, blue runners, ladyfish and a bonito.
Pier fishers targeting snapper are pulling a few up, although the bite is thinning out. A live shrimp or shiner fished on the bottom around the pilings is a good bet to hook a snapper, which also produces some juvenile grouper, flounder and black drum.
Capt. Aaron Lowman — running charters and working the shop at Island Discount Tackle — is targeting redfish and snook along mangrove shorelines in Anna Maria Sound. “The fish are in the bushes,” says Lowman. “So you’ve got to cast your shiner right up to the edge of the branches.” Placing live shiners along the mangrove edges is resulting in keeper-sizes of both species.
Fishing docks also is proving prosperous for Lowman. By anchoring within casting range of a dock and tossing in a Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead, both redfish and flounder are coming to the boat. By using a side cast, Lowman is able to skip a jig under the dock, allowing it to sink to the bottom. “A lot of times that’s when you get a bite,” says Lowman. If the jig doesn’t get hit, he slowly twitches it back to the boat, hoping for a strike.
Rumors of pompano are coming into the tackle shop. Lowman says the most popular baits are Goofy jigs or sand fleas. Along with pompano, macks, jacks and ladyfish being caught from the beaches of Anna Maria Island.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says fishing has been productive in spite of the weather. The passing cold fronts and accompanying wind have been a major factor in where Howard pulls up to fish.
He says redfish have been cooperative in shallow waters and are feeding on live shiners, pinfish and cut bait. The key to a successful day has been to fish when the water is moving. Howard likes to use a popping cork rigged with 5 feet of fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 Owner circle hook. On recent charters, clients have been landing redfish from 16-inch dinks to 36-inch over-slot bruisers. Look for the redfish to stay on the flats until we sustain numerous cold fronts, he says.
Howard also reports finding speckled trout “on the chew” and increasing in size. A 26-inch snaggle-toothed predator was landed in 2 feet of water on a shiner this past week on one of his charters. Keeper-sized trout will remain an easy target, he predicts.
Off the beaches, the fishing has been excellent for Spanish mackerel, kingfish, bonito and sharks. And Howard had an occasional tarpon “come to the party.” With a northeast to east wind, fishing within a mile of the beach should be calm and offer some excellent hunting, he predicts.
“Looking forward, the fall-winter transition is in full swing,” Howard says. “The fish will be chewing and fattening up on all the shiners in our area as they prepare to migrate south for the winter.”
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