Ed Kruse of Northbrook, Illinois, shows off his 27-inch redfish, caught on a shiner while on a recent charter with Capt. Danny Stasny.
Jason Meritt of Laramie, Wyoming, holds onto his 100-pound tarpon catch long enough for a photo. He caught the silver king May 19 off Longboat Key while on charter with Capt. Warren Girle.
AMI fishing opportunities: As good as it gets
If the fishing remains as good as the weather has been we all should be able to catch fish now and again.
Whether you’re fishing inshore or nearshore, there are endless opportunities to bend a rod. With calm, clear water and cool light breezes, fishing conditions can’t get much better — unless the fish start jumping in the boat.
Fishing the flats is proving prosperous during the early morning hours before the sun gets real high in the sky. If you can add a good moving tide to the equation, you’re in for some great fishing. Spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook are responding to live shiners free-lined under mangrove roots and across sandy potholes. Keep in mind to use a lively bait, as the fish seem to be responding better to something they can chase and devour.
While taking a little break from fishing the flats, I’ve been cruising the beaches in search of variety. Areas that contain structure are producing spotted seatrout and flounder. Redfish and catch-and-release snook also can be found in these areas. To get a hookup, my clients are casting live shiners and shiners with cut-off tails right along the structure. The tailless baits are primarily for the reds, although flounder are responding to them, too.
Moving to the nearshore bite, I’m seeing Spanish mackerel swarming glass minnows along the whole 7-mile length of Anna Maria Island. Schools of macks, jack crevalle and even some bonito are being spotted within a mile of shore. I like using small white or pink crappie jigs to target these fish. The small crappie jigs seem to mimic the glass minnows enough to trigger a strike.
Tarpon are beginning to make a showing, although the real numbers of silver kings have yet to arrive. A lot of the fish I’m seeing are 50-80 pounds. Check the usual spots — beaches and passes — to find cruising fish. Again, be patient. The May 28 new moon should bring more and bigger fish to our waters.
Capt. Warren Girle says he’s have good results fishing offshore for snapper. By using fresh-cut pieces of shiner as bait, Girle is attracting a bite from two species of snapper — mangrove and yellowtail. These fish are being caught on ledges and hard bottom starting at depths of 45 feet.
Girle is also catching grouper — both gag and red grouper — on live pinfish and shiners dropped to the bottom. Although the gags are catch-and-release, keeper-size fish are being caught and photographed.
Another grouper that Girle is catching is the largest of all grouper, the goliath. By dropping live jack crevalle to the bottom, Girle’s clients are reeling up 200- to 300-pound goliaths. Although these fish are protected from harvest, they make a great adversary on heavy tackle. And they are an awesome catch.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting tarpon. By using either live pass crabs or threadfin herring, his clients are managing to achieve some hookups. He says, tarpon are a little on the scarce side, but that should change upon arrival of the new moon.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle is fishing nearshore structure with success. By using live shiners as bait, Lowman is reeling up mangrove snapper and plenty of catch-and-release gag grouper. Mixed in are Key West grunts, flounder, jacks and macks.
To get the bite, Lowman is using a knocker rig with 30-pound fluorocarbon, a 1/4-ounce egg sinker and a 1/0 circle hook.
While fishing nearshore structure, he’s also encountering predatory fish, including bull sharks and goliath grouper. Although neither of these fish can go in the cooler, they do provide good photo ops.
Moving inshore, Lowman is catching redfish and catch-and-release snook on live shiners. Free-lining these baits throughout the flats and under the mangroves is producing a bite.
Finally, spotted seatrout are rounding out the fish box for Lowman. Limit numbers of keeper-size fish are being caught on live shiners.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says there’s a variety of fish to catch this week at the pier, and the type of bait will determine what you catch.
To start, pier fishers using shrimp are catching mangrove snapper. Whole, live shrimp fished on the bottom and around the pilings of the pier is a great way to target these tasty little fish. Along with snapper, expect to catch flounder and black drum.
Redfish are making an appearance at the pier, too. The first red of the season came in at 30 inches and had to be released. To target the reds, live shrimp, pinfish and small blue crabs cut in half can provide a hookup.
Finally, night fishing for snook is heating up. Although snook remain out of season until Sept. 1, your chances of catching a trophy fish are pretty good. Live ladyfish drifted along the shadow line can result in fish exceeding 40 inches.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters reports some red-hot rallies and a variety of fish landed — when the conditions are right.
Spotted seatrout and redfish found feeding on the flats are coming to the dinner table for Howard’s clients. His bait of choice is a lively shiner rigged with a 2/0 circle hook on a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader under a popping cork. His clients are casting to the sandy potholes on the flats and finding success.
He reports catch-and-release snook are scattered all over from inshore potholes and mangrove shorelines to the swash channels of the beaches. To target the large snook requires a change of presentation, says Howard. Instead of using a smaller shiner, Howard likes to use the biggest shiners — live or dead. He smashes the dead shiner like a pancake. His clients then cast it into the potholes and wait for the big one to chew.
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