Fishing – 07-23-2014

Unpredictable weather results in mixed bag of fish


Hot temperatures and unexpected thunderstorms popping up in the past week have made fishing around Anna Maria Island challenging.

When fishing the summertime months, it’s wise to keep a close eye on the weather radar while you’re out on the water or while planning a day of fishing. You definitely don’t want to get caught on the water when a squall develops. When these fast-forming thunderstorms appear, a relaxing fishing trip quickly turns into a mad dash to shore.

Inshore fishers able stay close to port and make it back before a storm hits have a better chance of catching fish on these types of days. Offshore fishers, it’s best just to pick another day if the forecast is unfavorable.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore when the weather permits. By using live shiners, especially the small hatch bait, Girle is catching limits of mangrove snapper up to 20 inches. He expects most to be 14-16 inches, although the bigger ones are not uncommon. To catch these feisty fish, Girle is using 20-pound fluorocarbon tied to a small circle hook. Fishing light rigs increases the chances of getting a bite.

Gag and red grouper are being caught from Girle’s boat. By switching to larger baits, such as pinfish, his clients are reeling up gags to 26 inches. As for the reds, most are short of the 20-inch minimum, but every now and again a keeper is landed.

In the backcountry, Girle is catching spotted seatrout and redfish. For the trout, Girle is fishing deep grass flats using shiners for bait. For the reds, he’s working on shallow flats during high tide, using fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish or mackerel.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the targeted species this week is mangrove snapper, which are finally making a strong showing at the pier. Pier fishers using small shiners or shrimp are catching near limits of these tasty fish. To target the bite, simply cast baits under the pier and wait for a bite. Expect to catch snapper 8-12 inches. While targeting snapper at the pier, you may also hook into black drum, flounder and especially pinfish.

Spanish mackerel are being caught during sunrise, although the bite is sporadic. Small white or chartreuse jigs are helping anglers get results.

Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle is finding mangrove snapper abundant around structure in both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. He’s using small shiners as bait, combined with a knocker rig consisting of a 1/2-ounce egg sinker, some 20-pound fluorocarbon and a size 1-circle hook. To really get the bite going, Lowman likes to use both a chum bag and chum some fresh dead shiners. He is hooking up his clients with mangrove snapper up to 15 inches using this method.

Gag grouper are on the agenda for Lowman. This bite is occurring on nearshore structure. For bait, he’s using live pinfish combined with a knocker rig, a 1-2 ounce egg sinker and a 4/0 circle hook. Gag grouper up to 25 inches also are being caught.

Finally, Lowman is working the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. He’s anchoring around potholes dispersed throughout deep grass flats. Live shiners under a popping cork are producing a bite.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting mangrove snapper on nearshore reefs and other structure. By using live shiners for bait, Gross is catching mangoes up to 18 inches, with a few bigger fish mixed in. Near limits of these fish are being caught.

Gross also is catching flounder, Key West grunts and triggerfish. All three species are responding to live shiners or live shrimp. You can also expect Spanish mackerel to make an appearance, especially while fishing reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Moving inshore, Gross is catching redfish, catch-and-release snook and, most abundantly, spotted seatrout. All three species are responding to free-lined shiners fished under a popping cork.

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