Mark Schumacher of Ohio went fishing with Capt. Warren Girle. He shows off his catch a — 28 1/2-inch 8-pound female trout — which was released. Girle said it was the biggest trout his crew had ever seen.
Weather changes create challenges for local anglers
Anna Maria Island anglers are catching a variety of species when the weather cooperates. As we enter March, springtime patterns should start emerging unless we get some late cold fronts like the one we experienced last week.
Strong winds, rain and a sudden drop in temperature can make fishing challenging.
As of two weeks ago, local fishers were using live shiners for bait. Redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook are readily taking live shiners, especially on the afternoon high tides. Now, due to the recent cold front, most fishers will switch back to shrimp for a few days. You may have to give flats fishing a break until it warms back up. Try fishing docks for reds, black drum and sheepshead. You can also walk the beaches when the surf is minimal and jig for pompano.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is flats fishing in lower Tampa Bay in search of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. By using live shiners for bait, Gross is leading his clients to respectable catches of all the familiar species. Gross feels that while using shiners, its best to fish with the smaller-sized baits. Trout and redfish are responding to small baits rigged with a No. 2 Eagle Claw live-bait hook. At a time when the fish are shallow, Gross is adding a Paradise Popper popping cork to keep his baits out of the grass. In deeper water, he is simply free-lining baits.
During cooler days, when the fish on the flats are not in the feeding mood, Gross is switching tactics. Gross is catching sheepshead, flounder and black drum around local docks on live shrimp.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing for redfish in Sarasota Bay. Girle is targeting the schooling fish during afternoon high tides. By quietly motoring through shallow water, Girle is locating the fish. They’re still a little spooked and not responding to live baits. By simply casting small ladyfish chunks towards the edge of the school, Girle’s clients are hooking up fish in the range of 24-27 inches.
Also worth mentioning, is a 28 1/2-inch, 8-pound spotted seatrout that was caught on fresh-cut ladyfish. It just goes to show that sometimes thinking outside the box can be rewarding. You never know what you might catch when using chunk baits.
Girle also is still jigging up pompano in south Sarasota Bay. Small bullet-head pompano jigs tipped with fresh-cut shrimp are the ticket. While jigging, Girle’s clients are catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle, small trout and bluefish.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says sheepshead are the highlight of the week. Pier fishers are reporting respectable catches of these tasty striped fish. For bait, live shrimp is working well. Other baits that attract a bite include fiddler crabs, sand fleas or tubeworms. Remember to use a small stout hook when targeting these boney-mouthed fish. Sometime removing hooks from a sheepshead’s mouth can be difficult, even with pliers. A stout hook will aid in removal and won’t be likely to bend when gripped and turned with pliers.
Spotted seatrout are responding to soft plastics combined with a lead jighead. Oldham suggests drifting over deeper grass flats and jigging for fish in the sandy potholes. As for bait, a Berkley Gulp shrimp in either New Penny or Molting colors is recommended.
Finally, beach fishers are still catching pompano, although the bite is sporadic. Using pompano jigs rigged with a stinger fly, beach fishers in between pompano are catching bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are dominating the bite. Sheepherders are using live shrimp or live fiddlers to get these buck-toothed fish to bite. Don’t be surprised to walk out on the pier and see stringers of these fish flowing in the tide. The bite is on. Average side of the sheepies being caught at the pier is 1-3 pounds.
Meanwhile, Spanish mackerel are beginning to show around the pier, which is a welcome sight. Pier fishers using Gotcha plugs or speck rigs are reeling up macks in the 12- to15-inch range. While targeting mackerel, pier fishers are occasionally hooking up with a stray bonito. Although these fish have no food value, they are a great sport fish. These fish will peel off all the line on your reel if you let them.
In closing, a few black drum and pompano are being caught on live shrimp by bottom fishing at the R&R. For the drum, cast a shrimp under the pier for best results. For the pompano, try casting your shrimp out away from the pier.
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Braden Blakely, on a family vacation to Anna Maria Island from Maryland, shows off his sheepshead catch, the result of a charter with Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime. Howard reports the family took home a full cooler of fillets.
Weather heats up like spring, fishing pattern, too
Following the past week’s cold front, Anna Maria Island fishers were getting back on the water, targeting a number of inshore species.
As temperatures approached daytime highs of 80 degrees, conditions were favorable for fishing just off the beaches and piers, as well as the lush grass flats in Anna Maria Sound.
Beach fishers are being rewarded with catches of pompano, black drum, flounder and bluefish. Most catches are occurring on live shrimp or sand fleas although artificials are working well for the pompano and bluefish. Beach fishers in the know are combining artificials with bait to ensure the bite. To entice a bite, try a pompano jig tipped with a small piece of fresh-cut shrimp.
On the flats, fishers are finding schooling redfish in good numbers. If you find these schools tending to get a little spooked, try using a cut piece of mullet or ladyfish to convince the fish to bite.
Also on the flats, spotted seatrout action is heating up. Soft plastics combined with a 1/4-ounce jighead are producing decent numbers of trout. Position your boat upwind of the flat to fish. Turn off your motor and drift over the flat, working soft plastics through the sandy potholes to locate fish. While targeting trout, expect to catch bluefish, ladyfish and even a few Spanish mackerel in the process.
Capt. Warren Girle is drift fishing in Sarasota Bay catching a variety of species. Using small bullet-head pompano jigs tipped with a small piece of fresh-cut shrimp, Girle’s clients are hooking up with pompano and permit in respectable numbers. Both species are 1-3 pounds. Along with pompano and permit, Girle is putting his clients on Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, spotted seatrout and blue runners.
On shallow flats during high tides, Girle is working schooling reds. He opts to use fresh chunks of cut ladyfish to get them to bite. A chunk of ladyfish or mullet is a good option when you find redfish that won’t respond to live shrimp or shiners. Simply cast out a chunk and let it lay on the bottom until an unsuspecting redfish discovers it and bites. Redfish up to 27 inches were the norm this past week for Girle.
