Fish more accommodating by morning, easier on anglers

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Jordan Sprauge of Lakewood Ranch prepares his catch, a late-season tarpon, for release. He caught the silver king inside Tampa Bay on a dead bait Aug. 19 while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. He and his mates also caught mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout and some catch-and-release snook.
Twins Jesse and Halle Jimenez of Longboat Key show off their mahi-mahi Aug. 20. It was caught 30 miles offshore with Capt. David White.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains productive despite the heat and water temps of 90 degrees or better. Fishing early morning around sunrise is most favorable when the winds are calm and the tide is right.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m trying to fish the flats first thing in the morning. My reasoning behind this is that the shallower waters tend to heat up quickly as the sun gets up in the sky, which I feel makes the fish a little less active. Needless to say, its working for me. I’m finding plenty of spotted seatrout on flats 3-5 feet deep. The same applies for catch-and-release snook, although they are found in slightly shallower water and up against mangrove shorelines. Finally, redfish are being found primarily around residential docks, with a few mixed in on the flats.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, I’m migrating to deeper water to target mangrove snapper and flounder. Fishing the artificial reefs in 25-35 feet of water is producing good action.

This deeper water seems to maintain a steady temperature even during the heat of the day, and the fish are in the mood to bite. Also on the reefs are blacktip sharks and barracuda, which adds a nice mix to the bite for someone looking to reel in a fish larger than mangrove snapper — a photo trophy.

Capt. Aaron Lowman also is working nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. Live shiners on a knocker rig are producing a bite for his anglers. On days when the fish are finicky, or if the water is clear, he says free-lining baits is working better. Also, while free-lining shiners, Spanish mackerel are among the snapper, which adds variety to the bite.

On the flats, Lowman is finding numerous snook. Mangrove cuts and edges in combination with a strong outgoing tide are the perfect recipe to find these hard-fighting backwater fish. Live, free-lined shiners cast among large amounts of chummers are quickly being inhaled by hungry snook — which are back in season Sept. 1 through November.

Snook fishers need to abide slot sizes of not less than 28 inches total length and no more than 33 inches.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing pier fishers reeling up mangrove snapper on a daily basis. Most catches are 10-12 inches, although bigger catches are mixed in. While targeting snapper, fishers are encountering flounder, grunts and juvenile grouper.

Spanish mackerel are being caught with regularity at the R&R. Small white jigs, silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are enticing these toothy fish to bite. You also may catch jack crevalle, blue runners and skip jacks while targeting the macks at Anna Maria Island’s northernmost pier.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of Tampa Bay with good results. Fishing shallow flats on incoming tides is yielding redfish and catch-and-release snook for clients. Mangrove shorelines and oyster bars are key when trying to locate either species. On deeper grass flats away from the shoreline, spotted seatrout action is proving to be quite good. While targeting trout, his anglers also are reeling up Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and ladyfish.

On the nearshore reefs, Gross is bottom fishing for mangrove snapper. Limits of these fish are being taken when the conditions are right. Flounder and Kew West grunts are in the mix.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding respectable amounts of mangrove snapper around nearshore and offshore structure. Most catches are 12-16 inches, although bigger snapper are in the mix. Live shiners on a knocker rig are working to attract a bite. Mixed in with the snapper are some “door-mat” flounder, along with many juvenile gag and red grouper.

In Sarasota Bay, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout. Free-lining live shiners over grass flats of 5-6 feet is resulting in slot-size fish in the cooler for his anglers, as well as some action from Spanish mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is finding plenty of mangrove snapper while working offshore. Also included in the offshore bite are red grouper, African pompano and a few mahi-mahi. Live shiners are working as bait. To target these species, White is fishing a variety of terrain including hard bottom, wrecks and springs.

Moving inshore, White is targeting juvenile tarpon in some of the back bays adjacent to Tampa Bay. Targeting these catch-and-release fish can be challenging, although the fight from a hookup is a great reward.

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