Ed Chiles and Tina Fusaro of Anna Maria show off a 20-pound amberjack they caught the fish together on a pinfish while fishing 40 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island. Chiles didn’t say if the jack would go home to the smoker or to his trio of restaurants, the Sandbar, BeachHouse or Mar Vista.
It’s all about the air-water temperature for area anglers
As water temps heat up, it’s also time to beat the heat.
For flats fishers, it’s advantageous to try fishing early morning tides or late evening tides. By now, you can usually see outside before daybreak around 5:30 a.m. This twilight time is the perfect opportunity to target flats species before the water temps climb too high. The same applies in the evening, from 7 p.m. until dark. A good moving tide combined with cooler water temps should equate to fish on the hook.
Tarpon are finally arriving back along our beaches after a small hiatus for Tropical Storm Andrea. I think they went offshore — at least to deeper water, right? Sightings are occurring from Longboat to Egmont keys, although catches are not as frequent as sightings. The fish being caught are biting on crabs or shiners and are in the 50 to 120 pounds.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing for offshore species on ledges and hard bottom with good results. Using live shiners or live pinfish for bait, Girle is reeling up more keeper-size red grouper, Key West grunts and keeper gags than you can shake a stick at. On a flat line with large live shiners, Girle is catching King mackerel up to 15 pounds.
Moving near shore, Girle is targeting tarpon along the beaches and passes. For bait, Girle is carrying shiners, threadfins and small crabs. The size of the tarpon on hookups this past week was 70-180 pounds.
Finally, on the flats, Girle is getting good action on catch-and-release snook. Live shiners free-lined to spotted fish are getting the job done. Along with snook, Girle is catching spotted seatrout and redfish during early morning and late evening tides.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel being caught on artificials like silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or white jigs. Sork suggests fishing early mornings or evenings to get in on the mackerel bite. While targeting macks, expect to catch jack crevalle, ladyfish and blue runners.
Pier fishers arriving at dusk are gearing up for an evening of shark fishing. By using oily baits, such as fresh-cut mackerel or bonito, pier fishers are tying into blacktip and sandbar sharks. Average size is 40-140 pounds.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel says fishing is improving after Tropical Storm Andrea. With water quality back to normal, the fish are responding to live shrimp or shiners. If you choose to use artificials, try using a small white jig or Gotcha plug.
Bait fishers at the pier are catching mangrove snapper, black drum, flounder and catch-and-release snook. For the drum, live shrimp are the bait of choice. Cast a weighted shrimp under the pier for the drum and you may end up hooking a flounder, too. For the snook and snapper, live shiners are producing the bite.
Pier fishers using artificials likes jigs and Gotcha plugs are being rewarded with Spanish mackerel, as well as jack crevalle and ladyfish. Again, to target macks, fish either early in the morning or late in the evening.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is fishing offshore with his grandpa, Bill Grayson, with excellent results. Keeper red grouper up to 30 inches are being reeled up on live shiners or live pinfish. “We limited out in one hour for four people,” exclaims Mattay. “There’s a lot of red grouper out there right now.”
Along with red grouper, Mattay is catching mangrove snapper up to 16 inches.
While at the tackle shop, Mattay says most fishers are gearing up for tarpon fishing. For hooks, 5/0 and 6/0 circle hooks are flying off the shelves, as well as fluorocarbon leader in the 50- to 80-pound class. For baits, tarpon fishers are buying pass crabs and blue crabs, as well as frozen shad.
On a final note, Mattay adds that nighttime snook fishing around piers and passes is heating up. “Use big baits if you want to catch big fish,” says Mattay. Assorted baits such as shiners, threadfins and even small ladyfish are producing bites.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay producing a good bite on spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Gross is anchoring early mornings over shallow grass flats during moving tides. By chumming with live shiners, Gross is luring fish to the baits as his clients cast to them. For rigging, Gross likes to keep it simple: 3-4 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon connected to a No. 1 live bait hook completes the rig; Simple, but effective.
Gross also likes to take his clients to target tarpon, in both the passes and along the beaches. For bait, Gross is using live shiners or crabs, which is resulting in silver kings estimated to be 80-100 pounds.
Send fishing reports to email@example.com.
Bill Palmer, left, of Denver, caught and released a sailfish on a recent offshore charter with Capt. Warren Girle. First mate Sean Armstrong helps hold the fish for the photo.
Tarpon fishing heats up before tropical storm
Before our brush with Tropical Storm Andrea, the tarpon bite was beginning to heat up. Fish were spotted in the passes, along the beaches and at Egmont Key. Successful live bait offerings include pinfish, blue crabs, pass crabs, shiners and threadfin herring. Reports of fish 50-100 pounds were average.
Along the shorelines of Anna Maria Island, you should start spotting spawning snook cruising through the trough. A free-lined live shiner sight-casted from the beach or boat to the fish is a sure fire way to get your blood pumping. You can also use artificials like the MirrOlure MirrOdine or the Yozuri Crystal Minnow to get hooked up on the big catch-and-release fish.
Finally, spotted seatrout are responding to live and artificial baits. The grass flats on Anna Maria Sound are holding good numbers of fish in the range 12-20 pounds. For live bait, you can’t beat a shiner. For artificials, try a soft plastic such as a DOA Cal jig combined with a jighead to get a bite.
Finally, the highlight of this week’s fishing was a 50-pound sailfish caught by Bill Palmer on a live shiner while on a charter with Capt. Warren Girle. Girle spotted the fish while reeling in a bait. Once the fish was spotted, Girle instructed Palmer to stop reeling and the fish inhaled the bait, which started a 30-minute battle, to boat the fish, which was photographed and released.
Girle also is fishing for tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island with good results. Using pass crabs or small blue crabs, Girle is managing to find the fish and to get a bite. Girle likes a rig consisting of 60-pound fluorocarbon leader connected to a 5/0 Gamakatsu hook with a uni-knot to target these large silver fish. On the reel, Girle is spooling up with 50-pound braid, which aids in casting ability and in total capacity on the spool. Average size of silver kings this past week was 100 pounds.