Grady Smith at Island Discount Tackle says sheepshead are the highlight of the week. Pier fishers are buying dozens of shrimp and small strong hooks to cash in on these tasty striped fish. Most sheepies caught are 1-2 pounds, although fish up to 5 pounds are in the mix.
From fishers on the flats, Smith is hearing of decent spotted seatrout action. Most fishers targeting trout are using soft plastics combined with a lead jighead. Colors include white, chartreuse or green. You can also catch trout on live shrimp. Try using a popping cork rigged above your shrimp to keep it out of the grass.
Finally, Smith says fishers using live shrimp under docks are catching slot-size reds, although most are undersized. Casting weighted, live shrimp, fishers are reeling up reds, black drum, flounder and sheepshead.
Dave Sork at the Ann Maria City Pier says sheepshead are beginning to show, but the bite varies by day.
One day the bite is good, the next day they don’t bite. Pier fishers using live fiddler crabs or sand fleas are catching flounder along the edges and under the pier. Dragging a live shrimp along the bottom next to the pilings will result in some tasty flat fish for the cooler. Keeper-size flounder are a little scarce, although with a little determination, if the goal is to catch enough for the dinner table, it is attainable.
Although it’s a little early in the season, the occasional Spanish mackerel is being caught. Pier fishers casting Gotcha plugs or silver spoons stand a chance at catching one of these high-activity toothy fish. Along with macks, expect to catch bluefish and ladyfish.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are happening. Most fish are caught in the morning and live shrimp are dominating the bite. Pier fishers who normally use crabs or fleas are switching to shrimp — and those who regularly fish for sheepies know this is rare. Usually, the crabs and fleas work better but, like any true angler, adapting to what is happening is important for success.
There are still flounder inhabiting the pier. Most are being caught as a bycatch while targeting sheepshead. Average size of the flounder is 10-12 inches although a few respectable-sized fish have been caught.
Finally, pier fishers using small white jigs are catching bluefish, although the bite is inconsistent. These fish may not fare well for dinner, but their sheer power provides great action on light tackle. Remember to use pliers when removing hooks from a bluefish’s mouth. You don’t want to encounter their sharp teeth and strong jaws.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says the past week included some exciting action.
He says the sheepshead are turned on, as big schools mass over structure, piers and around the local reefs for the spawn, “I have been throwing back any sheepshead under 15 inches and having no problems keeping enough for a tasty fish dinner,” Howard says.
When targeting sheepies, Howard is using a live shrimp rigged on a No.1 hook with enough weight to keep the rig on the bottom. “This leads to bent rods and smiles on deck,” says Howard.
Another simple rig is a weighted jig head with a shrimp on the hook. “The key to success is to get the bait to hold to the bottom and waiting for the thump of the sheepshead inhaling the bait. Feel for the pressure of fish pulling on the rig and set the hook in a strong sweeping motion,” Howard says.
He says redfish, black drum and sheepshead are thick under the docks along the Intracoastal Waterway and the Manatee River. “Toss your bait offerings deep under the docks and shade areas to connect with some close-quarters action. Getting the fish out of the structure quickly is key to landing these bruisers,” Howard adds.
Looking forward, Howard says the transition has begun from winter to spring fishing patterns. Look for schools of shiners to invade the flats in the bays as the water temperature gradually warms. When the flats reach 70 degrees, the spring bite will explode but the winter bite will remain strong until late March.
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Jerry Allen of Wyoming shows off a nice catch-and-release snook he hooked while fishing the nearshore waters of Anna Maria Island with Capt. Warren Girle.
Fishing between weather fronts proves prosperous
Following the typical pattern for winter, island fishers are getting out between the cold fronts. Between fronts, the weather has been stellar. Eighty degrees and light winds make for some good Florida fishing in February.
On the other hand, during the fronts, temperatures are plummeting into the 50s and lower 60s. Add 20-knot winds out of the northeast and the fish can be on the borderline of lockjaw. All considered, it’s safe to say that consistency of the catch can be somewhat lacking.
Reports of sheepshead are good, especially from the Rod & Reel Pier. This bite had been hit or miss the past few weeks, but it’s time for things to start happening. Numbers of fish around the piers pilings should visibly increase. Hopefully, catches also will go up in numbers. The artificial reefs are holding some sheepies, and in mixed sizes, too. To fish the reefs, live shrimp is a great offering. If you decide to fish the piers, shrimp is working the best, but plan on baiting fiddlers and fleas as the fish settle in.
Rumors of pompano being caught along the beaches of Anna Maria Island are floating around. Try fishing at sun up with a yellow or pink pompano jig to get a bent rod. If you find the pompano are being reluctant, you can entice them with a fat live sand flea. That’ll usually do the trick.
Finally, redfish are gathering along the mangrove shorelines in between the fronts. These fish are being caught a number of ways so be prepared to be creative. Live shiners are working late in the day, if you can find them. Shrimp are working, but only if you’re dock fishing for reds. You’ll also hear about chunks of ladyfish working as bait for these reds. Some anglers say this method of fishing can be boring, but that only lasts until they have a big red on the end of their line.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is targeting redfish and catch-and-release snook on the flats of southern Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay. Gross is using live shiners, although hard to come by, for bait. During afternoon high tides, Gross is locating schooling redfish close to mangrove shorelines. By free lining the shiners, Gross is catching fish in the upper-slot range.
Afternoon high tides are the key. Average size of the snook is 22-24 inches, although in recent trips Gross was finding lots of slot-size fish.
Spotted seatrout are in the mix. For these fish, Gross is drifting and jigging with soft plastics. The MirrOlure Lil John on a 1/4-ounce jighead will do the trick, according to Gross. Most of the fish being caught are in the slot, although some small fish are in the mix.
Capt. Warren Girle is adding a new bait to his repertoire for reds — fresh-cut ladyfish. By cutting small bite-size pieces of ladyfish and casting them into schooling reds, Girle is catching slot-size and over-slot size fish. He’s working grass flats adjacent to mangrove shorelines during the high tides to locate schooling reds. Fishing with cut ladyfish is a great alternative when other baits are hard to come by or aren’t working.
The highlight recently was a 38-inch snook that was caught on a chunk of ladyfish.
