Despite the threat of Hurricane Irma, fishing around Anna Maria Island is nothing less than exceptional. If you can break away from watching the “weather on the 9s” for a moment, you might discover the redfish have arrived.
Although they aren’t as abundant as I think they could be, there are a few nice schools of fish to run out and play with. A lot of these fish are over-sized, so you want to handle them with care. Quickly snap a photo and place them in the water, taking ample time to revive them before letting them go.
Remember, the water is hot, we’re hot, everything’s hot right now and that heat takes its toll on these big reds.
So again, handle with care.
Spotted seatrout also are worth mentioning. These fish are making a showing — and how. On one of my morning charters this past week, we sat on a grass flat and caught trout after trout for about an hour and a half. I’m talking, every bait. At least, unless the angler was asleep at the reel and missed the bite. Now, most of these trout are coming in right at 14 inches. Yeah, an inch short of being a keeper. But, don’t be discouraged, there’s bigger ones in the mix. Usually enough for a couple of limits to put in the cooler. And frankly, who needs more fish than that for dinner?
Snook fishing is hot. I’m fishing mangrove shorelines and even an oyster bar or two, where good tidal flow exists. Most of the linesiders I’m seeing reeled up are schooley fish — up to 26 inches — but a few keeper-fish are mixed in there, too. The strong outgoing tides are producing the best action.
Lastly, I’m amazed at how many mangrove snapper my clients are catching. And the best part is we’re finding them on the flats. This bite is happening while targeting trout on the deeper flats. Snapper up to 15 inches are being reeled up in this fashion. I think just about anyone would like a mangrove snapper on the plate for dinner over trout — I know I would.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is snook fishing throughout the grass flats of southern Tampa Bay and Anna Maria Sound. Mangrove shorelines where good tidal flow occurs are holding exceptional numbers of linesiders. Chumming with live shiners is proving effective to trick the snook into giving up their location. Most catches are falling between 20-26 inches. While targeting snook, Lowman is hooking into redfish.
On nearshore structure, Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper are in abundance. Occasionally schools of permit are being spotted. Small live shiners are producing the mangs and macks for his clients. For the permit, live crabs or Doc’s Goofy jigs are a good bet.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the nearshore reefs for mangrove snapper. Limits of these feisty fish are being caught. Most are falling 12-18 inches. Live shiners dropped to the bottom on a knocker rig are getting the attention. Mixed in with the snapper are flounder, juvenile grouper and Key West grunts. Moving inshore to Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding an abundance of spotted seatrout. Using live shiners as bait is working the best, although Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head also are producing numbers of trout. Expect to encounter macks, bluefish and ladyfish in the mix.
Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore wrecks and reefs for permit. Free-lining live crabs in these areas is attracting “perms” in the 30-pound range. Also on offshore structure, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel are showing in good numbers. Shiners are the bait of choice for either of these fish.
Moving inshore, Stock is flats fishing for snook and redfish. Keeper-sizes of both are being caught on live shiners and pinfish.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is experiencing a great bite offshore. Red grouper, mangrove snapper and African pompano are White’s main focus. To target these fish, live pinfish or dead shiners on a bottom rig will do the trick.
Inshore, White is catching a variety of fish — redfish, snook, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. For the reds and snook, fishing close to mangroves or around oyster beds is proving to be good. As for the macks and snappers, the deeper grass flats are holding plenty of fish.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is catching more redfish than he knows what to do with. Redfish here, redfish there, redfish everywhere. Even when he’s not trying to catch redfish, he says he’s still catching redfish.
Schooling reds are being found around mangrove shorelines, open grass flats and even some docks. For bait, Gross is using live shiners or fresh-cut bait — pinfish and ladyfish. Gross advises to keep a rod rigged with a gold spoon handy for when you spot a school of reds cruising the flats. That way you can make a cast in the moment.
When Gross isn’t catching redfish, he’s targeting spotted seatrout on the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Respectable numbers of trout are being found throughout the flats on incoming tides. Live shiners free-lined or under a cork are keeping anglers busy for hours.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous “bull” reds being caught. If you don’t know what a “bull” red is, it’s a redfish that is way over the top slot of 27 inches. In fact, they don’t really hit “bull” status in these parts until around 35 inches or bigger. For bait, jumbo live shrimp, pinfish, shiners and numerous types of cut bait will work.
Other species at the R&R include macks, snapper and snook. Keeper-sizes of all three species are coming to the deck.
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