Moving offshore, Girle is catching a variety of species around ledges and hard bottom. Keeper-sizes of both red and gag grouper are being reeled up from the depths while using live shiners for bait. Mangrove snapper up to 18 inches also are being caught on shiners, as well as a 20-pound kingfish.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel being caught on both morning and afternoon tides. With an abundance of bait, the macks are not just passing by like previous weeks. Now, upon arrival, macks in targetable numbers, are slashing through baits. Small white jigs lead the pack, but silver spoons and Gotcha plugs will get you hooked up, too. Expect to catch ladyfish and jack crevalle in the mix.
Pier fishers arriving for a nighttime hookup are being rewarded with blacktip sharks ranging 4-5 pounds. Hand-sized chunks of oily fish like bonito, jack crevalle or mackerel are getting the bite.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishers there are catching a variety of fish on live baits, including shrimp and shiners. Mangrove snapper, black drum and redfish are being reeled up from under the pier in addition to catch-and-release snook. Pier fishers casting live shiners away from the pier are hooking up with Spanish mackerel.
Artificials like small white jigs or Gotcha plugs are resulting in Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. For the jigs, pier fishers at the R&R like white speck rigs or crappie jigs.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle spent the past week beach and pier fishing with good results. Catch-and-release snook fishing is in the early stages on both the beaches and piers. For pier fishing, Mattay is using stout gear to manhandle big fish out from under the pilings. For the beaches, Mattay likes to scale down to medium-weight tackle. Catch-and-release snook up to 40 inches are being caught on live shiners, threadfin herring or pinfish.
Other catches at the piers for Mattay include mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and pompano. For the snapper, Mattay likes using a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a size-1 live bait hook. Adding a live shiner or shrimp and casting under the pier is resulting in snapper up to 14 inches. For the Spanish macks and pompano, Mattay is throwing small white jigs.
Shark fishing along the beaches is beginning to heat up, according to Mattay. On a recent trip along the beaches, Mattay managed to hook and land a 100-pound bull shark along with numerous blacktip sharks weighing 60 pounds. For bait, Mattay likes any oily fish such as mackerel, bonito or jack crevalle.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout and redfish in southern Tampa Bay. By free-lining live shiners, Gross is putting his clients on keeper-sizes of all three species. For the catch-and-release snook, some are even exceeding the slot of 28-33 inches. On the beaches and passes, Gross is targeting tarpon. By using live threadfin herring, large shiners or small crabs, Gross is finding success with the silver king. Average size of the fish this past week was 80-100 pounds.
Send fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dorinda Keifer, visiting from Indiana, caught and released a snook while fishing Anna Maria’s backwater with Capt. Warren Girle.
Despite winds, fishing action remains hot
Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains productive despite strong winds from the east this past weekend.
Tarpon are moving steadily along the beaches waiting to be swarmed, while some 20 boats or more at a time are looking in the same general areas for a hookup. Don’t expect those fish to bite. Catches around the passes and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge are being reported. Pass crabs, blue crabs, threadfin herring, shiners and pinfish are producing bites.
On the flats, spotted seatrout are in good numbers. Live shiners are proving lucrative, although a small pinfish under a cork is hard for them to resist, too. For the fishers who prefer artificials, try topwater plugs in the early morning and switch to soft plastics when the sun gets up higher in the sky.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting tarpon. Whether fishing just off the beaches, in the passes or at the “big bridge,” Girle is managing to get his clients connected with a silver king.
Girle’s preferred baits are pass crabs and small blue crabs although threadfin herring are working in certain situations.
Average size of Girle’s tarpon catches this past week is 80-100 pounds with the largest around 160 pounds.
In between tarpon, Girle is fishing the backcountry of Sarasota Bay. Catch-and-release snook as well as slot-size redfish are being caught on live shiners. By anchoring and chumming, Girle is luring prey within casting range of the boat.
Finally, on an adventure to offshore waters, Girle found success with mangrove snapper, permit and amberjack. For the mangoes and AJ’s Girle is using live shiners. “For the permit, you can’t beat a crab,” says Girle.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are being there in the early mornings. Pier fishers using white jigs, Gotcha plugs or Clark spoons are taking home dinner. Expect to catch macks in the 15- to 20-inch range with a few larger fish in the mix. Also cooperating are jack crevalle, ladyfish, blue runners and small shark. For the shark, a piece of fresh-cut jack crevalle or ladyfish will get you hooked up.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel says fishing is getting better as the water warms and bait fish arrive in quantities. Pier fishers are reeling up a variety of species using a variety of baits.
In the morning, Spanish mackerel are being caught. Pier fishers using white speck rigs are catching macks in the range of 15 inches. Expect to hook into blue runners, ladyfish, jack crevalle and, if you’re lucky, a stray pompano while targeting macks with jigs.
From under and around the pilings of the pier, fishers are reeling up black drum, flounder and snapper. Live shrimp are the bait of choice, although small live shiners will do the job.
Finally, over-slot redfish and catch-and-release snook are rounding out the bite. Pier fishers using stout gear and a little skill are managing to land big reds and a few whopper snook at night. Live pinfish or ladyfish are working for the snook. For the reds, pinfish or small blue crabs will get you connected.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says to look for hungry catch-and-release snook around the passes and piers at night. Mattay is using a variety of baits, including live shiners, pinfish and ladyfish, to hook the oversized fish. Mattay suggests using stout gear, too. Mattay is catching snook up to 37 inches at night.
From the flats, Mattay says spotted seatrout are the main attraction. For live bait, shrimp or shiners will work. For artificials, try a topwater plug at either sunrise or sunset for an explosive surprise.
Finally, tarpon reports are coming in to the marina daily. Fish are being spotted around the passes and on the beaches. Pass crabs, blue crabs, shiners, threadfin herring or pinfish are producing a bite, catches up to 150 pounds are being reported.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says fishing has been mostly steady, but he’s seeing some red-hot action in the mix. Spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook have been feeding when the current is moving.
Spotted seatrout have been the go-to fish for both some fillets for the dinner table and exciting action on the flats in Tampa Bay, says Howard. He also saw plenty of gator trout landed in the past week. “A lively shiner rigged on a 1/0 hook with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader under a popping cork has drawn many of these snaggle-toothed predators to the boat. Make the old school bobbers pop and gurgle and the bait to flash to draw the strikes,” says Howard.
