The recent dredging of the Bimini Bay-Key Royale channel by the West Coast Inland Navigation District pumped enough material to the designated shoreline by the Anna Maria City Pier to create a beach estimated to be about 500 feet wide that extends into Tampa Bay 100-150 feet. A few beachgoers last week discovered the location, including Misty Logan, front left, of Apollo Beach, and Emily Toal of Indiana. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued warning letters Feb. 29 to two property owners on 28th Street in Holmes Beach for trimming mangroves without a permit.
The mangrove alteration, which topped approximately 5 feet from the 12- to 16-foot tall trees, and the possible violation of Florida law protecting the trees, occurred in an area of 9,500 square feet “within the landward extent of Grassy Point Bayou,” according to the DEP letters.
The DEP inspected the 28th Street site Feb. 15.
An inspection report states that Rod Parsons of Ripley, W.Va., and a homeowner on 28th Street, hired a Bradenton contractor to cut mangroves at 418 28th St., across the street from his property.
The DEP sent a warning letters to Parsons and another 28th Street property owner, Cedar Hames of Tierra Verde. The letters request Parsons and Hames cooperate in resolving the matter, and asks for a response “within 15 days to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.”
At press time, according to DEP spokesperson Ana Gibbs, inspectors had spoken to both Parsons and Hames. No written response has yet been provided to the department, and the investigation is ongoing, she said.
The Florida DEP “is working with all the potential parties associated with this incident to gather the necessary information to make a final determination as to what happened in this case,” stated Gibbs in an e-mail.
The inspection report states: “It is unclear at this point if Mr. Hames was aware of what occurred at the site since his primary residence appears to be in Pinellas County.”
State law prohibits a person from altering or trimming any mangroves “within the landward extent of wetlands and other surface waters” except by permit, according to the DEP.
No permit had been obtained prior to the February inspection, according to Gibbs.
“Based on a review of the remaining unaltered mangroves,” the DEP reported the “impacted fringe was approximately 16-20-plus feet in pre-trimmed height. At the completion of the alteration, it appears the trees were reduced to a final height of approximately 5 feet.”
The DEP reports that the fringe is comprised of mostly black and white mangroves with an average diameter of 5 inches. The average fringe depth is 75 linear feet and its length is 126 linear feet, according to the DEP inspection report.
The cutting was first reported by a dog walker, Janet Fitzgerald, who routinely walks 28th Street and noticed the marked difference in the mangroves at the shoreline. She then told her findings to Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen at one of her coffee-with-commissioner events in January.
Construction trailers from a stormwater project had been parked there, she said, but once removed, she saw the extensive clearing across from the last house on the street.
Holmes Beach Police Department Lt. Dale Stephenson filed a police report Feb. 3, stating he spoke with one neighbor who said, “the new owners of 418 28th St. had a crew cut back the area.”
Stephenson referred the matter to the DEP.
Peelen pointed out this 28th Street property is near Grassy Point, the city’s 34-acre bayfront preserve. She said the mangroves are important to the Island, and “hold it together.”
“You gave me a great opener,” said Birget Sesterhenn, of the Island Florist, before telling Holmes Beach city commissioners March 13 of parking and traffic problems that have “severely affected” her business in the Island Shopping Center, 5312 Marina Drive.
Referencing earlier comments made by Commission Chair David Zaccagnino on civility at the meeting, Sesterhenn made the connection to the lack of respect shown for her at her business in the shopping center.
Sesterhenn told commissioners of construction, parking, traffic and civility problems due to the expansion of Martini Bistro restaurant and bar on Holmes Boulevard, directly behind her business.
She said her loading area was frequently blocked by construction trucks throughout the summer, and now by patrons and staff of the restaurant and bar.
She said she didn’t say anything at first, thinking problems would resolve once the construction ended. However, they have not.
“I’ve encountered the situation of people pulling into my parking space” while out on deliveries, and returning to find no place to park. On confronting the offenders, she said, “I’m getting yelled at.”
Sesterhenn said one patron told her, “Your shop is closed, why do you need parking?”
