Cooler weather forecast, great fishing to come

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Capt. Jason Stock shows off his whopper king mackerel catch from a trip offshore Oct. 5.

A slight drop in temperature around Anna Maria Island has local and visiting anglers anticipating some great fishing. Cooler breezes and cooler water temps are settling in on our coastal areas and with them comes a forecast for some great fishing.

Snook are starting to meander back to the flats after a long, hot summer of spawning along the the barrier islands. And when these snook arrive at the grass flats, they are there for one reason and one reason only. Do you hear the dinner bell ringing? That’s right — they are there to feed. They know eventually it’s going to get cold so they want to fatten up as best they can. This being said, some great snook fishing is in store for area anglers.

Redfish are making their presence known. And if you’ve been waiting for them, you’re probably saying, “Finally.” The redfish bite was nonexistent for a few months, but that is changing. We’re now seeing a nice flux of breeder schools arriving on the flats from Tampa Bay southward to Sarasota Bay. Smaller reds are being found scattered throughout the region.

Lastly, spotted seatrout are a mainstay for anglers. Deep grass flats during strong incoming or outgoing tides are producing phenomenal numbers of fish. Many small fish under 15 inches have arrived, although persistent anglers are managing to catch their limit of slot-size trout.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous black drum and redfish being caught. Anglers using live shrimp as bait combined with a bottom rig are finding success. Casting shrimp under the pier around the pilings is key to getting these fish to bite. Both species being caught are in the slot. For the reds, that’s 28-27 inches and for the black drum that’s 14-24 inches. Other species being caught, mostly on shrimp, include flounder and sheepshead.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the flats of southern Tampa Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway for snook, redfish and trout. For the snook and redfish, shallow flats that include good tidal flow combined with mangroves or oyster bars are Lowman’s preferred areas to fish. Chumming with live shiners is key to getting either species to give up its location. As for the trout, deeper grass flats adjacent to deeper channels, creek mouths or inlets are providing excellent action. Live shiners under a cork or free-lined will suffice as bait.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is running clients to the nearshore reefs along the coast of Anna Maria Island. By using live shiners as bait, Gross is luring many Spanish mackerel to the hook. Barracuda are looming around the reefs, too, and Gross is enticing them to bite by using whole live Spanish mackerel as bait. Most hookups on the ’cudas are occurring where there’s a mackerel on the hook and being reeled in.

On the flats, snook, redfish and spotted seatrout are cooperating, although most snook catches are falling just under the minimum size of 28 inches. As for the redfish, schooling fish are being found on shallow flats near oyster bars and spotted seatrout are being found on deep grass areas during strong tides.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

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