Fishing – 05-21-2014

Settling into early summertime fishing pattern

Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is settling into its summertime pattern — just a month early for the calendar.

With afternoon showers arriving daily like clockwork, you can expect the gin-clear water we’ve been seeing to slowly change to that light green hue we have most of the summer.

The Manatee River will be flushing freshwater with a tannin stain — the result of leaching vegetation decay — into the bay waters of Terra Ceia, Anna Maria Sound and Palma Sola. Don’t be discouraged — it won’t hurt the fishing. It just makes it a little harder to spot fish.

Speaking of fish, redfish are taking up residence in most of the bays in our area. I’m hearing from guides who are finding schooling reds during high tides where flats meet with mangrove islands or oyster bars. I’m primarily using live shiners to catch these fish, although artificials such as a trusty gold spoons or soft plastics such as DOA and Berkley Gulp shrimp also get a bite.

Spotted seatrout remain a mainstay in the backcountry. Most of the larger over-slot fish are thinning out. There are still big ones out there, but it seems there’s a lot more slot and under-slot trout.

Again, live shiners are working great, resulting in limits of fish to take home for dinner. Trout are famous for readily taking artificials, too. I recommend trying topwater plugs in low light conditions and switching to a DOA Cal jig after the sun gets high in the sky.

Finally, catch-and-release snook are still taking the bait. There are a lot of fish 22-28 inches inhabiting the flats. If you’re looking for the big females, you may want to check around docks, especially in passes and other areas where the current is good.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says although pier fishers are reeling up fish, the bite is a little sporadic for this time of year. The schools of baitfish that typically take refuge around the pier have yet to show up. This being said, the usual migratory catch — mackerel, jacks and ladyfish — is not yet arriving in the usual numbers.

Pier fishers using speck rigs are catching Spanish mackerel, although most are just shy of the 15-inch minimum. What’s promising is a few pompano are being caught on the same jigs offered to the macks. And most anglers will take a pompano over a mack any day.

Other catches occurring at the pier include flounder, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release snook. The flounder and mangoes are being caught on live shrimp. As for the snook, live pinfish and large shiners can get you connected.

Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says fishing the flats is still proving prosperous for fishers in search of spotted seatrout. Most catches are between 12-22 inches, although bigger fish are being caught. For the average sized-fish, live shrimp under a popping cork is working well. Also, soft plastics on a jig head will achieve a bite. If you’re in search of trophy trout, or fish over 25 inches, Oldham suggests using a topwater plug. The MirrOlure 84 MR is a great choice, according to Oldham, but a Rapala Skitterwalk will get the job done, too.

Along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, fishers are catching good numbers of flounder. Most are using live shrimp for bait, although hookups also are occurring on Berkley Gulp shrimp. Expect to catch fish 12-15 inches.

Finally, black drum are being found in the Key Royale canals. Again, live shrimp is the bait of choice.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the backcountry of Tampa and Sarasota bays with good results. With an abundance of “large bait” such as big shiners and threadfin herring, Gross is using cut bait to attract a bite.

Upper-slot and over-slot reds are readily eating cut-bait presentations. Gross is finding these reds in sandy potholes and along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. By simply cutting threadfins in thirds and baiting the hook, Gross is keeping his clients’ rods bent on big reds.

Catch-and-release snook also are readily feeding on cut baits. While it’s known that snook will eat a cut bait from time to time, but Gross says the numbers are something to talk about and his clients are loving it.

Moving offshore, Gross is fishing ledges and artificial reefs with success. Keeper-size red grouper as well as catch-and-release gags are showing no shortage. Mangrove snapper also are being caught in the 5-pound range with near limits occurring.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore this week with good results in keeper-size red grouper. By bottom fishing with live shiners for bait, Girle’s clients are reeling up red grouper in the 20- to 26-inch range. Along with the firetruck reds, Girle is finding plenty of catch-and-release gags, as well as limits of keeper mangrove snapper.

Moving inshore, Girle is doing well with redfish and spotted seatrout. He says both species are readily responding to live shiners as bait. While free-lining these live shiners, Girle’s clients are finding plenty of action on catch-and-release snook, too.

Shark also are being targeted by Girle. By using fresh-cut pieces of ladyfish fished on the bottom, Girle is finding blacktip sharks in the 50-100 pound class. Hammerheads also are inhabiting our local waters and, in the past week, Girle managed to help clients reel up a hammerhead in the 10-foot range. This large fish was hooked a piece of fresh-cut ladyfish and was quickly released after a couple of photos.

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