As to the traffic in the area, she said, “I personally think it’s dangerous,” considering the many bicyclists, golf carts, cars and kids with skate boards that frequent the area, especially now, during tourist season.
“I need to be respected,” Sesterhenn said, agreeing with Zaccagnino. She said city people “all need to work together.”
At previous commission meetings, Commissioner Pat Morton raised the issue of parking at Martini Bistro and its accompanying outdoor dining area, Fins Bar. He asked to see the outdoor dining ordinance and the parking provision reviewed in view of complaints he said he had received from merchants in the area.
Also at the commission meeting, commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance updating the schedule of capital improvement projects in the city’s comprehensive plan.
At a work session last month, the city’s planner, Bill Brisson, said the ordinance update is required annually by state law.
In other business, the commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the following mayoral appointments:
• Ruth DeHann to serve on the parks and beautification committee until August 2014.
∙ Thomas Creed to serve on the code enforcement board until April 2015.
The city commission also unanimously reappointed Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson and appointed Officer Brian Hall to the police retirement board, both to two-year terms expiring April 2014.
Store owners weigh in on parking
The height of tourist season combined with a past problem with construction dust and noise, and continual problems with deliveries and parking — and now a change in ownership of the restaurant and bar known as Martini Bistro-Fins Bar at Holmes Boulevard and Gulf Drive, in the AMI Plaza — have some Island Shopping Center shop owners wondering what’s next.
Nanette Almeter, owner of Irene’s Resort Wear, 5308 Marina Drive, said the center has been having parking and traffic issues since the AMI Plaza restaurant/bar complex has been under construction “for what seems like years.”
“The problem has been people go to the restaurant and bar, and there’s no place for them to park,” she said. Then, Almeter added, the parking spots fill up behind the Island Shopping Center.
“I feel bad for Birgit,” she said of the interference caused to the Island Florist shop owner. “They totally ignore her (no parking) sign,” Almeter said. Sesterhenn has posted paper signs on her back door asking drivers not to block her parking spaces at her back entrance.
Almeter said the same problem impacts her need to move clothes in and out of her back entrance. “We’re always going some place, loading up the clothes” — to lots of fashion shows — “we do about a dozen a year.”
Almeter and Sesterhenn agree that the problem may stem from city officials not scrutinizing the site plans and requiring sufficient parking.
“Business is wonderful,” Almeter said. Parking requirements “just need to make sense,” she added.
On March 15, Sesterhenn noted a semi-truck parked facing the wrong way on the street, making a delivery to the bar and blocking her parked delivery van for 35 minutes. She said deliveries to a restaurant should be considered when permitting a restaurant.
Sesterhenn spoke at the March 13 city commission meeting, and followed up her appearance with an e-mail to commissioners, which states:
“From what I understand, restaurants have to provide parking in relation to the amount of seating they offer.”
“So I am certainly wondering how the permit for the new restaurant was issued,” Sesterhenn stated. She also asked for clarification of the parking requirements.
During the recent remodeling, she observed the former driveway and parking spaces between the restaurant and liquor store was turned into a deck, and the deck area was then covered, enclosed and converted into a bar, “taking away more of their possible parking options,” according to her e-mail.
“In addition to the already dire situation, the restaurant then expanded its patio in front,” encroaching on the handicapped parking spot, she added.
“Then they installed wooden flower boxes outside the railing of their patio along the restaurant,” obstructing several narrow parking spots on Holmes Boulevard.
Unlike Island Florist and Irene’s, the Sand Dollar boutique next door in the shopping center, does not have the same parking problems, according to Virginia Possehl, of the Sand Dollar.
As far as traffic, she said it’s “definitely increased.” About parking, the Sand Dollar has more options, and “it’s manageable.”
“I feel the trolley is a great asset. The landlord has put up signs to enforce parking for the employees and tenants,” Possehl added. “He’s helped us out in that way.”
The shopping center manager, Hugh Holmes Jr., said, “If I have problems, I take them to the city.” He declined further comment.
According to recent reports, Jeff Levey of Ginny’s & Jane E’s, Anna Maria, is the new owner along with his brother of Martini Bistro, and will soon rename the restaurant LOBSTAHS.
