With March upon us, spring-break visitors from far and wide are coming to enjoy our sleepy little island.
Most visitors are here to escape the cold of the north with hopes of enjoying some warm Florida sun and beaches and take in a day of fishing. Despite a recent string of cold days, the spring breakers endure.
Fishing around Anna Maria Island is shaping up to its full springtime potential. Flats-fishing for snook is previewing what likely will be a stellar season. Rallies of snook are not uncommon when free-lining shiners around mangrove shorelines and lush grass flats.
Also on the grass flats, spotted seatrout are making their presence known. Live shrimp or shiners under a popping cork are being inhaled by hungry trout. Meanwhile, be ready to encounter bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle between trout bites. These fish may not be dinner fare like trout, but they provide much better action on light tackle.
During the cold front, fishing remained good as long as you were willing to change your tactics. I relied on my wintertime pattern of targeting sheepshead, redfish and black drum around residential docks and canals. By using live shrimp as bait, I was able to find action during even the coldest mornings. Although dock fishing may not be the most glamourous of backwater fishing, it provides action for my clients and puts fish in their cooler for dinner.
With temperatures back to normal March levels, it’s time to start stalking the backwater flats again. Snook, redfish and spotted seatrout will be on the feed and targetable for weeks to come. It’s also about time to start checking nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. Keep your eyes peeled for cobia, kingfish and Spanish mackerel, which will be around the reefs.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is catching slot and over-slot spotted seatrout. Working in areas where deep sandy potholes or channel edges combined with a grass bottom is producing the most fish. A live shiner under a popping cork is Lowman’s claim to fame on the trout.
Redfish and snook are being found along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars, where live, free-lined shiners are the bait of choice. Fishing during the stages of the higher tides is resulting in the best catches.
Fishing during the cold front was providing action despite strong winds and unseasonable temperatures by maneuvering around docks and seawalls. The result: Redfish and sheepshead, and live shrimp was the bait.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters, prior to the cold snap was fishing for Spanish mackerel in areas where hard bottom exists. Live shiners, free-lined on a 4/0 gold Aberdeen hook are attracting attention from mackerel in the 4-pound range.
Moving onto the flats, Gross is finding spotted seatrout ranging 16-18 inches. Bouncing from one sandy pothole to the next and casting free-lined live shiners is resulting in hookups. Snook and redfish are present on the flats. Again, free-lined shiners are the bait of choice.
Lastly, the cold front resulted in plenty of sheepshead. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay with live shrimp produced a bite for Fishy Business anglers.
Capt. Jason Stock is working the flats, where live shrimp and shiners are working on spotted seatrout, redfish and even a couple of snook.
Once the winds lay down and the sea flattens, Stock predicts the offshore bite will be exceptional. Amberjack, kingfish, cobia and mangrove snapper are all on the menu in the weeks to come.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters says fishing before the front produced many catches of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. Morning incoming tides brought the best snook action, as well as a good redfish bite. For the spotted seatrout, fishing deeper grass flats with live shiners was producing action for his clients. Mixed in with the trout bite were jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish.
During the cold front, White fished rocks and docks for sheepshead and redfish. Live shrimp cast in these areas is producing a bite.
Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore structure with good results on mangrove snapper. Live shrimp or shiners fished on a bottom rig are resulting in snapper up to 18 inches. Mixed in with the snapper bite are grouper, hogfish and white grunts.
On days with too much wind, Girle is hanging out on the flats of Sarasota Bay, where spotted seatrout and snook are providing action for Girle and his clients. He reports there’s plenty of schooley snook being hooked, as well as numerous slot-size trout.
During the coolest of days, Girle used live shrimp to entice redfish, black drum and sheepshead to the hook in the protected areas of docks, canals and seawalls.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing good numbers of sheepshead being reeled up. Fish 1-3 pounds are being taken with shrimp or fiddler crabs as bait. Mixed in with the sheepies are an occasional black drum, redfish and flounder.
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