Hatch bait increases, bringing migratory species
Fishing around Anna Maria Island is improving compared to the recent bite. An influx of hatch bait is appearing in Tampa Bay, which is in turn attracting a multitude of migratory fish.
Around these large schools of bait are Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, blue runners and ladyfish. Among these high-activity fish, you’ll find blacktip and bull sharks. Try fishing outgoing tides around the passes and outward in the Gulf of Mexico. Look for diving birds to locate schools of bait. The birds indicate baitfish’s presence. Once a school of fish is spotted, simply motor over and cast jigs and spoons to get a bite. Usually the bite is instantaneous. So, be ready to hook up after your lure enters the water.
To target sharks, catch a mackerel or jack, cut it into hand-size chunks and cast it into the frenzy of fish. After the bait sinks below the school, you should get a bite.
On the reefs and wrecks, mangrove snapper are available. Try using small shiners or hatch bait combined with a bottom rig to get a bite. You also can chum with dead hatch baits to get the snapper to rise from the bottom and hit a free-lined bait. This method is exciting because it’s visual. Watch the snapper eat your bait and then set the hook.
Capt. Warren Girle is venturing out to depths of 30-40 feet of water to find a bite. Areas of hard bottom and/or structure such as artificial reefs and wrecks are producing keeper-size red and gag grouper. Mangrove snapper also are present in these depths, especially around the wrecks and reefs. For bait, Girle is using live shiners or live pinfish. These baits, combined with bottom rigs, are attracting a bite for Girle’s clients.
On days when winds are strong from the west, Girle is staying inshore. Sarasota Bay is providing a good bite and refuge from the wind. Schooling redfish can be found on deeper flats. Once located, Girle is casting live shiners into the school to get a bite. Mixed in with the reds are bluefish and jack crevalle.
Finally, Girle is noticing an abundance of shark in Sarasota Bay. On one occasion, Girle and his clients, while searching for redfish, spotted a 4-foot bull shark cruising through the shallows. Needless to say, Girle cast a chunk of fresh-cut ladyfish in front of the shark. After 15 minutes, the bull was boat side and available for pictures. Other sharks being spotted include bonnethead and small blacktips.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle in Holmes Beach is putting a few tarpon along the boat. Lowman is casting to sighted fish with live pinfish or live shiners to attract a bite. Some mornings are resulting in at least five hook ups in a few hours time. Average size of the tarpon this past week was 60-100 pounds.
Mangrove snapper fishing tops Lowman’s list when he’s not tarpon fishing. Mangoes up to 16 inches are being caught in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Small live shiners, free-lined or fished on a bottom rig, are producing a bite.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says Spanish mackerel is showing up. Increasing numbers of macks are arriving as schools of hatch bait inhabit the pier. Small speck rig jigs, silver spoons and Gotcha plugs are excellent lures to hook into these high-activity fish. Also, ladyfish and jack crevalle are mixed in, which adds variety to the catch.
Finally, mangrove snapper and flounder are being caught. Fishers casting live shrimp under the pier on a weighted rig are catching keeper-sizes of both species. While targeting snapper and flounder, pier fishers are reeling up the occasional catch-and-release snook. Most snook being caught are under slot in size.
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