Redfish have been making appearances in smaller schools, and cruising the edges of flats and hiding in potholes. Chumming with shiners will draw strikes from these copper-bellied bruisers and fire up the bite. Howard suggests following the fish into the bushes as the tide works towards high water and, conversely, as the tide drops. The fish often stage on the drop offs of the flats.
Catch-and-release snook have been cooperating off the beaches and close to passes as they spawned on the full moon on May 24. Look for the snook to be in pods just off the beach shoreline in the first trough, Howard says.
Looking forward, the tide will be high in the early afternoons next week and should provide for some excellent fishing, Howard predicts. Tarpon are making a strong showing off the beaches and in Tampa Bay. “Look for the tarpon bite to explode in the coming weeks as more of the schools of silver kings invade our waters,” Howard says.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters also is fishing tarpon this week. By using crabs, threadfin herring or shiners for bait, Gross is connecting his clients to 150 pounds of silver fury. Average size this past week was 80-150 pounds.
In the backcountry, Gross is catching slot and over-slot size catch-and-release snook on live shiners. Gross is using a No. 1 bait hook tied to a few feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to target these feisty linesiders. By anchoring and chumming, Gross is keeping the fish occupied while his clients cast their baits.
Finally, spotted seatrout are on the Fishy Business menu. Gross is putting clients on slot-size trout on shiners free-lined behind the boat. Fish up to 24 inches are being caught, although, he says, most are in the slot of 15-20 inches.
Send fishing reports to email@example.com.
Tom King shows off a Sunshine Skyway Bridge tarpon he caught on a recent charter with Capt. Danny Stasny.
Anna Maria anglers catch tarpon fever
As I settle down to reread “The Tarpon Book” by Frank Sargent after a 12-hour day of tarpon fishing, I find myself flipping to the same pages I do every year. The pages about fishing tarpon in Tampa Bay and along the beach.
There’s something about reading about tarpon fishing in our area that makes me warm and fuzzy inside. Especially after a successful day on the water. Plus, no matter how many times you read Sargent’s book, you always end up having one of those fishing epiphanies that keeps you awake all night.
Ah, the allure of tarpon fishing — always a learning experience, and potentially an obsession. Side effects include numerous hours catching bait, spending vast amounts of money on a boat and equipment, dehydration and sunburn due to extensive hours on the water, moderate to heavy fatigue from fighting a stubborn 150-pound fish for more than an hour and, finally for some, arriving home after dark only to pass out from exhaustion before dinner. Oh, and, what’s for dinner? Certainly not tarpon, there is no food value to the silver king.
I bet you can’t wait to get out there and get hooked. It’ll hit you when the boat is surrounded by tarpon that are blasting chummers you just tossed out. You may even shake a little as your bait gets nervous and you anticipate the bite. Then, when, a silver torpedo comes skyrocketing out of the water not 20 yards from your boat, it’s all over for you. Just admit it, you’re hooked.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the backcountry for spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook. Gross is using live shiners to target these species. By free-lining baits behind the boat, Gross’ clients are experiencing sizzling action on some big catch-and-release snook.
Gross is finding the big snook in shady potholes and around mangrove islands amid shallow grass flats. Snook up to 40-inches are being caught with a lot of slot-sized fish in the mix. “If you’re a snook fisherman,” says Gross, “Now is the time. There are some big fish on the flats.”
Gross also is seizing the tarpon moments with his clients. Whether fishing the passes or the beaches, Gross’ anglers are putting their strength and determination to the test while tangling with these silver bombers. He’s seeing an average of a few hookups per trip, and expects the bite to get better in the next few weeks. Average size this week is 80-100 pounds with a few fish up to 150 pounds.
Capt. Warren Girle is experiencing a severe case of silver king. Girle is fishing from sunrise to sunset in search of the much sought-after game fish. By carrying an assortment of baits, including crab, threadfin herring and shiners, Girle is producing multiple hookups and getting a respectable number of fish to the boat, too.
His average-size tarpon this past week was 90-120 pounds with some fish exceeding 150 pounds.
Amid the tarpon craze, Girle is still working the inshore species with good results. On the flats, Girle is catching trout, redfish and catch-and-release snook. For bait, he’s using live shiners free-lined behind the boat. He suggests fishing afternoon outgoing tides for good action on catch-and-release snook around the mangrove roots and sandy potholes.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says early morning action on Spanish mackerel, blue runners and jack crevalle is heating up. Bait is beginning to appear steadily, also the predators. Come to the pier equipped with small white jigs or Gotcha plugs to get in on the action. Remember, getting to the pier early is key.
For those not willing to go the distance in the morning, night fishing is picking up at the pier for catch-and-release snook or shark. For the snook, try dangling a fat pinfish or ladyfish under the pier. Heavy gear is necessary to get big snook out from under the pier once it’s hooked. If you don’t have the gear, don’t even try, Sork says.
For the shark, try casting a chunk of ladyfish or mackerel away from the pier and wait for a bite. Again, heavy gear is a good idea. You could catch a 3-foot bonnethead or an 8-foot bull shark — you just never know.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel says mackerel action on the early morning high tides is becoming productive. Pier anglers using small white speck rigs are capitalizing on the bite. Gotcha plugs are producing, too.
Pier fishers using live shrimp, are finding sheepshead, black drum and some oversized redfish meandering under the pier waiting for a tasty morsel to be placed in front of their noses. For the reds you can also try a palm-sized pinfish or a half of a blue crab to get a bite.
Finally, spectators at the pier are watching the tarpon rodeo just to the west. If you’re wondering what those 30 boats are doing out there, you’ll realize once you see a bright silver flash of a tarpon, flying 6 feet above the water, shaking violently, trying to spit the hook.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is hearing daily reports of tarpon being caught from both the beaches and the passes. Obsessed tarpon fishers are roaming the tackle shop isles in search of bulk-pack circle hooks, heavy fluorocarbon leaders and tarpon corks. Not only that, but some are equipping themselves with oversized spinning outfits spooled with hundreds of yards of heavy braided line worthy of withstanding the power of the silver king. Mattay says fish up to 175 pounds are being reported.
