|Good grouper catch offshore
Larry Bethke, left, of Bradenton, and buddy Matt Wisted of Dolutch, Minn., caught these and more gag and red grouper while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters.
Cold front chills spring arrival, but great things ahead
Just when things started to get really great … a cold front blasted through the area.
Springtime fishing had just started to hit when the cold winds hit over the weekend, chilling the upcoming spring action for snook, redfish, trout and other species in the bays.
The cold didn't seem to impact the offshore fishing, though, with continued reports of terrific catches of red and gag grouper offshore, plus snapper and amberjack.
With what is hoped to be the last cold front of the season behind us, look for an improvement in fishing. There are even a few reports of kingfish starting their annual spring run offshore — and that's welcome news.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's still finding snook fishing to be hot, averaging more than 20 fish per day with plenty of the linesiders coming in at better than 26 inches. "Kingfish and Spanish mackerel were on the increase following bait schools in the 40- to 50-foot depths in the Gulf," he said, "and quite a few mangrove snapper were being caught over hard bottom in the same areas."
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said his charters caught some small redfish and snook in Miguel Bay last week, with artificials working best as bait.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore fishing is great, with lots of big grouper and snapper catches being reported, but a little farther offshore than most fishers would prefer. Even deeper in the Gulf, amberjack are hitting well near the reefs. In the backwaters, look for lots of sheepshead still, but snook are starting to get hungry and come onto the hooks of fishers, although last weekend's cold front could chill the action a bit.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include sheepshead catches near the bridges, a few trout on the seagrass flats and redfish coming out of Palma Sola Bay.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include small grouper, sheepshead and shark from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge area. Snook and redfish are also coming out of Miguel Bay.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said the action there included a bunch of sheepshead and some pompano. He added that a big Goliath grouper — used to be known as jewfish — has been hanging around the pier. It's on the taboo list of fish to catch and keep, though, so it appears to only be a tease for fishers.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said mackerel and sheepshead are the best bet during the day, with some big snook being caught at night. Sheepies are the No. 1 catch, he added.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said snook action was hot before the cold weather appeared late last week. Whitebait was out there for a while, but it too may have gone south to escape the cold, Dave predicted, but sheepshead are still out there and are coming onto the docks.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina inCortezoffered a common fisher lament: "Things were rolling right along with some solid spring action when an unseasonable cold front rolled through the area over the weekend." He said that before the front he took Vic and Patrick Houfec and Tyler Beckman, from Appleton, Wisc., out to catch "some really decent redfish ranging in size from 18 inches to 27 inches and a number of snook to 25 inches. All of the action came on an incoming tide using both shrimp and whitebait in north Sarasota Bay and Palma Sola Bay. Earlier in the week my charters did similarly well with the addition of Spanish mackerel." Next up? Capt. Zach said, "Look for some really strong snook action inside, along with cobia and kingfish on the beaches once the weather settles into a normal spring pattern."
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's finding some nice-size snook for his charters, plus a few redfish.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said when he was able to get out last week, things "were fantastic. As in weeks past, we had to contend with windy days that kept us from being able to get out there offshore. We had a good catch of gag and red grouper, mangrove, lane and yellowtail snapper, as well as some porgys. We hooked into some kingfish that broke off. I predict, as the water temperature rises, the grouper, kingfish, and large blacktip shark bite will improve greatly." He is fishing out to 110 feet in the Gulf, using various live bait fish, live shrimp, and frozen Spanish sardines as bait.
On my boat Magic, we're still catching sheepshead up to 6 pounds, but we're finding more and more redfish on each trip, and Gwyn Matthews caught some nice-size pompano while out with me last week.
Good luck and good Fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year-plus fishing guide. Call him at 723-1107 to provide a fishing report. Prints and digital images of your catch are also welcome and may be dropped off at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include identification for persons in the picture along with information on the catch and a name and phone number for more information. Snapshots may be retrieved once they appear in the paper.