Study tide charts, roll with flow to ensure hookups
Despite the slow moving tides we experienced prior to the May 14 full moon, fishing the shallows has been fairly productive. If you’ve noticed, the midmorning outgoing tides have been weak, sometimes less than 6 inches. The incoming tides that followed them were good, bringing on the bite.
I found during these incoming tides that redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook were readily responding to free-lined shiners on our hooks. Also, most areas where I searched for fish contained at least two of three features — turtle grass, mangrove islands and oyster bars. Combining any two of these with a good moving tide is a fishing recipe for success.
Jon Fast of Tampa experienced one such morning. Fast and three buddies from work came to Anna Maria Island to do a little fishing and talk shop. Although, the bite turned on fast, leaving little time to talk.
At one point we had a triple hookup, which resulted in two reds and a snook. All it took was a good moving tide and a little luck. Having the right bait and being in the right spot might have played a role, too.
Regardless, tides play a major role in how the fish will bite. If you don’t know how already, it time to examine a tide chart and learn to pick good days over mediocre ones.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the usual May suspects. Although sometimes May can be transitional at the pier, fishers are managing to land a variety of species on the deck.
Mangrove snapper are available and are being targeted with live shrimp. Due to excellent water clarity, you should try to use the lightest fluorocarbon leader you’re comfortable with — 10- or 15-pound test is ideal. If you nick a piling, however, the barnacles are sure to cut you off. As for hooks, Owner brand works well for stealth. Finally, a small split shot placed 18 inches above the hook will complete the rig.
To catch these mangrove snapper, as well as flounder, black drum and sheepshead, simply cast or drift your bait under the pier deck. When you feel the strike, set the hook and quickly reel the fish out before it wraps your line around a piling.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore with good results. He is using live and fresh-cut shiners for bait. To locate fish, Girle is anchoring over reefs and ledges in water depths of 30-50 feet.
To start, kingfish are striking free-lined shiners that are cast behind the boat. To get the bite going, Girle is first chumming with live baits. Once the kings begin to skyrocket on the chummers, Girle’s clients cast to the fish. The result is kingfish in the 25-pound range.
Mangrove snapper are hooking up in similar areas around ledges and reefs. To catch these small but fierce fighters, Girle is free-lining fresh-cut shiners in the current. As the pieces sink to the bottom, hungry snapper will rise for a taste — and bite your bait.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook. All three species this week are being caught on live shiners. Slot-sizes of trout are being caught. As for the reds, most of the catches are over-slot.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says shark fishing off the beaches of Anna Maria Island is heating up. Whether fishing from a boat or from shore, respectable numbers of large blacktip, bull and hammerhead sharks are happening.
For bait, Mattay suggests a variety of flavors — bonito, Spanish mackerel and mullet are good choices, as are stingray wings, jack crevalle and ladyfish. Most of the time, Mattay likes to cut his bait into chunks, although when he’s in search of really big sharks, he baits up a whole fish.
For rigging, Mattay likes an 8-10 foot strand of 275-pound cable attached to a 8/0 circle hook. A swivel rated for at least 300 pounds completes the rig.
When selecting gear to target shark, Mattay likes a reel that can hold a lot of line, especially when fishing from shore. “Braided lines are becoming more popular,” says Mattay, “because of their strength and smaller diameters.”
As for the rod, something rated heavy or extra-heavy will be in your best interest. You never know if you’re going to hook a feisty 4-foot shark or an aggressive 8-footer.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing nearshore with good results on a variety of species. By using live shiners for bait, Gross is finding both reef and migratory species ready to bite.
To start, Gross is a fresh-cut piece of live shiner dropping it to the bottom on a weighted rig. The result is catches of mangrove snapper and triggerfish. Both species are being caught in keeper-sizes with limits of snapper as a bonus.
By free-lining live shiners behind the boat, Gross is finding ample schooley kingfish. Not only do these fish provide excellent action on light tackle, but they also are the main ingredient in smoked fish dip.
Along with kings, Gross is catching Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and blue runners.
In the backcountry, Gross is finding spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook on afternoon tides. Live shiners are Gross’ bait of choice.
On a final note, the commercial and recreational harvest of stone crab claws in Florida will close May 16, with the last day of harvest May 15. This closure allows the stone crabs to flourish in peak spawning season to help protect and sustain this valuable resource. Stone crab season will reopen Oct. 15.
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