On the beaches Mattay is hearing of good action on migratory fish, including mackerel and shark. Large schools of bait are arriving along the shorelines, which in turn brings the fish. Barracuda also are being spotted along the beaches, and Mattay suggests using a tube lure to get hooked up with one of these toothy predators.
Send fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Braden Balmanno of Kansas shows off the 27-inch catch-and- release snook he hooked up on a recent charter with Capt. Danny Stasny.
Inshore, offshore take your pick for nonstop fishing action
Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains prosperous for inshore and nearshore fishers. On the beaches, migratory fish are cruising the shallow trough in search of bait schools.
Sharks are following close behind the migratory fish, which is making it possible to catch respectable sizes from the shoreline.
On the flats, catch-and-release snook are out in full force. Try around mangrove islands, passes and bridges to locate fish.
Also, on nearshore structure, Spanish mackerel, bonito and kingfish are patrolling for baitfish. Try casting free-lined shiners behind the boat to get a bite.
Tarpon are in the early stages of their season. Fish are being caught around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key. Although the real numbers of fish have not yet arrived, there are still targetable numbers in the area.
Capt. Warren Girle is in the backcountry of Sarasota Bay fishing for redfish and spotted seatrout. For the reds, Girle is fishing shallow grass flats with good tidal flow and clear water. By anchoring and chumming with live shiners, he’s consistently hooking up upper-slot reds with some over-slot fish in the mix. For the trout, Girle is fishing slightly deeper flats. By using either live shiners or artificials, such as soft plastics on a jighead, Girle’s clients are catching spotted seatrout in the 16-20 inch range.
Moving to nearshore structure, Girle is finding a variety of migratory species. After anchoring over structure, he is chumming with live shiners to bring kingfish, mackerel and bonito to the surface to feed. Once the fish are feeding, Girle instructs his clients to cast out a free-lined shiner. Kingfish in the 15-pound range are the norm, as well as Spanish mackerel up to 22 inches.
Sharks also are being caught on Girle’s charters. Blacktip, bull and lemon sharks are responding to chunks of Spanish mackerel free-lined behind the boat. Expect to catch shark up to 175 pounds using this method.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are dominating the bite. Pier fishers using Clark spoons behind a popping cork are hooking up with fish. Small white speck rigs are producing as well.
Fishing the pier at night is proving prosperous for those targeting shark. Most fishers are using chunks of fresh-cut Spanish mackerel, bonito or mullet to get a bite.
Expect to encounter blacktip, lemon and bull sharks. Remember, a reel that holds a lot of line is advantageous when targeting big sharks at the pier. Once hooked up, a big shark can easily peel off a couple hundred yards of line before you can turn it.
Pier fishers at night are hooking into some respectable catch-and-release snook. A hand-sized live pinfish soaked under the pier will get you connected. Just remember to return these big breeder fish back to the water as quickly and gently as possible.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel pier says fish are cooperating, but you have to be there at the right time. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and pompano are being caught, but the bite is sporadic at best. Due to a minimal amount of baitfish around the pier, most of the migratory fish are cruising by the pier and then moving on in search of more bait. For the macks and ladyfish, Gotcha plugs or small white jigs are the lures of choice. For the pompano, live sand fleas or shrimp will get the job done.
Pier fishers using live shiners for bait are catching a few sheepshead, black drum and flounder. Casting baits under the deck or around the pilings of the pier will get your bait in front of these tasty fish.
Finally, small shark are frequenting the waters around the R&R. By using shrimp or frozen squid, pier fishers are catching small bonnethead, Atlantic sharpnose and lemon sharks. For larger species, such as blacktip and bull sharks, try using a whole Spanish mackerel or a chunk of fresh-cut bonito.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is still going strong. Beach fishers using artificials such as Gotcha plugs and small white jigs are catching a variety of fish by casting from the shoreline. Jack crevalle, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and even a few pompano catches are being reported.
For those interested in catching shark, the beaches are a good destination to get started. Mattay suggests first catching a jack crevalle or other oily fish and then cutting the fish in chunks to use for bait. By rigging a shark leader and casting out a chunk of bait, beach fishers are finding good action on blacktip and lemon sharks.
On the flats, Mattay is hearing of great catch-and-release action on snook. Live shiners are like snook candy to the linesiders, although reports of fish being caught on topwater plugs are coming in, too. Mattay suggests fishing strong moving tides around mangrove islands to find the bite.
Send fishing reports to email@example.com.
Robert Sexton of Anna Maria and Orlando works to hold onto his tarpon catch while on a charter trip May 6 with Capt. Warren Girle. The silver king was hooked up near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and quickly released.
All fishing, all the time — plus tarpon show in Tampa Bay
Fishing around our little island is really getting serious. Trying to figure out what to target can be the hardest part of your day on the water? Take your pick.
With water temps falling into a normal pattern of mid- to upper-70s and calm winds, fishing conditions are about as good as they get. There’s even been a light, cool breeze lately. Enjoy that while it lasts.
On the flats of Anna Maria Sound and the surrounding waters, expect to find redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook staging up to blast that shiner you just cast into a pothole.
For the reds, check around oyster bars or rising tides. As the tide gets higher, these fish will be on the bar looking for crabs and small bait fish.
For good action on catch-and-release snook, try fishing in and around the passes. Live shiners will get you hooked up with a linesider.
And for spotted seatrout, shallow grass flats at sun up offer a great opportunity to catch a gator trout on a topwater plug.
On nearshore structure, migratory species like Spanish and king mackerel are patrolling bait schools. Along with kings and macks, expect to hook into bonito, blue runners and big jack crevalle. Multiple species of shark are cruising nearshore structure, offering some exciting action. Bull, blacktip, spinner and lemon sharks are following the mackerel schools in search of a bite to eat. You may even have sharks eating the fish on your hook while you’re reeling them.
Finally, expect to see tarpon numbers rise in the weeks to come. Small numbers of fish are being sighted, although the masses have not yet arrived. Now is a good time to get out your tarpon gear and make sure its in working order.
Kudos to Capt. Warren Girle for producing the first-of-the-season tarpon photo this week.
Capt. Warren Girle is working both near and offshore, finding sizzling action on kingfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, bonito and shark. For everything but the sharks, Girle is using live shiners or threadfin herring free-lined behind the boat. Sharks are hitting the shiners and threadies, but to catch a big fish, Girle casts out a fresh-cut chunk of mackerel or bonito. Expect to encounter blacktip, spinner, lemon and bull sharks.
