Kyle Feehan of Holmes Beach, left, and Ilan Adichithara, visiting from Chicago, worked a frenzy of trout on Ilan’s seventh birthday. Ilan is holding his catch. The Feehans and friends caught their dinner on live whitebait cast in the sand holes while drifting over the Key Royale flats.
Laura Lafond of Manchester, N.H. with friend David Burton-Jones of Deeping, England, hooks up a red grouper offshore of Holmes Beach.
Pick your days to avoid the boating traffic craze
If you haven’t noticed, the surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island are becoming more popular for boaters as the season rolls on.
Drive by any of the local boat ramps on a weekend and you’ll see what I mean. Granted, not all boats are out fishing, but you can bet many of them have a rod and reel aboard. This being said, you may want to plan accordingly when setting up your fishing trip.
An early start is probably in your best interest. Getting bait and arriving at your honey hole before someone else does may mean the difference between catching fish and searching for fish. Also, although the weekends may be your only time to get on the water, you may want to pick a weekday if you want some solitude. Also, fishing “off hours” may contribute to your success. The boat traffic seems to thin out during late afternoon and evening hours.
Finally, patience is the most important part of a successful day on crowded waters. Although getting out on the water is viewed as an escape from the hustle-bustle of everyday life, you need to keep in mind that, especially on the weekends, you may experience swarms of boat traffic.
Try to be accommodating to other boaters and most of all be safe — remember, boats don’t have brakes to slow down for boat traffic.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure, which is producing some exciting catches. To start, Girle is free-lining live shrimp and shiners for mangrove snapper. Limits of these tasty fish include some fish exceeding 18 inches.
After fishing for snapper, the real excitement begins. By casting out fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel, Girle is hooking up spinner sharks and bull sharks. Not only do these fish provide great sport-fishing action, they also can be fairly large. The average size of the spinners is 50-70 pounds, while recent catches of bull sharks have been in the 300-pound range.
After wearing his clients out on shark, Girle is moving to the backcountry of Sarasota Bay to target snook, redfish and trout. This trio is responding to free-lined shiners, and you can expect to catch slot-size fish in every species, although boating a slot-size snook is becoming a challenge.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel says Spanish mackerel are being caught on speck rigs, although the bite is sporadic at best. By using pink or chartreuse jigs, pier fishers are catching macks in the early morning at sunrise, but attempts after this small window appear futile.
Once the mack bite has diminished, fishers are changing tactics by rigging for bait fishing. By casting live shrimp around the pilings and under the pier deck, fishers are catching black drum, flounder and sheepshead.
Finally, frozen squid and fresh-cut chunks of mullet are producing catches of bonnethead sharks and stingrays. Simply cast these baits out, let them sit on the bottom and wait until you get a bite.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle is seeing good numbers of spotted seatrout and snook. Both species are being caught by anchoring and free-lining shiners. By casting their shiners into sandy potholes, Lowman’s clients are reeling up slot and over-slot trout. As for the snook, Lowman is fishing mangrove shorelines and islands to produce a bite for his clients who cast free-lined shiners into a sandy pothole or under the mangroves.
Redfish are in Lowman’s sights. For the reds, Lowman is dock fishing with live shiners. By casting weighted live shiners under docks. Lowman’s clients are hooking into slot and over-slot fish. Mixed in with the reds are jack crevalle and an occasional snook.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting snook on the flats of southern Tampa Bay with great success. On good days, Gross’ clients are reeling in up to 50 snook. The most snook to date this season on a charter is 73, he says. Most catches are released, although a few keepers are mixed in. To catch these kinds of numbers, Gross is baiting live shiners. For rigging, he’s either free-lining or placing the shiners under a Bimini Bay popping cork.
Redfish are on the menu for Gross. Although not as abundant as the snook, Gross is still coming to the fillet table with slot-size fish for his clients. Again, live shiners are the top producers, although pinfish and even shrimp are working.
Finally, spotted seatrout are responding to live shiners. Especially when rigging under a popping cork. Once his clients cast out their baits, Gross instructs them to twitch the cork now and again. By doing this, the cork creates a small disturbance which, in turn, attracts the trout’s attention. If the trout spots the bait, it’s fish on. Slot and over-slot trout are the norm this week.
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