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Date of Issue: March 31, 2005

Fishing

Good catch
Dr. Scott Johnson, left, and son Zach, of Madison, Wis., caught some nice-sized gag grouper while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire.
Click on image to enlarge

Kings starting to show offshore, plus mackerel; snook in

Fishing doesn't get a whole lot better than what's going on out there right now.

Grouper and snapper continue to be excellent catches offshore right now for the bottom fishers. Mackerel are starting to hit big-time offshore as well, and kingfish are starting to show up on their migration and should start to really hit very, very soon.

Backwater action for redfish is still great, as are trout catches. Snook are also starting to hit better and better as the water temps gradually rise.

And sheepshead are either at their peak or just a few days away from prime size and hunger potential — from either the fish or human perspective.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's been working in Sarasota Bay of late and catching trout, redfish and snook, with the reds going to 29 inches and tipping the scales at better than 11 pounds. He's also putting his charters onto flounder to 20 inches in length, with shrimp being the best bait for the hottest action.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said mackerel and kingfish have started to move offshore, and action should keep getting better and better in the next few weeks. Snook fishing in the bays has been excellent, and there are lots of redfish being brought back from Sarasota Bay.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said pier fishers are reeling in lots of sheepshead, redfish, bluefish, mackerel and pompano, but the sheepies still are No. 1 for the pier, with mackerel coming in a close second. Sounds like a horse race, doesn't it?

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said mackerel, sheepshead and some small sharks were the best action for the pier last week, with mack attacks getting better daily.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said redfish are the hot ticket in Terra Ceia and Miguel bays, plus plenty of mackerel and snapper from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge area of Tampa Bay. Sheepshead are still thick and hungry around the docks of the Manatee River, he added.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said his charters caught a good mix of species last week: Mackerel, trout, redfish and some good-size snook, plus he's finding that whitebait is starting to show up in larger schools now.

At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports by wade fishers for trout and redfish on the lower tides in the backwater are still great. Snook fishing is starting to pick up, and boating fishers have said there are "tons of mackerel" by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay.

At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include lots coming out of redfish in Terra Ceia Bay, plenty of mackerel near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and big, big sheepshead from near any of the structures in the bays.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's finding lots of mackerel, cobia and bluefish out in the Gulf, plus redfish and snook in the backwaters.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's finding fishing "to be hot right now in between the fronts. Our clients have been consistently catching red grouper to 25 pounds, gag grouper to 20 pounds, limit catches of mangrove snapper to 6 pounds, plus lane and yellowtail snapper, triggerfish and sheepshead." Capt. Larry said he's been out to 40 to 130 feet of water in the Gulf, using live pinfish, grunts, frozen Spanish sardines or live shrimp for the snapper.

Capt. Ray Markham said he put winter Longboat Key residents Larry and Annie Mahoney onto a few good days of fishing, with "terrific action on big trout to 24 inches. In fact, one half-day fishing trip produced well over 100 fish ranging from 14- to 24-inches, plus grouper, nearly 30 bluefish to 3 pounds, a number of redfish to 28 inches, snook to 24 inches and flounder. That would have been enough, but at day's end, I spotted the first pair of tarpon I have seen this season near Port Manatee."

Capt. Sam Kimball on Legend charters out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's getting into lots of gag grouper, yellowtail, mangrove and lane snapper, as well as grunts, triggerfish and sea bass.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's said mackerel are coming on strong for his charters, as well as redfish and trout in the backwater, plus snook action is really starting to turn on.

On my boat Magic, we caught redfish to 27 inches in length, snook to 26 inches, trout to 20 inches, snapper to 15 inches and all the mackerel anybody could want. Whitebait is plentiful at the Skyway in Tampa Bay as well.

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 news@islander.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.

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