Also on nearshore structure, Girle is sighting and hooking into the occasional cobia. For these brown bombers, Girle likes to pitch either a live shiner or pinfish right in front of the fish’s nose. After that, it’s usually game on. Or fish on. Fish up to 38 inches are being caught.
In the backcountry of Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook very accommodating. Girle is sight-casting with good results. The rest are in sandy potholes on the flats. When fishing the holes, Girle is anchoring and chumming to get the fish in that happy place. Then he casts live shiners into the mix for a hookup.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says he’s seeing good action on migratory fish, such as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, blue runners and jack crevalle. Pier fishers using live shiners or threadfin herring are catching decent numbers in the early morning, when silver spoons, white jigs or Gotcha plugs can produce a fairly consistent bite.
Sork also notes that numerous sharks are being caught during the evenings and overnight at the pier. Pier fishers using cut-bait, such as Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle or mullet, are catching sharks in the 3- to 7-foot range. Expect to encounter bonnethead, blacktip, lemon and sand sharks.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species caught daily. Bait fish are just beginning to show up, the migratory species such as Spanish mackerel, blue runners, jack crevalle, ladyfish and shark, are cashing in. All of these fish have sharp teeth, so plan accordingly for your rigging.
For all but the sharks, a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader will suffice. The alternative is a small wire leader, although these fish can see the leader and tend not to bite. The best scenario is to stock up on small white jigs or silver spoons and expect to lose a few when these predators are really biting.
If you’re rigging for shark, a 3-foot section of 120-pound hardwire tied to about 5 feet of 60- or 80-pound mono will do the trick. Combine that with a 6/0 quality circle hook and you’re in business.
Pompano also are making a showing at the R&R. Pompano jigs such as cannonball heads and Doc’s Goofy jigs are being gobbled up by pomps up to 20 inches in length. Live sand fleas on the hook are a good option to catch a tasty dinner.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle agrees, there’s good action occurring at both fishing piers on the north end. He’s working the pier and finding good numbers of catch-and-release snook on live shiners or pinfish. Slot-size snook and bigger are hooking up in the evening hours during outgoing tides.
Mattay also is having good results on Spanish mackerel, bluefish and big barracuda. For the macks and blues, he’s using whitebait or small white jigs. For the ’cuda, he’s using macks and blues. Last, but not least, Mattay is fishing pompano jigs from the piers with success on both pompano and permit.
On the beaches, Mattay suggests fishing for shark, while blacktip, lemon and bonnethead and bull sharks are prowling the shallows in search of a tasty morsel. For bait, Mattay likes fresh-cut bonito, mackerel or mullet.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the backcountry of southern Tampa Bay with good results. The main trio of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are responding to free-lined white bait with a purpose. Explosive strikes and drag-screaming action are occurring in water depths of 2-3 feet. Gross is fishing sandy potholes or grass flats next to mangrove edges to find his prey. Top size for the catch-and-release snook this past week was 34 inches with a lot of slot-size fish hooked up, too. For the reds, 33 inches is the “bull” of the week.
On deeper grass beds, Gross is fishing action on Spanish mackerel, big bluefish and flounder. White bait is the bait of choice here. Gross likes to chum up the macks first and then cast a free-lined bait into the mix. Expect to catch mackerel in the 24-inch range.
Send fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Islanders Mike Brinson, left, Curtis Hightower and Matt Brinson weigh in at the 20th annual Madeira Beach King of the Beach Old Salts tournament April 27, where they finished in fourth place overall, third in the calcutta, and brought home $10,220 in prize money. They fished about 14 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island in 50 feet of water and Matt Brinson caught the winning kingfish — a smoker. Some 476 boats were entered, and the catches went directly into a freezer truck bound for homeless shelters.
Fishing action for migratory species, sharks heat up
Look for migratory fish around nearshore structure and close to the beaches this week.
If you can find the bait schools, expect to encounter kings and Spanish mackerel, as well as bonito, jack crevalle and numerous species of shark.
For the macks and jacks, live shiners are the best live bait. For artificials, a quick retrieve of a Clark spoon or a small white jig will get you connected. For the sharks, fresh-cut mackerel or bonito will get you into the battle of a lifetime. Expect to see shark weighing 50-150 pounds. Bull, blacktip, spinner and sand sharks are the norm.
For the backcountry, catch-and-release snook, reds and trout are staged up on grassflats with good water flow. As it gets warmer, try fishing early in the morning or late in the evening to beat the heat. You also may notice the bite is better. Live shiners are the bait of choice for bait chuckers. Anglers who prefer artificials, should try a topwater plug just before sunrise for some explosive flats action.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are being reeled up daily to the deck. Catches of fish up to 20 inches to the fork are occurring during the morning and evening tides. He says small white crappie jigs are producing the best bite.
Sharks are on the move for pier anglers. Small pieces of frozen squid or cut mullet are resulting in bonnethead and blacktip sharks in the 3-foot range. For larger sharks, try cutting a fresh caught mack in thirds and cast a chunk to the bottom. Blacktip and catch-and-release lemon sharks up to 75 pounds are being reported.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel says Spanish mackerel are making a showing. Pier fishers using white speck rigs or Gotcha plugs are catching fish up to 20 inches to the fork. Mixed in with the macks are small jack crevalle, blue runners and ladyfish. Kilb warns that while targeting mackerel, you may have to wait for the fish to pass by the pier. The schools of baitfish have not arrived, so you have to catch the mackerel in passing.
Pier fishers using live shrimp or sand fleas are catching the occasional pompano. Although these fish haven’t arrived in strong numbers, catches are becoming more frequent. You can also use a pompano jig to stalk these tasty little fish.
Finally, Kilb says he’s seeing some mangrove snapper under the pier. Live shrimp or small live shiners will get you connected with these tasty reef fish. Try being as stealthy as you can when rigging for mangrove snapper at the pier. Some 20-pound fluorocarbon for a leader, a split-shot and a No. 4 hook should do the trick.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is beginning to heat up. He suggests looking for schools of bait to find predatory fish. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, blue runners and jack crevalle are cruising the Gulf shoreline in search of small baitfish. To get hooked up, Mattay suggests silver spoons, white jigs or Gotcha plugs.
