Fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be slightly challenging in the wake of Tropical Storm Emily.
Our clear emerald green waters are now the color of iced tea — and since we are in the south, I guess it’s “sweet tea.”
Anyway, persistence and having an arsenal of spots to investigate is key to finding a bite in the aftermath of one of these storms. The fish are still here, you just have to know where to find them. I find it best to start off with the pattern used prior to “the blow,” and start branching out from there. Eventually we find a bite and, if we don’t, we can always just say, “I guess they’re not biting.”
On my Southernaire excursions, we’re managing to find enough fish to stay busy. Some spots are working and some aren’t. In the spots that are producing, I’m watching clients reel up flounder up to 20 inches, as well as mangrove snapper and some keeper gag grouper. Needless to say, I’m fishing structure.
On the flats, I’m finding spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel accommodating, although I feel the bite will greatly improve once the water settles and clears up. There are mangrove snapper in the deeper grass areas, which are a welcome sight among the trout and mackerel. Kind of a “mixed bag” and variety for the dinner table.
On a final note, I’d like to touch upon the topic of etiquette on the water. Now I know this is a wide and vast area of discussion that could fill volumes, so I’m just going to write about a specific incident I experienced recently while fishing a small, not so well-known rock pile in Tampa Bay.
I was anchored up just minding my own business, smiling as I watched my clients reel up snapper and macks. The action was pretty good and, boy was it due. The morning bite up to then had been a bit of a struggle. As this bite commenced, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a boat in the distance making its way in my direction. I recognized the boat and wondered why the captain was heading straight at me.
As the boat got closer, I instructed my clients to reel up and take a break. At least this way it wouldn’t look like we were catching much. Within a minute or so, this guy was 20 feet off my bow checking his machine and hitting the “man overboard” button in an attempt to record a new spot. Without even making eye contact with me, he marked a couple of spots and motored away. Rather than make a scene, I sat idle, but the incident festered in my brain, like a rusty screw being hammered into my head.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had heard from other fishers that this boater had exhibited thoughtless behavior, but never gave it much thought until now. My clients knew what had happened and could tell I was holding back anger. They had some choice words for him, too — comments we won’t publish here — but it just goes to show his bad manners were noted by everyone aboard.
We calmed a bit and continued to catch a few more fish until it was time to head to the dock.
Now is when the story gets really good.
On our way in, we spotted the group that had so rudely barged in on us. As we passed, we watched as the captain pulled his anchor and headed directly to where we had just fished.
I felt nausea creeping up, but kept a smile on my face and steered the boat home to the Mainsail Marina. There I filleted a mess of fish for my happy customers. Another great day on the water.
This being said, I think visiting anglers should do a little research on a fishing guide before their day on the water. Asking the locals is a great way of doing this. They’ll know the local guides and will eagerly recommend a respectable fisher. And always ask an outside source— not the guy that’s trying to sell you a charter.
You can trust the captains mentioned in this report and the advertisers in The Islander. Those of us with good reputations welcome feedback. Those who don’t, know why.
Good manners and fishing go hand in hand for professional guides.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore and inshore structure for mangrove snapper. Casting small shiners in these areas is resulting in snapper 12-15 inches. In these same areas, changing to a larger bait, such as a live pinfish, is attracting attention from some legal-sized gag grouper.
On the flats, spotted seatrout are a go-to species for Lowman. Areas where grass edges are accompanied by clean water during incoming tides are producing the best action. Live shiners free-lined or under a popping cork are quickly being eaten by 12-18 inch trout.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout among the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Live, free-lined “hatch bait” or small shiners are working well for Gross. Keeper-sizes in both the mackerel and trout are being caught with regularity.
On shallower flats, redfish and catch-and-release snook are on the hook for Gross. Again, free-lined hatch bait are producing action, especially when casting around oyster bars. Due to the size of the bait, Gross suggests using light wire hooks, such as the Eagle Claw Aberdeen.
Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore and offshore structure for mangrove snapper. Mixed in with the snapper bite are Spanish mackerel and some surprises from a couple of barracuda. While catching these species, Girle is hooking into an occasional goliath grouper.
Moving inshore to Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding good action on spotted seatrout. Deeper flats where good tidal flow exists are holding numerous trout 15-18 inches. Mixed in are macks and jack crevalle.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is taking clients offshore for a variety of snapper. Predominately, yellowtail and mangrove snapper are being caught by free-lining small chunks of bait in a chum slick. This method also is attracting juvenile African pompano to the boat.
Moving inshore, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are keeping White’s clients busy. Casting small shiners under a cork throughout the grass flats is producing the bite. Keeper-size trout are fairly consistent.
Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.