Wintertime fishing proves productive inshore, offshore

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Chase Stevens, 12, of Suffield, Connecticut, each with a very large sheepshead, show off their catch, the result of a winter fishing trip under the guidance of their grandfather, Connecticut-snowbird Dick Stevens, on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dick Stevens said, “Their smiles tell it all.” Islander Courtesy Photo
Fischer Stevens, 10, of Suffield, Connecticut, each with a very large sheepshead, show off their catch, the result of a winter fishing trip under the guidance of their grandfather, Connecticut-snowbird Dick Stevens, on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dick Stevens said, “Their smiles tell it all.” Islander Courtesy Photo
Kathy Coleman, visiting Anna Maria Island from Virginia, shows off the sheepshead she caught Jan. 19 on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Warren Girle, son Andy More and husband Sam Coleman. The group also caught redfish in Sarasota Bay using shrimp and were pleased the cold weather didn’t thwart their efforts.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island continues to follow a wintertime pattern for yet another week.

Spring doesn’t arrive until March 20. And as water temperatures both in the bays and in the Gulf of Mexico are striving to reach the upper 50s, fishing may require a little patience. On the calm days, when the waves are a foot or less, venturing out into the Gulf of Mexico can produce great results. Fishing ledges, reefs and wrecks is providing action on porgies, grunts, snappers and hogfish.

Also in the mix: catch-and-release grouper and amberjack. On windier days, staying in the bay and Intracoastal Waterway is the best bet. Casting live shrimp under docks and along canal seawalls is a way to attract sheepshead, black drum and redfish. In some of the deeper canals, free-lining a shrimp can attract large, spotted seatrout and snook.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the typical wintertime species reeled up on the deck:  Sheepshead, black drum, flounder and redfish. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are having the most success. Those opting to use artificials, such as small jigs, are hooking up with an occasional jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting ledges and rock piles in the Gulf of Mexico when the weather permits. While in these areas, Lowman’s charter clients are reeling up numerous porgies, as well as some hogfish and mangrove snapper. Live shrimp fished on a 1-ounce knocker rig is producing the bite. Moving inshore, Lowman is targeting sheepshead and redfish around local docks and oyster bars.

Capt. Warren Girle is working offshore when the winds are light and the seas are calm. By fishing ledges, reefs and wrecks Girle is producing good action for his charter clients on a variety of species. Key West grunts, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release grouper are in the mix. Fishing inshore also is productive for Girle’s charters. Residential docks and canals are holding redfish, black drum and sheepshead. To lure these fish out from their wintertime haunts, Girle is using live shrimp as bait.

Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore when the opportunity presents itself and the weather allows. Using live shrimp as bait, Stock’s clients are reeling up numerous grunts, porgies and hogfish. Switching to large baits, especially artificials such as top-water poppers, results in large amberjack. Moving inshore, Stock is fishing shallow flats for gator trout. Artificials, such as Sebile “stick shad” or the DOA CAL jig is producing a bite. Lastly, catch-and-release gag grouper action is entertaining Stock’s clients in Tampa Bay.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is dock fishing on the Manatee River and in the Intracoastal Waterway and Sarasota Bay. Casting live shrimp under docks is resulting in sheepshead, black drum and redfish. Fishing shallow flats on the warmer days is producing some schooley snook, as well as spotted seatrout.

It’s a great time to go fishing!

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

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