Spotted sea trout are being caught on Berkley Gulp shrimp jigged over grass flats of 3-5 feet in depth. Most trout being caught are in the 15- to 20-inch range although fish up to 24 inches are available.
Girle is still targeting pompano in Sarasota Bay with success. By tipping small pompano jigs with fresh-cut shrimp, his clients are reeling up 6-10 pompano per trip with a by-catch of mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish.
From the beaches, Girle is working the small artificial reefs to catch bonito, Spanish mackerel and bluefish. To catch these species, Girle is using a small silver rattletrap with a quick retrieve. To prevent losing lures to sharp teeth, Girle attaches 4 inches of light wire leader.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says pompano are making a showing along Anna Maria Island beaches. Keyes likes to use a pompano jig with a small stinger rig to attract the bite. By using these jigs, Keyes says you can catch a number of species. Bluefish, mackerel, jacks, ladyfish and whiting will anxiously snack on these jigs if presented to them.
Keyes is hearing of sheepshead action at the local piers. Best baits to be armed with are live shrimp or sand fleas. To catch live sand fleas, you need a sand flea rake — a handle with an enforced wire mesh basket/strainer attached. You simply drag this basket through the sand in the shore break and sift out until what’s left is sand fleas. If this sounds like too much work, you can find frozen sand fleas at your local bait shop.
From the flats, Keyes is hearing of decent spotted seatrout action on artificials. Most flats fishers are jigging with soft plastics to get a bite. Popular colors this past week were white and chartreuse. Keyes suggests DOA Cal jigs when the trout are biting. If the bite slows down, or it’s slow to begin with, Keyes suggests a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp. He feels the added scent gives him an advantage when fish are finicky.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the sheepies are cooperating and they’re eating shrimp. Pier fishers using either whole or fresh-cut live shrimp are going home with respectable bags of sheepshead fillets after a morning of fishing at the R&R. Average size of the sheepies is 1-2 pounds, although sightings of larger fish are being reported. As a rule of thumb, fiddler crabs and sand fleas will out-fish shrimp when targeting sheepies, but this week shrimp has been the bait of choice.
Similar to weeks in the past, black drum and flounder are rounding out the bite at the pier. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught on live shrimp. If you’re specifically targeting flounder, try using a Berkley Gulp shrimp on a 1/4-ounce jig head. Cast along the edges of the pier and slowly drag your jig along the bottom adjacent to the structure.
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Holmes Beach snowbird Dick Stevens, also of Enfield, Conn., shows off the redfish he hooked up last week off his dock. Stevens says he’s traveled to many fishing destinations and Anna Maria Island is “one of the best.”
Winter anglers should target sheepshead, black drum
Sheepshead are beginning to make a good showing around docks, rocks and reefs in the surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island.
These fish are still pre-spawn, so expect to catch a lot of small males as well as some oversized females. From my experience in the past week, there are a lot of fish in the 2- to 3-pound range and fish up to 6 pounds are found every so often in the mix.
When fishing the reefs, live shrimp is a great way to fill the box. I like to break the tail off of the shrimp and insert a circle hook through the meat and out through the top of the shell. A properly-sized egg sinker resting just above the eye of the circle hook completes the rig. Some of you know this as a “knocker rig.”
When fishing the local piers for sheepies, you may want to try shrimp, but have some other bait ready if the shrimp doesn’t work. Live fiddler crabs and live sand fleas are popular among pier fishers looking to hook up some sheepies. First, the pinfish don’t seem to nibble these baits off the hook like they do shrimp. Second, either of these baits are hard for a sheepshead to pass up.
Finally, the best bait for sheepies, whether fishing piers or reefs, is a tubeworm, also called plumed worms. These worms live within drinking straw-sized tubes that poke out of the sand near the low-tide line.
Finding these worms can be tough, and there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to digging them up and storing them for later use. With this said, a little determination can lead to a bountiful reward when using tubeworms for sheepshead bait.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is working reefs and rocks in Tampa Bay for sheepshead. Gross is marking structure on his depth finder, then dropping a jig to mark the spot while he anchors the boat. By dropping fresh-cut live shrimp to the bottom, Gross’ clients are reeling up sheepshead to 4 pounds. As a bonus, Gross is catching keeper-size flounder in the same areas.
Moving to the grass flats, Gross is targeting redfish and catch-and-release snook. For both species, Gross is castnetting shiners for bait. With shiners running small, Gross suggests scaling down hook size and adding a popping cork. The cork keeps your bait out of the grass, and aids in casting small baits. Gross says he likes to use a Paradise popper rigged with 20-pound fluorocarbon tied to a No. 4 Owner mosquito hook.
Jamie Foster at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier is seeing a variety of action occurring just outside the doors of the bait shop.
To start, pier fishers using live shrimp are catching sheepshead and flounder around the pier structure. For the sheepies, fresh-cut live shrimp on a small stout hook is suggested. Add enough weight to the line to keep the bait next to the pilings and start fishing.
For flounder, a whole live shrimp fished on the bottom with either a hook and weight or a jighead works.
Pier fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are still catching Spanish mackerel and bonito toward the far end of the pier. You can simply stand on the pier and wait for the schools of either species to swim by feeding on bait, and quickly cast to the outskirts of the school to start plucking out your catch.
Capt. Warren Girle is working Sarasota Bay for a number of species. He’s drifting in search of pompano, using small, yellow bullet-head jigs tipped with shrimp, and his clients are reeling up keeper-size fish.
Along with pompano, expect to catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, trout and, if you’re lucky, a stray permit or two.
Moving north, Girle is targeting redfish around the mangrove shorelines at Long Bar in Sarasota Bay. Girle warns that you’ll need stealth to sneak up on them. For bait, Girle is using cut-bait or shrimp. Average size of the reds this past week was 24-28 inches.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says it’s a good time of year to walk the beach just after sunrise in search of pompano. Arm yourself with a light spinning outfit and a pompano jig, and you’re in business. Simply walk the beach, plugging the jig until you locate the bite. Expect to also find bluefish, small mackerel and ladyfish.