Levey said he thought any parking situation had been resolved. Because he’s just started operations March 13 at the Marini Bistro as Lobstahs, he had no knowledge of employee-patron parking problems behind the Island Shopping Center. Nonetheless, he understood the parking behind the center to be public parking.
As for trucks making deliveries on Holmes Boulevard, he expects that to continue, adding that both the Island Shopping Center and Lobstahs have deliveries.
Levy said Lobstahs will not operate the same format as Martini Bistro, but will be offering a family-style restaurant, open only for dinner in the restaurant, and casual lunch and dinner in what was formerly Fins Bar.
City building officials have inspected his new business, Levey said, and determined it was “all within the requirements.” He added no building permits will be required because he’s not planning on doing any structural construction.
Going forward, Levey doesn’t anticipate any parking problems. Restaurant employees have been directed to a parking lot with 20 spots across Gulf Drive. Patrons will be directed by a sign to the same lot. He also said his patrons will park on the perimeter of the AMI Plaza.
golfer Sam Snead once said, “If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they’d starve to death.”
It’s not common to equate golf and hunger, but such was the case March 13 at the Key Royale Club golf course, Holmes Beach, where the women of Key Royale Club sponsored a Putting for the Pantry golf tournament to benefit the Roser Memorial Community Church food pantry.
The nine-hole shotgun start tournament featured dozens of competitors who paid a $12 entry fee, a $5 suggested donation and purchased raffle tickets all in an effort to raise money to help local residents in need.
Local businesses pitched into the effort by sponsoring a hole for $25. According to event organizer Mary Selby, 75 women teed up to show their support for the pantry.
An additional 24 people attended the lunch, which featured cans of food — purchased by committee members as table decorations — which were “then donated to the pantry,” said Selby.
Participants received first-hand knowledge of their chosen charity from pantry manager Pam Leckie, who shared the history of the pantry and stories of those the pantry helps.
A silent auction and raffle also were held, and competitions for participants were ongoing throughout the day, with winners receiving additional prizes.
Judy Christensen won the longest-drive prize, while closest-to-the-pin winner Jeanine Lyons also won a prize. Heather Pritchard, Diane Miller and Vicki Anderson won the day’s scramble, with Phyllis Roe, Joy Kaiser, Gloria LaDue and Jean Chappell in second place.
“It was a phenomenal day for the pantry,” said Selby. “When all was said and done, more than $5,000 was donated to this most-worthy charity.”
The pantry serves Island residents who are experiencing difficult times. The pantry, is a combined effort of all the Island churches, is located at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.
“The generosity of all the merchants and participants, and the extraordinary generosity of so many members of Key Royale was overwhelming,” said Selby. “It was so wonderful to see such an outpouring of love from everyone involved.”
Anna Maria pipeline work begins this week
The Manatee County Utilities Department will be installing new sewer pipes along North Shore Drive in Anna Maria beginning this week.
The project is between Cypress Avenue and Palm Avenue, a MCUD press release said, but should not impact traffic in the area for any extended periods.
Any sidewalk or lane closures will be temporary and a flagging operation will be in place for traffic control during lane closure periods.
The only planned road closure is the first week of July, when the Cypress Street/Jacaranda Road intersection will be closed, the MCUD release said.
The Florida Department of Transportation repair project to the Longboat Pass Bridge/State Road 789 is ongoing.
The only lane closures will be 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, a DOT press release said.
Over-size vehicles are still banned from using the bridge, and the west sidewalk is closed, but pedestrians can use the east sidewalk during the project.
The DOT also has closed the area on Greer Island — often called Beer Can Island — to pedestrians and boaters during the project. The DOT cited safety concerns and liability as factors in its decision to close that part of the shore.
The draw will open for boaters on demand.
Construction is expected to end in late spring.
Drom 9 p.m.-5 a.m. Thursday, March 29, the DOT said there will be east and westbound lane closures on State Road 64/Manatee Avenue for routine maintenance of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.
In the Cortez area, the DOT is conducting intermittent westbound lane closures at night on SR 684/Cortez Road from 127th Street West in Cortez to 51st Street West in Bradenton to repair and replace drainage inlets and pipes.
