With some of the best weather of the year upon us, Anna Maria Island fishing is following suit. The inshore bite is excellent. That is, of course, if you’re lucky enough to be in the right spot, on the right tide, on the right day.
The waters of the Intracoastal Waterway heading south from Tampa Bay into Sarasota Bay are clear and in the mid-70s, which is the perfect recipe for a great day of flats fishing.
With only a couple of weeks left of snook season, anglers are coming out of the woodwork — especially on the weekends — with hopes of getting their chance at a keeper linesider.
Of course, there are plenty of 20-26 inchers out there to keep you busy until the big one hits. The slot size on snook is 28-33 inches. To get in on the action, look for mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, good tidal flow and clean water.
Spotted seatrout are hot now. Deeper grass flats around the passes are holding big spawning trout. Hopefully you let those go. We need them to lay their eggs so we have more to catch. Plus, there are plenty of slot-size trout around if you really want to eat one.
As for the redfish, I’m seeing some — but not many — which is a little alarming. Hopefully, things will change and they’ll start making a real showing on the flats.
On my Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m concentrating on snook and trout fishing. The bite is really good, so why not? Free-lined shiners are the perfect fish attractant and are producing plenty of action. Last week I saw trout up to 24 inches on the end of the line. Most trout catches were slot, although plenty were exceeding 20 inches.
As for the snook fishing, most of the action for my clients has been on those 20-26 inch fish. Catching 20 snook in a morning session is almost routine. As for slot snook, we’ve had a few here and there.
On a side note, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently announced a 40-day recreational red snapper season in the Gulf waters — an increase from the originally proposed 24-day season. If approved, season would open June 11 and close July 21. To learn more about snapper, visit myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snappers/ and don’t forget to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com if you plan to target snapper or other reef fish from a private vessel.
Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. Fishing over deep grass flats in depths of 4-6 feet is working well for Girle. Free-lined live shiners are resulting in many slot-size trout 15-20 inches for his clients. Larger fish exceeding 20 inches are mixed in, although not as frequent as the slot fish.
Snook fishing in Sarasota Bay is keeping rods bent for Girle’s clients. Moving to slightly shallower grass flats in 2-3 feet of water is resulting in snook 20-30 inches. Mangrove edges and oyster bars are key parts of the equation when hunting these snook.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the arrival of snook at Anna Maria Island’s northernmost pier. The time is near to start seeing the big spawning females cruising the shadow lines at night as they take up residence under the pier. They should start to feed as they prepare to move out to the beaches to spawn. Other species being caught at the R&R include black drum, flounder and redfish, all being caught on live shrimp.
To round out the bite, Spanish mackerel and pompano are making guest appearances at the pier for fishers casting small white or pink jigs.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the nearshore artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Due west of Anna Maria Island in depths of 20-45 feet, Lowman is putting his anglers on mangrove snapper. Live shiners dropped to the bottom around the reefs are attracting mangrove snapper 12-18 inches.
Also around the reefs are kingfish, Spanish mackerel and blacktip sharks, which add variety to the bite.
Moving inshore, snook and spotted seatrout are the targeted species. Both are taking a free-lined live shiner.
Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore for a variety of species. Kingfish are accommodating Stock while fishing around offshore reefs and wrecks. Live free-lined shiners or cigar minnows on a light wire are getting the job done. Kings in the 20-pound range are average catches for his clients.
Permit are being found offshore. Casting live silver dollar-sized crabs to these “floating garbage can lids” is resulting in fish exceeding 25 pounds.
Moving inshore, Stock is concentrating on snook and spotted seatrout.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing offshore now that the winds have finally subsided. In depths around 100 feet, red grouper are cooperating eagerly, taking frozen sardines on a weighted rig as they near the bottom. Other species offshore include amberjack and African pompano.
Moving inshore, White is clients on big snook and numerous spotted seatrout. For both species, fishing around the passes is producing good action on White’s boat.
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