Sheepshead are next on the list. Whether you’re fishing the piers or fishing structure from a boat, you can bet on catching some tasty convict fish. When fishing the piers, you may want to be somewhat strategic in your approach. Live fiddler crabs or sand fleas are a great offering but, if you’re really determined, you can’t go wrong with tubeworms. As labor intensive as this bait is to harvest, it’s worth it. Tubeworms are like candy to sheepshead.
Lastly, flounder are being caught along the island shorelines. Berkley Gulp shrimp on a red jighead is the ticket to catch some flat fish. Whether along the beaches on the Gulf side or in the canals on the bayside, flounder catches up to 20 inches are being reported.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the sheepshead bite is happening. “We had a few days this week when they bit really well,” says Malfese.
Pier fishers using live shrimp are taking home dinner, while those willing to gather fiddlers or sand fleas are cashing in with sheepshead up to 2 pounds.
While targeting sheepshead, pier fishers are reeling up another black-and-white striped fish, the black drum. Black drum feed on the same baits as sheepies and commonly inhabit the same areas. Drum up to 5 pounds are being caught daily.
Finally, pier fishers using Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead at the R&R are reeling up respectable-sized flounder. Fish up to 18 inches are being caught by slowly dragging a jig along the sandy bottom next to the pier.
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Ken Kemp of Chicago shows off a pompano he caught on a shrimp/popping cork rig while fishing with Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters.
Change of weather provides anglers variety of results
In between cold fronts, Anna Maria fishers are enjoying calm winds and calmer water, which in turn results in some great fishing. A variety of species are being caught by shore fishers and boaters.
On the beaches, shore fishers are using pompano rigs to target a number of species. Of course, pompano are the sought-after fish, but they aren’t the only fish feeding along the shorelines. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, flounder and black drum are cruising the beaches in search of wintertime snacks. The pompano jigs will get you tied into any of these species, but you can also try Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead. When selecting baits to use on the beach, try to pick light colors, such as white, glow or chartreuse.
On the flats, fishers are catching decent numbers of spotted seatrout. Best approach to catch these fish is to drift and jig. Again, Berkley Gulp shrimp are a great offering, but DOA Cal jigs will get the job done, too. Plus, with the DOA’s, you get twice as many jigs for a lower price. While drifting, target sandy potholes on deeper grass flats to find the fish. Once you hook a trout, drop your anchor and thoroughly fish the vicinity.
Redfish are being reported around docks in sheltered areas of canals and the Manatee River. Live shrimp fished on the bottom are a great bait to target these dock-dwelling fish. I like to use a circle hook with a 1/4-ounce egg sinker that rests right on the eye of the hook for rigging. Remember to set your drag accordingly when fishing docks. Keep it tight enough that you can horse a large red out of the structure before it cuts you off on one of the pilings.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says migratory species such as Spanish mackerel, bluefish and bonito, are being caught on either artificials or live bait. For artificials Medley suggests Gotcha plugs or silver spoons. For live bait, you can’t beat a free-lined shiner.
Sheepshead and flounder are inhabiting the pilings and structures under the pier. For either pilings or structure under the pier. For either species, a live shrimp fished on the bottom will get the bite. If the sheepies become finicky, try small pieces of fresh-cut shrimp or switch to fiddler crabs.
Finally, night fishers on the pier are catching more bluefish then they care to keep. On certain nights, Medley reports, pier fishers are catching a bluefish on almost every cast. Live shrimp or a bucktail jig will get you in on this action.
Capt. Warren Girle was working inshore and offshore before the cold fronts. When temperatures are in the 80s, Girle is venturing out to nearshore structure to target grouper, then moving inshore.
For the offshore fishing, Girle is using live pinfish or shrimp depending on what he is targeting. Before the Feb 1 closure of grouper season, Girle was catching keeper-size red grouper on pinfish. Now the closure is in effect, Girle is using live shrimp to catch flounder, porgies and Key West grunts. Keeper gags are being caught although they must be released.
Moving inshore, Girle is drifting deeper flats in southern Sarasota Bay in search of pompano and the occasional permit. While targeting these species with jigs tipped with fresh-cut shrimp, Girle is catching bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.
By fishing shallow flats, Girle is catching keeper-size redfish up to 26 inches. To find the reds, Girle is locating mullet schools, then casting Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jighead right into the mullet. By doing this, he is catching the redfish that hunt among the mullet for small shrimp and crabs.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good action occurring from the beaches of Anna Maria Island. With a multitude of warm days and calm winds, beach fishing is becoming better and better. Beach fishers using pompano jigs or Berkley Gulp shrimp are catching a variety of species.
Those using pompano jigs are catching good numbers of bluefish and ladyfish as well as the occasional pompano. Also with these jigs, beach fishers are reeling up Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and blue runners.
Beach fishers using Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead are taking home keeper-size flounder, as well as black drum, bluefish, ladyfish and even a few bonnethead sharks.
Finally, bait fishers on the beach are catching all of the above on live shrimp, either free-lined or fished on the bottom.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing there was a little slow this past week but, as we all know, that can change in a moment’s notice.
Pier fishers with patience, determination and a little knowhow are catching black drum and sheepshead. When fishing gets tough, it’s time to try new tactics. When targeting black drum and sheepshead we know that shrimp works well, fiddler crabs and sand fleas work better and tubeworms work best.
Pier fishers in the know are going through the extra work to attain the better baits and in turn are the ones having success at putting dinner on the table.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing has been good with the weather and fish cooperating for most of the week. Redfish, black drum, pompano and spotted seatrout have been landed on his recent trips.
Spotted seatrout have been gathering in potholes on the flats, feeding on the moving tides. Many trout, are measuring up to 26 inches, have been chewing on a live shrimp rigged under a popping cork. The key is to make the bobber gurgle, Howard says. The sound will bring in the big predators and help to trigger a bite.
While fishing for spotted seatrout, the pompano have made an appearance in the area and are feeding on the popping cork-live shrimp combo.
Look for continued good spotted seatrout fishing, Howard says, as we move from our winter weather patterns to springtime.