All work is scheduled 8:30 p.m.-6 a.m. weekdays, and the project should finish by April 30, the DOT said.
232 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, a 4,238 sfla / 4,395 sfur 4bed/4bath/2car bayfront duplex with shared pool built in 1992 on a 43×159 lot was sold 02/17/12, Merriman to Groves for $750,000; list $799,000.
107 Tern Drive, Anna Maria, a 2,131 sfla / 2,439 sfur 4bed/3bath/1car canalfront home built in 1960 on a 75×100 lot was sold 03/01/12, Johnson to Rosedale for $599,625; list $639,000.
60 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, a vacant 70×150 lot was sold 02/29/12, MEK Properties LLC to Lynch for $425,000.
620 Foxworth Lane, Holmes Beach, a 1,788 sfla / 2,415 sfur 3bed/2½bath/2car canalfront pool home built in 1972 on a 100×115 lot was sold 02/29/12, McKinna to Roe for $380,000; list $475,000.
108 Ninth St. S., Bay Watch, Unit E, Bradenton Beach, a 1,326 sfla 2bed/2bath condo with shared pool built in 1984 was sold 03/02/12, Moreno to Locallo for $370,000.
6006 Gulf Drive, Playa Encantada, Unit 214, Holmes Beach, a 1,154 sfla / 1,322 sfur 2bed/2bath condo with shared pool built in 1980 was sold 03/02/12, White to Kosanovich for $360,000; list $389,900.
241 85th St., Holmes Beach, a 1,927 sfla / 2,233 sfur 3bed/2bath/1car pool home with deeded 10×20 boat slip was sold 02/27/12, Pang to Magee for $340,000; list $399,900.
5808 Gulf Drive, Waters Edge, Unit 205, Holmes Beach, a 780 sfla / 912 sfur 1bed/1½bath condo with shared pool built in 1975 was sold 02/29/12, Wetherington to George for $310,000; list $335,000.
2415 Ave. B, Bradenton Beach, a 2,560 sfla / 3,503 sfur 4bed/4bath duplex built in 1977 on a 50×100 lot was sold 02/27/12, Schwegmann to Cibischino for $235,000.
2110 Ave. B, Bradenton Beach, a 1,622 sfla 3bed/3bath duplex built in 1962 on a 50×100 lot was sold 03/02/12, Suntrust Bank to Kaufmann for $212,000.
Jesse Brisson, broker/associate at Gulf-Bay Realty of Anna Maria, can be reached at 941-778-7244.
The city of Dunedin Pipe Band performs on Marina Drive in the March 18 Beach Bistro St. Patrick’s Day parade. Islander Photos: Toni Lyon
Super Bowl matchups, champions on the links
The NFL Flag Football League Super Bowl matchups are complete — two teams in each age division are set to face off March 24 at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
The action gets started first in the 13-16 division as Walter & Associates Bears and Integrity Sound Redskins square off at 10 a.m. Mr. Bone’s BBQ Colts and Ross Built Broncos will meet for the 10-12 division title at 11 a.m. Finally, Beach Bistro Vikings and Beach Bum Steelers will go head to head for the 8-9 title at 1 p.m.
The awards ceremony for the league took place March 5, awarding season-ending trophies for sportsmanship, offensive MVP, defensive MVP and female MVP.
The awards and recipients are:
Offensive MVP: 8-9 division Nathan Hyman; 10-12 division Rory Houston; 13-16 division Chris Galati.
Defensive MVP: 8-9 division Daniel Fritz; 10-12 division Jean-Paul Russo; 13-16 division Joseph Andruzzi.
Female MVP: 8-9 division Ava Zink; 10-12 division Hannah McCracken; 13-16 division Moriah Goode.
Sportsmanship: 8-9 division Daniel Sentman; 10-12 division Jaysen Berzowski; 13-16 division Jack Shinn.
Congratulations to all of the players, coaches and family members for a great season.
Key Royale golf news
A busy week of golf at Key Royale Club was punctuated by men’s and women’s handicap championship action. On the men’s side, Dr. Carl Voyles defeated Gerry Dahl 3-and-2 to win the men’s senior handicap title.
