Fall fishing around Anna Maria Island is getting better and better as we experience cool overnight temperatures, moderate days and calm waters.
As a result of the two cold fronts we recently experienced, the waters have cooled down just enough to trigger fish to start feeding and fatten up for winter.
Fishing offshore is proving to be quite productive, as many reports of gag and red grouper are coming from the guides. Migratory species — kingfish, mackerel, bonito, cobia and blackfin tuna — are being reported.
And on the flats, the snook bite is nothing short of exceptional. Live free-lined shiners are quickly being devoured by hungry snook in preparation for winter. Redfish and spotted seatrout are proving to be a worthwhile venture. And lastly, rumors of pompano are being reported — keep a couple of shrimp-tipped jigs handy.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working offshore for a variety of species. Cobia and blackfin tuna highlight the offshore bite for anglers fishing live baits on the surface. Those fishing with bottom rigs are being rewarded with numerous red and gag grouper.
Moving inshore, White says fishing for bonito along the beaches is productive. Fly fishers especially like to hook these little football-shaped fish just for their sheer power and fight.
On the flats, snook are the predominant bite. Live shiners under a cork or free-lined are quickly devoured by hungry linesiders.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the fishing and the weather at the pier is about as good as it gets. Anglers using live shrimp as bait are catching a multitude of species, including redfish, black drum and sheepshead. Pompano are being taken via live shrimp. Anglers using live lures, such as jigs and spoons, are catching ladyfish, macks and jacks until their arms are worn out.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting the large bait schools, which are gathering anywhere from a few hundred yards from the beach to a few miles offshore. These large schools of bait fish attract predators — Spanish mackerel, kingfish, bonito and sharks.
Moving to the flats, Lowman is finding an exceptional spotted seatrout bite during the strong phases of the tide. Live free-lined shiners are producing the best action. Snook are abundant on the flats and the best bite, again, is occurring on strong tides.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is taking anglers to fish the flats of Tampa Bay for snook. Free-lining live shiners over shallow grass flats during the morning tides is producing respectable numbers of catch-and-release sized snook. Spotted seatrout also are being found on the flats, along with ladyfish and pompano.
Fishing in depths of 10 feet or more throughout Tampa Bay is producing a great bite on Spanish mackerel. Finding schools of bait is key to locating these high-speed fish, and casting live baits or silver spoons is attracting the bite.
Capt. Jason Stock is spending his days offshore, thanks to the mild weather and calm seas. Using top-water plugs, such as large poppers, around wrecks and reefs is resulting in some explosive action on amberjack and cobia. Blackfin tuna and kingfish are present in these areas, too.
As for bottom fishing, gag grouper is the highlight this week for Stock’s clients.
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