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Gene Child of Colorado caught this nice slot-sized redfish on a recent charter with Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters.
Beach casting proves prosperous for flounder, pompano
Beach fishing proved prosperous this past week. Beach fishers using artificials like Berkley Gulp shrimp are catching respectable numbers of flounder, especially around the passes, both to the north and south. When fishing the beaches with Gulp shrimp, try using light colors, such as white, glow or sugar spice. Add a red 1/4-once jighead and you’re ready to fish.
Beach fishers using Gotcha plugs or bucktail jigs are catching ladyfish, bluefish and an occasional mackerel. The best way to target the fish is travel light. Stay mobile and walk the beach casting into the surf. Look for diving birds, a surefire indicator of where fish are feeding.
Finally, stories of pompano catches are increasing. Try casting live shrimp or sand fleas if you like natural baits. For artificials, Doc’s Goofy jigs or the standard pompano jig with a mylar skirt will work. You can tip them with shrimp if the fish are stubborn.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says Spanish mackerel and bonito are the catch this past week. “I can’t believe they’re still here,” says Medley. “It looks like they’re going to hang on all winter.”
Pier fishers using artificials, such as silver spoons or Gotcha plugs, are reeling up keeper-size macks and plenty of bonito up to 10 pounds. Medley suggests fishing toward the farthest end of the pier. Once you’ve spotted a bait school, start casting lures in that area to hook up. The fish are just under the surface.
Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching decent numbers of sheepshead around the pilings. Fish in the 2-pound range are being reeled up daily. Other baits such as fiddler crabs or sand fleas, will work, too.
Finally, pier fishers targeting sheepshead with shrimp are catching good numbers of flounder. Fish up to 18 inches are the norm.
Capt. Warren Girle is working Sarasota Bay for a variety of species, and the weather has played a role in his targeting. On cold and windy days during the fronts, Girle fished deep-water canals for redfish, black drum and snook. By casting live shrimp under docks, Girle is catching keeper-sizes of the drum species.
On days with less wind, Girle drifted over deep flats in the middle of the bay in search of pompano. By drifting and jigging, Girle says he hooked up with a variety of mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, spotted seatrout and pompano.
Finally, on warmer, sunny days and light-wind conditions, Girle was working the shallow grass flats for redfish. By quietly moving from pothole to pothole, Girle put his clients on keeper-size reds on Berkeley Gulp shrimp.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says flounder are the highlight. Whether fishing the beaches, piers or flats, fishers are reporting good numbers of the flat fish. Fish up to 20 inches are being reported, too. Anyone who fishes for flounder around Anna Maria Island knows a 20-inch flounder is a nice catch.
To target the flat fish, Oldham suggests using a 3-inch shrimp on a jighead. Color may be a factor, too. For the beaches, Oldham likes a white or glow color. When fishing the backwater, he likes to switch to new penny.
Along the beaches, Oldham is hearing of good action on more than just flounder. Bluefish, ladyfish, black drum and an occasional pompano are being caught during daylight hours. Live shrimp is the bait of choice to target any of these species, but you can use artificials such as spoons, bucktail jigs or pompano jigs.
Finally, flats fishers are reporting catches of redfish and trout, although patience is a virtue for anglers. The reds seem to be spread over the flats, according to Oldham. The same applies for the trout. Oldham suggests doing a slow drift over the grass, using soft plastics on a jighead. This allows the angler to cover a large amount of area, which aids in finding fish.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp are capitalizing on the action this week. By bottom fishing under the pier and around the pilings, anglers are catching sheepshead and flounder. A small egg sinker combined with a swivel, 12 inches of 20-pound leader and a No. 2 hook will get you in on the action. The key is to keep your bait around the structure. Keeper-sizes of flounder and sheepies are being caught daily.
Pier fishers opting to cast their shrimp away from the pier are getting results, although the action is less consistent than fishing underneath the pier. Migratory species, such as bluefish and pompano, are being caught by bottom fishers during the moving tides. If you notice numbers of bluefish feeding, you may want to switch to a size-1, long shank hook to prevent being cut off by the bluefish’s mouth full of teeth.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says flounder are the pier’s the catch of the week. Anglers using live shrimp are catching decent numbers of these tasty flat fish. By dragging live shrimp along the bottom, pier fishers are reeling up flounder in the 15-inch range.
By casting away from the pier, fishers are finding an abundance of bonnethead sharks. Again, live shrimp is good bait, but any other cut-bait, like squid or fish, will work, too. Just remember to cut small bite-size pieces for bait, since the bonnethead have a small mouth.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing this past week has been challenging because of the weather. Adapting to the weather conditions will help in the pursuit of action and fillets for the table, Howard says.
With the cold weather, the fish were staging in their traditional wintertime spots — deepwater docks, creeks and deep channels. Using live shrimp rigged to a 30-pound leader with a 1/0 circle hook, Howard’s clients were landing redfish, flounder, sheepshead, black drum and mangrove snapper. The key was a small split shot to help the bait get to the bottom. Chopping up small-sized shrimp and chumming will draw the desirable species and fire up the bite, Howard says.
Looking forward, Howard says the tides will be favorable for some excellent morning action. Look for fishing to steadily improve as we get more tidal movement and continuing warm weather.
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Seymour Weiss, visiting from New York, caught redfish and pompano while on a charter with Capt. Warren Girle.
Catches vary day by day for AMI anglers
If you were lucky enough to fish before the mild cold front we had at the end of the past week, you may have caught a variety of species around Anna Maria Island. With temperatures in the 80s and light winds, fishing around the island was not only enjoyable, but prosperous.
While fishing along the beaches with live shrimp, I’m seeing good numbers of sheepshead, black drum, ladyfish bluefish and small sharks.
Pompano are cruising the beaches now, although finding numbers of fish can take some searching. To target all of these species, try using a knocker rig — a No. 1 circle hook and a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce egg sinker that rests right on the eye of the hook.