Meanwhile, the women’s handicap championship continues with elimination matches running through the month of March. Sue Hookem and Mary Selby will meet in a round-three match while Brenda Solleveld is through to round two and will play the winner of the Laura Purcell vs. Beverly Neville match. Kris Landkammer and Judy Christensen also will square off in a round-two match.
The club men’s handicap tournament continued with Dennis Schavey defeating Jim Helgeson 1-up — now awaiting the winner of the John Cassese vs. Mike Gillie match to decide the title.
In regular golf action, the women teamed up with the men for a nine-hole coed scramble March 16. The team of Dick Rowse, Jim Finn, Eunice Warda and Bob Dickenson combined for an even-par 32 to take first place. One stroke back in second place was the team of Nell Bergstrom, Terry Westby, Earl Huntzinger and Omar Trollard.
The men played an 18-hole match March 14 that produced some low scores. The team of Tom O’Brien and Paul Proxy combined on a 15-under-par 49. Three shots back in second place were Ernie Hauser and Bob Landgren, who finished in a tie with Dave Kruger and John Sagert. Art Hibbs and Dick Rowse took third place with an 11-under 53.
The men played a nine-hole, two-best-balls-of-foursome match March 12. The team of Vince Mercadante, Gino DiClemente, Earl Huntzinger and Carl Voyles combined to win on a 13-under-par 51. The team of Joe Dickenson, Art Hibbs, Al Kaiser and Wade Ladue matched the 52 carded by Jim Finn, Jerry Brown, Andy Barber and Bob Dickenson to tie for second place.
The men came back later in the day for a nine-hole, modified-Stableford match. Tom Nelson and Tim Friessen both managed plus-5 to tie for first place in the individual category. Four teams tied for first at plus-4.
The men played an 18-hole, individual-low-net match March 10. Ed Havlik’s 8-under-par 56 earned him first place on the day. Tom Lewis was one shot back in second place, while Mark Mixon took third place with a 4-under-par 60.
Three teams emerged from pool play during St. Patrick’s Day horseshoe action at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Norm Langeland and Bob Lee drew the bye and watched as Gene Bobeldyk and Tom Rhodes defeated Adin Shank and Bob Mason. Bobeldyk-Rhodes stayed hot with a 22-9 victory over Langeland-Lee in the finals.
The March 14 games saw a record five teams advance to the knockout stage. George McKay and Dave Long rolled by Bill Wright and Joe Rush by a 22-5 score. The second playoff saw Tom Skoloda and Marvin Gangemi slide past Gene Bobeldyk and Bruce Copeland 23-16. Sam Samuels and Hank Huyghe stayed alive with a 21-16 victory over Bob Brown and John Johnson.
The final matchup was decided when Skolada-Gangemi defeated McKay-Long 22-15. However, the challengers were no match for Samuels-Huyghe, who prevailed 22-8 in the championship.
Play gets under way at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits.
Anna Maria anglers spring into action
As seen in recent days, springtime is settling in around Anna Maria Island. Blue bird skies and temperatures in the mid-80s, combined with light winds and clear water, amount to excellent conditions on the water. Whether fishing from the beaches, piers, passes or in the boat, now is the time to be out enjoying this weather.
Anglers can expect the usual species to arrive for the springtime bite. Rumors of Spanish mackerel and kingfish are in the air and with good reason. On one of my charters, we caught as many Spanish mackerel as we could boat before we got tired of catching them. As for the kings, I didn’t see them this week, although a couple of reliable sources, with photos as proof, said they had some good action early in the week.
Spotted seatrout are making a great showing this spring. There are numerous small fish, ranging from 12-14 inches, inhabiting most of the grass flats around the Island. This past week, after fishing for two hours, my clients caught around 30 trout with about one-third being keeper-size. Some were as small as 10 inches, while the biggest came in at 22 inches.
Redfish are staging up on shallow flats from Sarasota Bay to Terra Ceia Bay. On some days, you can find them schooled up, while other days they’re scattered throughout the flat. Capt. Warren Girle specializes in targeting these shallow water reds, and his favorite method is to wade to them. It’s quieter, up close and personal, and you don’t spook the fish.