Shark also are being caught along the area beaches. Anglers using frozen squid or shrimp are catching small blacktip and bonnethead sharks off the shore break. Those opting to use bigger baits are being rewarded with blacktip and spinner sharks up to 100 pounds. For the big fish, try fresh-cut mackerel on bonito for bait.
Finally, pompano have arrived on the beaches during the early morning. Mattay likes using a yellow pompano jig to catch these golden nuggets. If you don’t have any jigs, try scooping up some sand fleas for bait.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters reports fantastic fishing this past week. The inshore trinity of catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout and redfish has been active on the moving water, providing some drag-screaming action and some nice bags of fillets for the dinner table.
Howard found spotted seatrout schooled up during the full moon were very cooperative, feeding on shiners. “We have had no trouble getting enough slot-fish to chew and provide for some steady action and tasty fillets,” Howard says.
Spotted seatrout in all sizes, from schoolies to gator, are all over the bay in a variety of water depths. With the one-over-20-inch rule for your creel, and a gentle release by using a dehooking tool on the big ones, ensures many more spotted seatrout for the future.
Redfish have been cooperating with some big over-slot fish landed on Howard’s charters. Mike Osborn of Essex, England, hooked a 32-inch redfish after it inhaled a large shiner rigged on a 1/0 Owner circle hook under a popping cork while fishing in 3 feet of water. After taking a few photos, Osborn’s biggest ever fish was released to fight another day. Finding areas where redfish have not been over worked by other anglers has been the key to hooking the big ones.
Snook are on a tear, Howard says, feeding heavily as they slowly move out of the backwaters and toward the passes to begin their spawn. The long closure on harvesting snook has resulted in a lot more big ones on the flats. Hopefully, we can look for the FWC to open the season this fall, Howard adds.
Looking forward as the new moon approaches, Howard says the saltwater fishing scene will stay active as we experience bigger tides and fast-moving water. Look for the tarpon to invade our waters in big schools and give us an opportunity to battle the silver king.
Capt. Warren Girle is going beachside in search of migratory species. He’s finding Spanish and king mackerel are patrolling nearshore structure joined by bonito, cobia and plenty of shark. Girle is anchoring and chumming to get these fish in the mood.
Once the feeding frenzy begins behind the boat, Girle’s clients are casting live shiners into the mix.
With almost immediate action, Girle’s clients are reeling up kings up to 30 pounds and plenty of Spanish macks and bonito. Once the sharks show up, Girle is casting out chunks of cut mackerel to get the bite from blacktip, spinner and bull sharks weighing 50-100 pounds.
In the backwater, Girle is targeting redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. For each species, Girle is using free-lined live shiners. Redfish up to 31 inches and trout up to 20 inches were topping the scale for Girle this past week.
Send fishing reports to email@example.com.
Bruce Earle says he landed this 29-inch Jack “somewhere” on an Anna Maria Island beach. Earle fought the jack for 73 minutes, from hookup to beach. Islander Photo: Ted Earle
Springtime fishing resulting in great catches
Fishing around Anna Maria Island is getting better and better as we settle into a springtime pattern. With warm, calm days, accessibility to just about every type of fishing is attainable. Whether you’re fishing from the shore, off a pier or beach or running 30 miles offshore, now is the time for some exciting action on the water.
Catch-and-release snook, redfish and trout are staging up on the inshore grass flats, waiting to ambush small baitfish and shrimp that cross their path. Free-lining your bait is a good bet, but if you’re in an area with a lot of grass, try using a popping cork set at the appropriate depth.
Along the beaches, piers and passes, expect to find Spanish mackerel, blue runners, jack crevalle and ladyfish feeding on schools of glass minnows or white bait. Artificials like silver spoons, white jigs or Gotcha plugs will get your rod bent. There also are a few pompano cruising the beaches. So be prepared with sand fleas to bait up these feisty fish.
Moving out to the nearshore reefs, expect to encounter king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and shark. Kings up to 40 pounds are being reported. As for the sharks, blacktip and spinner sharks are feeding on chunks of cut mackerel. Expect to catch shark in the range of 50-150 pounds.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure with good results on a variety of species. By using live shiners for bait, Girle’s clients are getting consistent action during half-day trips.
To start, Girle is arriving at the structure, anchoring and chumming with live bait. Once the chum hits the water, hungry kingfish and Spanish mackerel are making quick work of the disoriented shiners. While the fish are voraciously feeding, Girle casts out a free-lined shiner to get a bite. Kingfish up to 40 pounds are being caught along with plenty of Spanish mackerel in the 20-inch range.
Once all have had their fill of macks, Girle is switching to bottom fishing. Again, Girle is using live shiners for bait. By dropping baits directly to the bottom, Girle’s clients are reeling up mangrove snapper and keeper-size catch-and-release gag grouper. Mangrove snapper in the 18-inch range are being reeled up, although Goliath grouper are swarming hooked fish, making it hard to land them before they’re eaten.
On the flats, Girle is stalking redfish, trout and snook. Fishing flats with good tidal flow and plenty of sandy potholes is key to catching these fish. Girle is using live shiners free-lined behind the boat or rigged on a popping cork. Snook and reds are being caught in the 30-inch range. Slot-sized trout can be expected, too.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says action is beginning to pick up as we settle into spring. Schools of threadfin herring are gathering around the pier during strong moving tides, which in turn attracts snook, mackerel and redfish.
Pompano are making a showing for pier fishers using either live shrimp, sand fleas or pompano jigs. Although the bite is sporadic, patience and determination should result in a couple of gold nuggets for dinner.
Finally, mangrove snapper are being caught around the structure under the pier. Malfese suggests casting live shrimp weighted with a light split-shot under the pier to get a bite.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is heating up for a variety of species. With baitfish showing up along the shoreline, Mattay is catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, pompano and some nice catch-and-release snook.
For the migratory fish — jacks, macks and pompano — Mattay suggests using artificials like silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or pompano jigs. If you’re on a snook mission, you’ll have to find some live shiners.