If you’re strictly in search of pompano, try a pompano jig. Walk the beach casting into the shoreline trough with your jig. You may pick up a fish here and there, or you could find a school and start catching fish on every cast. While jigging, expect to catch ladyfish, mackerel and bluefish as a bycatch.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is targeting spotted seatrout on the grass flats of Sarasota Bay. By using either live shrimp under a cork or soft plastics on a jighead, Gross is catching good numbers — most fish being in the 15-inch range, although larger fish are in the mix.
By fishing canals and docks, Gross is finding decent numbers of redfish and sheepshead. For these fish, he’s using live shrimp fished on the bottom under and around the docks. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught, he says.
Finally, Gross is working the beaches in search of pompano. Using either live shrimp, pompano jigs or a combination of the two, Gross is hooking up with these elusive fish. Again, keeper-size fish are coming to the boat, although most are 12-15-inches.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says Spanish mackerel and bonito are a consistent catch for his anglers. Pier fishers using either live bait or artificials are getting the catch. For live bait, he says to try using shiners. For artificials, silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or white jigs are working well.
For those opting to use bait, Medley suggests live shrimp to hook up sheepshead. “The sheepies are here,” says Medley, “and they are biting, too.” Live shrimp and fiddler crabs are working to catch these striped fish. He says, while using shrimp, anglers can expect to catch a stray flounder now and again.
Capt. Warren Girle is catching a variety of species in Sarasota Bay. To do this, Girle is using techniques based on the species and location he’s working.
During the morning low tides, Girle is fishing shallow flats using artificials like Berkley Gulp shrimp or topwater plugs.
During these tides, Girle finds schools of mullet and casts into the school to find mixed-in redfish and spotted seatrout. As mullet school over the shallow flats, they spook small shrimp and crabs out of their hiding places.
When this occurs, hungry redfish and trout are waiting to strike anything that moves among the mullet. He’s finding keeper trout and redfish, although he warns the fish are spread out. You have to be patient, he says.
Moving to deeper grass flats, Girle is rigging with small pompano jigs tipped with fresh shrimp. By doing a drift and casting in all directions, his clients are catching Spanish mackerel, trout, ladyfish, bluefish and pompano.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is hearing reports of a variety of species being caught along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, working around Bean Point with good results. Oldham suggests using a yellow pompano jig rigged to some 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to get in on the action. Oldham also suggests tipping your jig with some fresh-cut shrimp to add some attraction if the fish are being finicky.
Flounder are being caught from the beach, especially in areas where there is rock or bottom structure.
Oldham suggests a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp in white with a red jighead to get these tasty, flat fish to bite.
Finally, sheepshead are showing in numbers and beginning to bite. Live shrimp or sand fleas are easily accessible and are great bait for the convict fish. Oldham likes to use a stout No. 2 hook with a small split-shot to get his bait to the bottom where the fish are waiting.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says bonito and Spanish mackerel are making a showing. Schools of glass minnows are gathering around the pier, which in turn is attracting the bonito and macks. Pier fishers are casting white speck rigs to get these migratory fish to bite. These jigs are effective because they are about the same size as a glass minnow.
What’s the old saying? Match the hatch? Well, in this case it’s true.
You can probably catch these fish on spoons or Gotcha plugs, too, but use only small ones.
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A goliath grouper was caught and released by Chuck Bismark of Bradenton, left. Anthony Leverett helps show the 130-pound fish caught on a sardine in about 125 feet of water offshore of Anna Maria Island while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire.
Water temps warm: anglers change tactics to get action
With the temperature in the past week around Anna Maria Island rising into the mid 80s, the water temp went up about 5 degrees, leaving fishers caught between winter techniques and switching to spring maneuvers.
Most are fishing the winter pattern, using live shrimp around docks and structure in the bay to catch flounder, sheepshead, black drum and redfish. This is typical for winter fishing in our area although with daily 80-degree temps, some fishers are moving onto the flats to catch trout, redfish and catch-and-release snook, and live shiners are available if you know where to catch them.
Some flats fishers using live shiners still are having success, especially in the afternoons during high tides. By this time, the sun has warmed the water enough to motivate the fish to chase a shiner.
Fishing nearshore is providing good action for flounder, Key West grunts and sheepshead. Try using live shrimp to get in on this action.
Reports from Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier note that Spanish mackerel and bonito are being caught on a regular basis. “They’re back,” says Medley, “and in good numbers, too.”
If you’re looking for rod-bending action, this may be a good option. Try using Gotcha plugs or silver spoons to get a bite.
Pier fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are catching Spanish mackerel up to 20 inches to the fork of the tail. During the right tides, limits of these high-activity fish are attainable. Live bait such as shiners and threadfin herring are also catching macks. If using live bait, remember to rig with at least 30-pound fluorocarbon for leader and a 2/0 long shank hook to give you a better chance of preventing the mack’s sharp teeth from cutting your line.
Along with the macks are bonito with similar feeding habits. You will see them crashing the surface striking small baitfish. The average size bonito is 10 pounds, and they readily strike a spoon or Gotcha plug.
Lastly, pier fishers are reeling up respectable numbers of sheepshead. Live shrimp are working, although fiddler crabs are still the top bait. Fish in the 1- to 2-pound range are average. Remember to use a stout hook due to the sheepshead’s boney mouth. I suggest Owner Flyline hooks in a size 2 or 4.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore targeting a variety of species. Around canals and docks, Girle is using fresh-cut live shrimp to catch sheepshead, black drum and flounder. On days that are warmer, Girle is migrating to the grass flats of Sarasota Bay in search of redfish, pompano and bluefish.
In the canals, Girle anchors by docks that are surrounded by deep water. Once set up, Girle instructs his clients to cast fresh-cut shrimp as far under the docks as possible. By doing this, they’re reeling up good numbers of black drum. Sheepshead and flounder are frequenting the docks, which adds variety.
On the flats, Girle is using whole select live shrimp or Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead to target redfish. On the low tides, Girle is using his trolling motor to glide from pothole to pothole, casting baits to locate fish. Average size of the redfish is 24 inches.