I recommend working a top-water plug early in the morning or a Berkley Gulp shrimp later in the day. And, of course, a live shiner is a good bet, too.
Lastly, catch-and-release snook action is heating up the shallow grass flats and around the mangrove edges. Numerous small fish are being spotted, although some bigger fish are worked in. You need a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a live bait hook combined with a lively shiner to get the bite.
Remember to go gentle on the snook, since they are all we have. We need them to get them to breeding size so our fishery will return to what it was before the freeze killed off the population in January 2010.
Take advantage of the spring weather, and get fishing while the gettin’s good.
Capt. Sam Kimball of Legend Charters is fishing offshore with good results on a number of species. Using a variety of baits, ranging from shrimp and squid to shiners and pinfish, Kimball’s clients are catching quantities worthy of a fish fry.
To start, Kimball is using shrimp and squid for bait in water depths of 40 to 60 feet. Key West grunts, porgies and hogfish are readily taking these baits the moment they reach the bottom. Once filleted, all these species are good to eat, just bread and fry in hot oil.
In these same water depths, Kimball’s charters are testing their stamina by working out on catch-and-release gag grouper. Using shiners and pinfish, Kimball’s clients are having knuckle-busting action on gags in the 10- to 12-pound range.
Moving out a little deeper, catch-and-release red grouper action is on fire. “We’re hooking reds on every drop,” says Kimball. “They are prolific out there right now.” Again, these bottom dwellers provide a true test of strength due to their size and power.
Kimball also is catching king mackerel by free-lining shiners behind the boat. Fish in the 20-pound range are the norm, although a few bigger fish are being caught.
Looks as if it’s time to get the smoker ready and find your favorite recipe for kingfish dip.
Richard Leitz at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier is seeing good numbers of migratory species crashing bait schools. Spanish mackerel are being caught on silver spoons or Gotcha plugs, most in the 15- to 20-inch range. The same applies for bonito. The bonito are ranging 7-10 pounds and can be caught on either live threadfin herring or artificials. As for the kingfish, only a few have hooked up. To target this large mackerel, try baiting either the biggest threadfin herring you can find or a blue runner.
Sheepshead are being caught around the pier, although the bite seems to be thinning out. Fiddler crabs, tubeworms and shrimp are still getting a bite.
Finally, pier fishers targeting flounder are having good results on slower moving tides. Fish up to 18 inches are being reported. Leitz suggests using a small threadfin herring on a jig head to find the fish. Simply hook the threadfin through the nose and let it sink to the bottom. Then slowly reel and drag the bait, especially around the pilings under the pier and small artificial reefs.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters reports exceptional springtime fishing. He’s seeing redfish, spotted seatrout, snook and mackerel have been chewing with reckless abandon.
Howard says the redfish bite is one of the best in recent years, with big schools of bruisers coming onto the flats at incoming tides, feeding heavily on shiners and pinfish. He likes to use circle hooks when fishing for reds for an easy release.
Howard said last week a 31-inch redfish bit his client’s line and that of another guide’s client, too. “We were able to land the copper-colored beauty and take a couple of pictures and release it to fight another day,” Howard said. “That was definitely a first.”
The snook bite has finally exploded, Howard says providing a change of pace from the redfish. Look for snook in the potholes on low tides and in the bushes during high tide. Howard believes the no-take rules for these fish have helped bring about a nice recovery after some harsh winters.
“Looking forward, the new moon is next week and the tides will be strong. Bait is in all of the regular spots and it’s not hard to black out your wells. Some of the best fishing Manatee County has to offer is happening now,” Howard says.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters had a good week fishing the grass flats of southern Tampa Bay, north Sarasota Bay and all the waters between.
Using live shiners for bait, Gross is catching limits of spotted seatrout in water depths of 3 to 7 feet. Gross likes to use about 3 to 4 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon tied to a 1/0 Eagle claw live bait hook to get the bite. When the water is as clear as it is now,” says Gross, “you need to use light leader and small hooks.”
