Tarpon epidemic sweeps Anna Maria Island
When local fishers are stricken with a bad case of tarpon fever, they tend to forget about everything else that’s happening in local waters.
This being said, you may find your backwater and nearshore fishing spots are experiencing less pressure, which can result in some excellent fishing.
Most of my clients want to catch fish for the dinner table, which takes tarpon fishing — a bad food source and all-release fishery — out of the equation.
Fishing for spotted seatrout has been exceptionally good. By using live shiners for bait, we’re finding fish up to 24 inches along deep grass edges. Rallies are not uncommon and are resulting in limits of trout for my clients.
Mangrove snapper are hot right now. Fishing around artificial reefs and small rock piles is resulting in mangoes in the 18-inch range, as long as you can keep the goliath grouper from taking them off your hook. To catch the snapper, I use a knocker rig — 1/2-ounce egg sinker and a 1/0 circle hook with a live shiner for bait.
Finally, although they’re out of season, catch-and-release snook are providing sizzling action on the flats. Higher tides with good water flow are key to get these linesiders fired up. There’s nothing better than finishing out the day with a rally of snook.
For those still in the grips of tarpon fever, fear not, we are experiencing an abundance of fish in the passes and on the beaches. Get your tackle ready, get baited up and head out there to get your fix on silver kings.
Capt. Logan Bystrom is seeing success with tarpon at Bean Point, off the north end of Anna Maria Island. And among his numerous hookups came a rare fish, an albino tarpon. He’s seen it several times among a school of silver kings, so chances are good you will too. Look for a spray of orange — it’s lightly orange colored across the top from the head to the back.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing decent numbers of Spanish mackerel being caught. Times to target these high-activity fish are from sun up until 9 a.m. Small speck rigs in white, pink or chartreuse are attracting a bite. Along with macks, expect to catch jack crevalle and ladyfish.
Mangrove snapper are being caught on live shrimp. Most are barely keeper-size, although larger fish are mixed in. While targeting snapper, you may also tie into flounder or black drum.
Also, snook are congregating at the pier. Although the season is closed, they provide excellent action on inshore spinning gear. Live baits are producing the best bite and lipped plugs, such as the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, can get the job done, especially at night.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding good numbers of fish on the flats of Tampa and Sarasota bays. Spotted seatrout are responding to live shiners under a Bimini Bay popping cork. To find the trout, Gross is fishing water depths of 4-7 feet.
Catch-and-release snook are being caught by Gross’ clients. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice. Most catches are occurring at sun up and the bite continues for a couple of hours. Mangrove edges are holding fish. To find success, Gross is instructing his clients to cast as far under the branches as possible. Snook up to 30 inches are the norm.
Moving to nearshore structure, Gross is finding good numbers of mangrove snapper for his clients. By cutting live shiners and dropping them around the boat, Gross is luring the hungry fish close to the surface, and free-lining live chunks of bait to the awaiting snapper.
Also, Gross is catching tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Using crabs as bait, his success comes with sight-casting to roaming schools. Expect to hook fish 80-120 pounds.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says tarpon are in the spotlight. To catch a trophy photo, fishers are using live bait presentations, and crabs, pinfish, threadfin herring and shiners are producing a bite.
Fishers also are reporting luck on a variety of species both inshore and nearshore. Along the beaches, shore fishers are finding whiting, jack crevalle and pompano. These fish are being caught during the late morning and afternoon hours. Keyes suggests working small jigs tipped with shrimp for success.
Also, casting along the beaches of Anna Maria Island is resulting in large bull and hammerhead shark. For big fish, big bait — bonito or whole jack crevalle — is working for hunters.
On the flats, trout fishing is proving prosperous for fishers using live shiners and Paul Brown’s Soft-Dine in white and chartreuse.
Fishing nearshore structure is a good bet, according to Keyes. Mangrove snapper, cobia and permit can be found, especially during early morning hours.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing tarpon on a daily basis. Whether fishing the passes or beaches, Girle is leading his clients to multiple hookups. He’s working with a variety of baits, including threadfin herring, shiners, crabs and pinfish. The average size of his tarpon catches has been 75-150 pounds.
Moving offshore, Girle is fishing reefs and ledges for mangrove snapper and red grouper. Both are responding to live or fresh-cut shiners. Snapper up to 18-inches are the norm. As for the red grouper, fish 20-28 inches are being reeled up from the depths.
Migratory fish such as kingfish, mackerel and sharks are being caught around the artificial reefs. For the macks and kings, live shiners and threadfin herring are producing a bite. For sharks, macks are working just fine.
Finally, Girle is targeting permit. Live crabs free-lined around structure are resulting in permit in the 20-pound range. Catching and boating these fish is challenging and keeping them away from sharks and goliath grouper adds to this adventure.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters reports catches of redfish, spotted seatrout, snook, sharks and tarpon.
Howard is working the beaches using shiners, pinfish, threadfins, crabs and mullet. These baits have produced some “spectacular” aerial tarpon battles and drag-screaming, rod-bending action for Howard’s clients. Howard is setting up on the relaxed, meandering pods of silver kings. He suggests using a rod with sufficient backbone to minimize the battle without exhausting the fish.
On the flats, big redfish and catch-and-release snook have been chewing on big shiners rigged under a popping cork. On one of Howard’s recent charters, Bryce Henry, 7, of Tampa, fishing with his father and uncle, landed a snook measuring 38 inches. After pictures, the big momma was released to fight another day.
Looking forward, the tarpon will increase in numbers around the island waters as the June 13 full moon approaches. The tides will be favorable for fishing this week with big high tides in the mid-afternoon and low tide in the evening. Take advantage of the fast-moving currents to be rewarded with some favorable fishing action.
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