Finally, over deep grass flats in south Sarasota Bay, Girle is doing a drift in search of pompano. Small pompano jigs tipped with a piece of shrimp are working and bringing pompano but also bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle, too.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good action occurring around canals and docks. Flats fishers are migrating to these areas on cooler, windy days to find a bite and are having good success. Using live shrimp around docks, fishers are catching redfish, sheepshead and flounder. Those choosing to use artificials such as Berkley Gulp shrimp or DOA Cal jigs, are jigging through the mouths of deeper canals catching respectable amounts of spotted seatrout.
Moving out to the grass flats of Anna Maria Sound, flats anglers are jigging for trout. Gulp shrimp or DOA Cal jigs are getting the bite, producing respectable numbers of trout, although most are undersized. While fishing this technique, expect to catch ladyfish and bluefish and possibly mackerel and pompano.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says this week’s fishing is moderate at best. Pier fishers using live shrimp are working hard to catch flounder, sheepshead and black drum. Using a bottom rig pier fishers are baiting up with live shrimp and casting their baits under the pier as far as they can. Once their baits settle to the bottom, it’s just a matter of time before they are eaten by a hungry flounder or sheepshead.
Remember, when the water clarity is as good as it is around the pier, you want to rig with as much stealth as possible. If need be, try using some 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon connected to a No. 4 hook. You may lose a couple of rigs to the pilings, but your bite ratio should improve if the fish are feeding.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing this past week has been steady. Redfish, sheepshead, spotted seatrout, and pompano have all been landed on his charters.
Englander Ian Gilchrist, on his annual vacation to Anna Maria Island had some nice catches of redfish and sheepshead. Using a 2/0 circle hook rigged with a split shot, Howard has his clients toss a live shrimp way underneath the structure and let it set. A tip to improve your luck is to cut up dead and small shrimp into bite-sized pieces and chum the dock you are fishing, Howard says.
Spotted seatrout and pompano are on the flats and eating on a moving tide, he says and using a popping cork and live shrimp will get these tasty fish to the boat. Berkley Gulps are working Howard says.
Looking forward, the tides will have a lot of current flow that should trigger some excellent fishing opportunities. Plan to be at your go-to spot when the current is moving, Howard suggests.
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Parker Ford of Oregon shows off the catch he made while on a family charter with Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters.
New year’s virtues — patience, persistence pay off
Well, its time to start a new year of fishing around Anna Maria Island. Both inshore and offshore are producing fish, although being at the right spot at the right time is imperative. This time of year, fishing becomes challenging due to cold-water temperatures, wind, fog, etc. A little patience and a lot of persistence is a virtue.
On the flats around Anna Maria Island, spotted seatrout are lingering in deep sandy potholes and channels before moving into canals and up the Manatee River to escape the cold of winter.
Slow down your presentation by using live shrimp or slowly dragging a soft plastic on a jig head along the bottom to get a bite.
Snook and redfish are making the move into the canals and creeks in search of warmer water. Again, live shrimp will do the trick when these fish decide to bite. Another option is a Berkley Gulp shrimp worked slowly along the bottom.
You can expect to catch flounder and black drum using the same methods. These species will be hiding out from the cold like the snook, trout and reds.
On an added note, the new recreational fishing regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are out, so don’t forget to stop by your local tackle shop and pick up a copy.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters was working two tactics this past week depending on the weather. On the warmer, sunnier days, Gross is venturing out one the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay in search of spotted seatrout. On the cooler, windier days, Gross is tucking back into protected waters such as canals and small bays in search of sheepshead and flounder.
While fishing the flats, Gross is using soft plastics on a jig head. Soft plastics like the MirrOlure Lil John or DOA Cal jigs are catching trout in the 15 to 20-inch range. By doing a slow drift over the flats and casting the sandy potholes Gross’ clients are catching near limits of these tasty fish.
While fishing canals and docks on the cooler days, Gross is using live shrimp fished on the bottom to catch flounder and sheepshead.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier says silver trout was the highlight of the past week. Anglers targeting the little trout are using one of two methods.
The first method is to free-line a live shrimp weighted with a small split-shot in the current flowing away from the bridge.
The other is to use a speck rig — two small jigs fished in tandem on one leader. With this rig you can catch two fish at once. Silver trout up to 18 inches are being caught daily. There is no size or bag limit on these fish so only keep what you can cook up in a few days. These fish don’t freeze well and are best eaten fresh.
Sheepshead are still swirling around the pilings of the south pier feeding on barnacles and small crustaceans. Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching their share, although those using live fiddler crabs are dominating the bite. Most sheepies being caught are in the 12-15-inch range although every so often a 20-plus-inch fish is being reeled up.
Finally, flounder and mangrove snapper are being caught on live shrimp fished on the bottom either under the pier or around the structure that lies just out from the pier on the west side. Keeper sizes of either species are being landed daily.
Capt. Warren Girle is working deep grass flats in south Sarasota Bay in search of a variety of species. To start, Girle is drifting over the flats jigging for pompano with shrimp tipped pompano jigs. While doing this, Girle is averaging five or six pompano per charter. Also while jigging for pompano, Girle’s clients are catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish. Not only is this method of fishing rewarding, with pompano, but it provides non-stop action with the bycatch.
After pompano fishing, Girle is switching to bottom fishing under docks in deeper canals for black drum and sheepshead. For both species, Girle is using live shrimp. Black drum up to 18 inches are the norm, and they are plentiful. Most of the sheepies are running a little small although Girle is catching a few big enough to put in the box.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of decent action occurring in canals and around docks, especially in Bimini Bay. Fishers using live bait such as shrimp or fiddler crabs are catching a variety of species during the last stages of the incoming tide and the beginning of the outgoing tide.
Sheepshead, black drum and flounder are lurking under and around docks awaiting small crustaceans drifting by, resulting in keeper-sizes of all three species being caught.
Keyes suggests scaling down your the leader size to either 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon due to the water clarity. Match this up with a No. 2 hook and a small split shot and you’re ready to fish.
Fishing the openings or mouths of canals is proving prosperous for fishers targeting spotted seatrout and redfish. Again, live shrimp is the ticket to convincing these fish to bite, although Keyes says Berkley Gulp shrimp can substitute.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing this past week was good with the wintertime patterns in full effect. On Howard’s charters, client’s reeled in sheepshead, spotted seatrout, redfish, black drum and pompano.