Also, along the beaches, you can expect to catch small bonnethead and blacktip sharks. Mattay suggests fresh-cut mackerel, bonito or jack crevalle to get a bite. Frozen squid or shrimp will work for the smaller sharks, too.
On the flats, Mattay is hearing of good action on spotted seatrout, redfish and snook. Live shiners are the bait of choice, when available, although live shrimp will work in areas where the pinfish are not abundant. For artificials, Mattay likes to use soft plastics on jig heads or the MirrOlure MirrOdine.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of Tampa Bay in search of the usual trio, redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook. Using live shiners for bait, Gross is catching respectable numbers and sizes of all three species. For the snook and reds, Gross is finding shallow flats with good water flow. Once he locates the fish, he anchors and chums to get the fish in a feeding mood. As this occurs, Gross directs his clients to cast free-lined shiners directly to the fish.
For the spotted seatrout, Gross is fishing slightly deeper grass flats. Again, anchoring and chumming is the key to getting slot-size fish in the cooler. Artificials like soft plastics combined with a jighead are producing trout, too.
Finally, Gross is anchoring over small rock piles in Tampa Bay to catch a variety of fish. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, small snapper and even gag grouper are being caught in these areas. Some of the gags being caught are exceeding 24 inches, but they have to be released due to the season being closed.
Send fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaleb Rice caught his biggest ever snook on a threadfin sardine, using light tackle, in the waters of Lake LaVista from a dock on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria. He had help from Dan Magee, a retired commercial fisher and artist. The fish was released after a few quick photos. Islander Photo: Steve “Pops” Kring
Anglers see springtime fishing heat up as temps rise
Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is starting to fall into its normal springtime pattern. With water temps moving into the upper 70s, the variety of species inhabiting the flats are getting motivated to feed on whatever crosses their path.
Live shiners are the best offering — although small pinfish work well, especially if you’re in search of big trout.
For artificials, try a Rapala Skitterwalk over shallow grassflats just before sunrise for some explosive action on the trio of flatsfish, snook, redfish or spotted seatrout. Better results will occur by wading to the fish.
On nearshore structure, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and kingfish are attacking schooling baitfish. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for meandering cobia, too.
Sharks are making a showing in Tampa Bay and the inland waters. Blacktip, bull, nurse and bonnethead sharks are patrolling deeper edges of grass flats in search of a tasty treat. A lot of times you can sight cast to these fish, which can really get your blood pumping. Try cut mackerel or ladyfish for larger sharks. For the bonnetheads, fresh cut shrimp or a shiner will suffice.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumOTime charters reports “action-packed days on the water.” The inshore scene has exploded with catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout and redfish feeding heavily on the massive bait schools that have moved into Tampa Bay.
Howard says pilchards finally moved onto the flats making for some easy bait gathering. He suggests chumming for at least 10 minutes before throwing your cast net to draw the shiners to the chum and ball up behind your boat. “Look for diving pelicans to show where the bait is on the flats,” he adds.
Catch-and-release snook have been feeding heavily on shiners on Howard’s recent charters. They have been making their transition from their wintertime haunts and are moving onto the flats and into potholes and mangroves. On charters this past week, all of Howard’s clients landed at least one keeper-sized fish, although, after pictures, the big bruisers were released to fight another day.
Spotted seatrout have been exceptional, with many fish landed and plenty of gator trout coming to the dinner party. Howard is using a popping cork rigged with a 1/0 circle hook to keep the bait suspended just above the weeds. Getting the bobber to gurgle and flash can entice the predators to inhale the bait, he says. Getting enough meat for a nice family meal has been easy this past week.
Redfish have been active around the potholes and oyster bars. Chumming with shiners can fire up the bite and expose the redfish. Slot-sized fish are all over the flats and are exceptional fighters. Look for the schools of mullet traveling in the shallows to give you an idea of where to fish for these rose-colored bruisers.
Looking forward, Howard predicts the fishing will stay hot as the water temperature rises and the full moon approaches. He suggests following the tide up into the bushes. As a side note, Howard saw his first tarpon of the season near the Intracoastal Waterway, cruising in 2 feet of water.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is still seeing some sheepies and flounder being caught. Most species are being caught on live shrimp. Keeper-sizes are being caught but expect to catch a lot of under-sized fish before getting a keeper.
Spanish mackerel are showing at the R&R during early morning hours. The bait has now arrived in abundance so these fish are passing by on their way into the bay. White speck rigs are catching the most macks.
Also on the same speck rigs, expect to catch a stray pompano now and again. Malfese says he’s seeing pier fishers reel up a few a day.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good action occurring along the beaches of Anna Maria Island. “As long as you can find the bait,” says Mattay, “you can find the fish.
Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are corralling bait schools along the sandbar. Mattay suggests Gotcha plugs, white jigs or silver spoons to get in on the action.
Shark also are making a showing along the beaches, according to Mattay. Fresh-cut mackerel or ladyfish are catching small blacktip, bonnethead and sand sharks. If you need a shark leader, Mattay can hook you up. He says to also expect to catch shark from the piers on the north end of the island.
In the backwater, Mattay is hearing of good action on catch-and-release snook, redfish and trout. Live shiners are the top producers to get hooked up, although live shrimp will suffice. For artificials, Mattay suggests working early in the morning with topwater plugs to catch all three species.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing nearshore structure just off Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. By fishing with live shiners for bait, Gross’ clients are reeling in schoolie kings up to 30 inches in length, although they may need to weed through the abundance of sharks patrolling the reefs. Blacktip sharks up to 6 feet in length are scarfing up the bait or any hooked fish they can find.
Also on the reefs, Gross is catching mangrove snapper and plenty of Key West grunts. Most snapper being reeled up are in the 12- to 16-inch range, he says.
In the backcountry, Gross is targeting the usual trio. He’s using live shiners, either free-lined or under a popping cork, to get a bite. According to Gross, the redfish and catch-and-release snook are cooperating during the moving tides. For the trout, Gross is chumming with live shiners to get the fish in the feeding mood.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure for migratory species, such as king and Spanish mackerel, as well as bonito, jack crevalle and shark. To catch the macks and jacks, Girle is baiting with live shiners. By chumming with shiners, he creates a feeding frenzy of fish around the boat, allowing clients to cast a bait and hook up within seconds. Kings in the 10- to 15-pound range are the norm this past week. As for the sharks, expect to see blacktip and bull sharks in the 100- to 150-pound range.