Most trout are in the 15- to 20-inch range, although the biggest topped out at 27 inches, “and that’s a big trout,” he said.
Redfish are making their way onto Gross’ fillet table. Slot-size fish are being caught on shallower grass flats. Gross likes to use the same setup as he uses for trout. Once he locates the redfish, he draws them to the boat by chumming with live shiners. This both gets them in the feeding mood and keeps them in the area. Gross’ charters are catching good numbers of slot-sized fish as well as some over-slot reds — the biggest coming in at 32 inches.
To finish out the day, Gross is exposing his clients to some catch-and-release snook action. “It’s good to see there’s a few snook starting to show up again,” says Gross.
Most snook are in the 20- to 26-inch range, with the biggest coming in at a whopping 36 inches. And that’s a good fish in anybody’s book.
Capt. Warren Girle is putting out shiners at nearshore structure with good results. On a recent charter, his clients managed to reel up a 36-inch cobia as well as numerous king mackerel up to 35 inches. Also on the reefs, Girle’s charters are catching Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and Key West grunts.
Moving to the backcountry, Girle is targeting redfish in the shallow grass flats of Sarasota Bay, using live shiners with good results. Numerous slot-sized fish are being caught as well as fish up to 33-inches.
In these same areas with the reds, Girle is hooking up spotted seatrout. Girle’s biggest trout came in at 24 inches. These can be caught a number of ways, he says, with top-water plugs, soft plastics or live shiners.
On the deeper grass flats, Girle is catching a variety of inshore species. Ladyfish, blue runners and Spanish mackerel are available by jig fishing the deeper flats.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of excellent pompano action on the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Fishers are getting good results on both pompano jigs and sand fleas. Keyes suggests fishing at sunrise for a good score. Fly fishers are finding success using glass minnow patterns and small crab imitations on pompano.
Ladyfish are schooling along the shorelines, providing non-stop action for anglers using artificial lures, such as silver spoons, buck-tail jigs and Gotcha plugs. Look for fish breaking schools of bait just off the beach. Remember, ladyfish will fray your leader, so always check it after each catch and re-tie as needed.
Finally, beach fishers using cut bait on the bottom are hooking up small bonnethead sharks and an occasional flounder. Try using frozen squid or shrimp to target either of these beach inhabitants.
On the grass flats, fishers using live shiners are catching good numbers of spotted seatrout, redfish and catch-and-release snook, and using live shiners free-lined over shallow grass and adjacent to mangrove shorelines are getting the bite. Try using some top-water plugs at sunrise for exploding action on the backwater trio.
Moving offshore, mangrove snapper are dominating the bite, while king mackerel are showing up in the same areas. Starting around 20 miles out, snapper are being caught on live and frozen baits. Most fishers are using shiners or threadfin herring, but frozen sardines also can be the way to go.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing remains consistent. A variety of species are being caught on both live and artificial baits.
Sheepshead are still at the top of the list. Pier fishers using live oyster and fiddler crabs and shrimp are catching good numbers of these buck-toothed barnacle eaters. Fish up to 3 pounds are the norm. Remember to carry some extra-small, stout hooks and, if you plan on keeping your limit, bring a stringer so you can hang your catch from the pier until you’re ready to fillet them. Also, with it being spring break, Kilb suggests getting to the pier early to find a spot to fish.
Black drum are hanging around the R&R in decent numbers. Pier fishers using select shrimp are getting the bigger-size drum. Fish in the 18-inch range are the norm, although catches up to 24 inches are not uncommon. And don’t be surprised to hook up a drum while targeting sheepies. They’ll hit a crab just as quick as a sheepshead.
Last but not least, you can catch a few pompano from the pier, but the bite is sporadic. Fishers using small pink jigs are catching these sought-after golden nuggets. While targeting pompano with jigs, also expect to catch some ladyfish. “There’s a bunch of ladyfish around the pier,” says Kilb. “It’s hard to cast a jig and not catch one.”
If you’re looking for rod-bending action on artificials, this might be a good option for you. Ladyfish aren’t good eating, but they’re acrobatic when hooked, which provides an enjoyable fight for the angler.
Send fishing reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.