Howard is finding the bite underneath deepwater docks. He suggests rigging a live shrimp on a 1/0 circle hook and a No. 5 split-shot with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. Toss this rig under the shade of deepwater docks to produce excellent action and some keepers for the dinner table. “Use the small or dead shrimp in your live well and cut them up into bite size pieces for chum. Draw the fish to your location and toss your rig in the middle of the chum,” Howard says. “The fish cannot resist the smell the bait bits put out and will feed on them and hopefully your rig.”
Spotted seatrout and pompano have shown up on the flats and in deep holes along the Intracoastal Waterway. Pompano to 6 pounds and spotted seatrout more than 20 inches have moved into our waters and will provide for some excellent fishing action and delicious table fare. Again, the bait of choice is a live shrimp rigged with a popping cork.
Looking forward, the tides will be extra low in the mornings, which will provide for some opportunities to scout the flats and find the highways the fish use to move onto and off the flats and potholes. Howard suggests marking these spots on your GPS for future opportunities to ambush the fish on a moving tide.
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Roger Danziger of Holmes Beach nails this 30-pound amberjack with a vertical jig in 100 feet of Gulf waters off of Holmes Beach. This AJ came up with half a tail. Islander Courtesy Photo
Cold fronts bring tough times for anglers
Back-to-back cold fronts have made fishing around Anna Maria Island tough to nail down. With water temps falling, fish we normally target are beginning to fall into their winter pattern.
It’s time to switch to live baits such as shrimp and crabs. Redfish, sheepshead, black drum and flounder will readily strike these baits when the timing is right.
You can also start using Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jighead around docks and in canals. Just remember to slow down your retrieve, as the water gets cooler.
Night fishing around snook lights is proving prosperous in between cold fronts. Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are active around dock lights on calm nights. Try free-lining a live shrimp around the outskirts of the light to hook up. If that doesn’t work, a small crappie jig might be the ticket.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is fishing in between cold fronts to find a bite. He’s begun “switching tactics,” which means alternate baits and moving to different areas to fish.
For bait, Gross is using select shrimp, either fished on the bottom or free-lined behind the boat. As the water temps drop, the fish we target are becoming less motivated to chase a bait, in which case, shrimp works due to their slow movement, which enables predators to ambush them without exerting too much energy.
Another tactic for Gross is switching his location. Gross is starting to target fish around docks, canals and deeper channels. These areas tend to have warmer water, which, in turn, attracts concentrations of fish this time of year.
Around docks, Gross is catching redfish, flounder and sheepshead. For the reds and flounder, Gross is using a whole live shrimp with a small weight added to the rig to keep the bait on the bottom. For sheepies, Gross is using fresh-cut pieces of shrimp on the same rig.
Gross is fishing canal mouths with depths of 6 feet or more for spotted sea trout. In these areas, Gross is either free-lining shrimp or adding a small split shot to get the shrimp on the bottom.
Finally, Gross suggests using Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jighead if you can’t get live bait.
Berkeley Gulp shrimp will catch all but sheepshead, which generally take only fresh bait.
Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier is still seeing pier fishers reeling up bonito and Spanish mackerel despite falling water temps in the bay.
“Believe it or not,” says Medley, “there are still decent schools of macks and bonito moving in and out of the bay.”
Pier fishers using white jigs, silver spoons and especially Gotcha plugs are hooking up every few casts when the fish arrive. Be prepared to lose some lures due to the mack’s sharp teeth.
Bait fishers using live pinfish are getting decent results on flounder. By free-lining pinfish under the pier and around the artificial structure to the south of the pier, fishers are reeling up keeper-size flounder with the biggest catches topping 18 inches.
Sheepshead spottings are increasing with the cold front. Live shrimp is getting some of the action, although fiddler crabs are still the top bait. When using shrimp try hooking small pieces or halves of shrimp. If the sheepies seem finicky, try peeling the shrimp offering.
Finally, night fishers are catching small blacktip and bonnethead sharks. By using small pieces of cut bait, like mullet or plain old shrimp, pier fishers are reeling in respectable numbers of both species.
Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says the winter species — redfish, black drum and sheepshead — have been feeding under the deep water docks and biting. His bait of choice is live shrimp.
Howard says extra low tides will provide excellent opportunities to wade fish for redfish and speckled trout. His advice: wade to the potholes on the flats surrounded with exposed sea grass and, using artificial baits or live shrimp, slowly work your rig through the pothole for fishing in a barrel action.
Also, Howard says fishing along deepwater drop offs with a Berkley Gulp or a live shrimp rigged with a split shot will get some filets for the table.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing reports of respectable catches from canals and around docks. Fishers using live shrimp are hooking up flounder, sheepshead, redfish and black drum in the canals of Bimini Bay. Canal fishers are finding the bite by either free-lining or bottom fishing live shrimp around the docks.
Canal fishers willing to venture out after dark are being rewarded with keeper-size spotted seatrout and slot-size catch-and-release snook. By fishing around dock lights with free-lined live shrimp, you can sight cast to your choice of species.
Finally, flats fishers are reporting reasonable numbers of trout, ladyfish and bluefish being caught on the deeper flats of south Sarasota Bay. Jigging with soft plastics or pompano jigs is the way to get in on the action.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier reports the sheepshead bite is beginning to turn on. Pier fishers using crabs or tubeworms are getting good action. Live shrimp fishers are catching some, too, he says. Reasonable numbers of sheepies are showing up daily, although you have to be there when the fish decide to feed. “We had a great bite a few days ago,” says Malfese,” then they turned off for a couple of days.”
Flounder are making a stop around the pier. Fishers working live shrimp on the bottom are catching flounder in the keeper-size range. Try dropping shrimp around the edges of the pier and it from piling to piling.
While targeting flounder, expect to hook into a few black drum. Malfese reports daily catches of keeper-size drum are occurring. If you want to target the drum, try casting a live shrimp or a live crab as far under the pier as you can get it.
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