Girle is encountering cobia at the reefs, a reminder to always having a rod ready to cast when one is spotted.
Inshore, Girle is fishing Sarasota Bay for reds, using either fresh-cut ladyfish or live shiners for bait. For trout, Girle likes using artificials, including soft plastics combined with a jighead or topwater plug. As for the catch-and-release snook, he says nothing beats a live shiner cast at their nose.
Send fishing reports to email@example.com.
Capt. Logan Bystrom assists Dennis Crelling with showing off a 50-pound kingfish Crelling caught off of Anna Maria Island on a recent charter.
Getting into the swing of AMI spring fishing
The springtime bite is finally settling in around Anna Maria Island. Water temps are on the rise, which is triggering baitfish to move onto the flats. Hungry snook, redfish and spotted seatrout are staging up on shallow flats during strong tides.
Now’s a good time to try fishing sandy potholes close to mangrove shorelines with good tidal flow to locate fish. For bait, live shiners are producing the most bites.
If using artificials, try topwater plugs at sunrise and in early morning hours. After the sun gets higher in the sky, switch to soft plastics or suspending plugs.
Spanish mackerel are making a showing around passes and in Tampa Bay. In the passes, shore fishers are casting Gotcha plugs into schooling fish to hook up. Those fishing from boats are using live shiners stabbed on a long shank hook, which helps prevent being cut off by the mackerel’s sharp teeth.
Of course, with macks come sharks. Try fishing nearshore structure or anywhere schooling mackerel are located to find the predators. Expect to encounter blacktip, spinner and sand sharks. Some of these sharks are big, so plan accordingly when selecting what tackle to use. Fresh-cut chunks of mackerel, ladyfish or jack crevalle will get you connected.
Capt. Warren Girle is taking clients to the grass flats of Sarasota Bay in search of backwater species, such as redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. By using a variety of techniques, Girle’s anglers are finding success with all three species.
During the early morning, Girle and his clients are getting out of the boat and wading the shallow flats adjacent to mangrove islands and mangrove shorelines. By using artificials, such as the Exude Dart, or topwater plugs, like the Rapala Skitterwalk, Girle is hooking up the backwater trio in depths of 2-3 feet.
As the sun gets higher, Girle is moving back to the boat to fish deeper flats for trout. Again, Girle is using soft plastics to get a bite. By drifting and jigging, Girle’s clients are catching limits of fish.
Finally, Girle is targeting redfish that hide in sandy potholes during high tides. By casting chunks of fresh-cut ladyfish into the holes, he’s finding limits of slot-size fish.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are making a late appearance. Pier fishers using white jigs, Gotcha plugs or silver spoons are catching macks in the 20-inch range.
Remember, if you’re planning on keeping mackerel for dinner, it is crucial to immediately ice the fish. Keeping these fish on ice will result in a tastier outcome on the dinner plate.
Sharks are frequenting the pier. Small blacktip, bonnethead and sand sharks are following mackerel schools in search of a meal. Small chunks of fresh-cut mackerel cast out from the pier should attract these little bruisers to bite. Remember, even though sharks are only a few feet in length, they bite. Handle with care and don’t put your hands near their mouths.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel says Spanish mackerel are making a decent showing this week. Pier fishers arriving at sunrise are getting the bite. Kilb suggests using white speck rigs to get these high-activity fish to bite. You also can use Gotcha plugs or silver spoons, although Kilb says to try the speck rigs first.
Sheepshead are still biting at the R&R, although catching legal-size fish is tough. Most of the larger females have spawned and are moving to other structure, such as nearshore reefs, to recoup. Now is the time when bait selection becomes crucial. As the sheepies get more finicky, you’ll need to have an assortment of bait — live shrimp, fiddler crabs, sand fleas and tubeworms are a good start.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is seeing redfish and spotted seatrout upon arrival of the local charter boats at the docks. Most flats fishers are using live shiners for bait, although soft plastics and gold spoons are producing, too. Oldham suggests using Berkley Gulp shrimp. It has a distinct smell that appeals to redfish.
With Spanish mackerel showing in the passes and around the piers on the north end of the Island, Oldham recommends a white or pink speck rig as a first choice. If the macks are finicky, he says to try a Gotcha plug or silver spoon. Mackerel in the 20-inch range are being reported.
From nearshore structure just off the beaches, Oldham is hearing reports of a variety of shark species. Fresh-cut Spanish mackerel or bonito is a great choice for bait. When targeting bonnetheads and other small sharks, use small chunks. If targeting bigger fish, try using at least half of mackerel.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters is grateful to see the springtime pattern blossom. The top indicator of spring is the arrival of shiners on the flats. Chumming with Purina tropical fish food will entice the pilchards to swarm behind your boat, he claims, making easy pickings for your cast net.
Howard’s recent charter clients are having exciting rallies on catch-and-release snook and redfish. The Brown family had a Wednesday afternoon charter that produced four nice slot-sized redfish for their dinner table. They also battled many catch-and-release snook. The key, Howard says, is having enough shiners to chum and fire up the bite.
Tortilla Bay owner Perry Pittman and some friends also had an exciting day on the water. The group landed redfish, spotted seatrout and mackerel. Fishing moving water was the key to success, and their fillets wound up later as fish tacos.
On the nearshore scene, Howard is seeing the fish move in with ferocious appetites. Kingfish, Spanish mackerel, big sharks and cobia are being caught at the 1-mile reef. Howard suggests having a rig ready for the drag-screaming action available on the many 6-foot sharks swimming with the bait schools.
Gag grouper were being caught in waters as shallow as 15 feet and 100 yards off the beach and, after photos, Howard’s grouper were released.
He’s is looking forward to the opening of gag grouper season while they’re still in the bay and inshore waters — easy pickings if and when the powers to be open the season. Until then, we’re left depend upon the commercial fishing fleet to provide us with fillets, he noted.
Looking forward, Howard says the springtime fishing pattern will only get better as more bait floods the area waters. Work edges and drops at low tide and move into the bushes as the tide rises, he suggests.
Send fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.