Tag Archives: 04-17-2013

Public comment sought for AM park proposal

Anna Maria commissioners asked for more public input on a proposed park, consisting of live oak trees, a grass lawn and 15 parking spaces at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard North.

Commissioner Gene Aubry presented his plan, noting that resident Rex Hagen, who previously had asked to remain anonymous, will pay for all the live oak trees, installation and a watering, while Pine Avenue Restoration will pay for grass and other expenses.

The proposal also calls for two bathrooms and park benches.

Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter opposed the project.

Webb noted that the commission had said when the six vacant lots across from the Anna Maria City Pier were purchased there would be no parking on them.

Yetter agreed, and further stated opposition to public restrooms. “Who would clean them?” she asked.

Commission Chair John Quam said the idea made sense to relieve the congestion that occurs near the post office, city pier and shops at the east end of Pine Avenue, but he also opposed the bathrooms.

Aubry said the city needs to be more tourist-friendly and public restrooms are needed there.

Commissioner Dale Woodland sided with Aubry. He said it makes sense and is a good use of the property.

“And it’s the best compromise we’ve had” for the property, he added.

The 25 live oak trees would be planted around the property and several would separate the parking area from the park grounds. The live oak trees already there would be saved, Aubry said.

Webb said he might give approval for a portion of the plan, but he wanted public input before a final decision.

Aubry said he would bring a rendering of the restrooms — a design similar to those found in European cities, which need little maintenance — to the April 25 meeting.

Quam agreed to add the presentation and discussion as the lead item for the commission’s April 25 meeting.

 

Moratorium enacted

Commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium ordinance on all residential construction above 27 feet, while they continue to revise the city’s bulk-, lot- and yard-size regulations.

No expiration for the moratorium was included in the ordinance, but the commission has been working on a living-area-to-lot-size ratio for residential structures to replace the 37-foot height-limit ordinance.

Commissioners also learned that SueLynn has had discussions with Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder to assume responsibility for pier maintenance in exchange for an increase in lease payments.

The pier needs at least $80,000 in repairs immediately, the mayor said.

Commissioners said this was an issue for the mayor, but asked to be kept informed of the negotiations. The commission would have the final approval on any new lease agreement.

Schoenfelder presently pays $9,600 per month to lease the pier, restaurant and bait shop.

Schoenfelder also favored Aubry’s plan for a park and more parking spaces.

“I am not asking for parking. This plan just simplifies everything there and relieves the congestion,” he said.

He said that although he has dedicated parking spaces in the lease, he has never enforced that provision. He has some signs in the pier parking lot noting the parking space is for restaurant customers only, but enforcement is difficult.

SueLynn said if Schoenfelder did start enforcing his lease and towing vehicles, it would be a nightmare for the city and bad publicity for tourism.

The mayor said if the commission agrees to transfer responsibility, she’ll go to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for funding because the pier is an integral part of area tourism. She’ll also start looking for any grants or public funding available for beautification and repair of a historical structure.

Also, commissioners agreed they no longer need to meet every week, which they have been doing the past two months.

Additionally, commissioners unanimously gave the approval to sign a cooperative funding agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, adopted the Manatee County animal control ordinance for the city and passed a public nuisance ordinance.

The next commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 25, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Hope remains to keep Rotten Ralph’s at BB pier

Despite a 4-1 vote April 4 by Bradenton Beach commissioners to terminate the lease of Rotten Ralph’s, hope remains to keep the doors open to keep the doors open at the restaurant.

The restaurant is located on the Historic Bridge Street Pier and, it’s owner says, has suffered financially since June 2012, when Tropical Storm Debby temporarily shut down the pier and ensured the long-term closure of the adjacent floating dock.

Concessionaire Dave Russell said the debt issue became worse when he learned the city policy does not allow for partial payments, and a $100-per-day penalty clause within the lease caused the debt to further spiral out of control.

Russell began working with the city to find a way to catch up on the payments and suggested the city take ownership of his restaurant equipment with an option for him to purchase the equipment back from the city.

At the March 21 meeting, the commissioners discussed the liens on the equipment, and gave Russell two weeks to finalize and clear those liens before commissioners addressed the deal at the April 4 city meeting.

Russell appeared before the commissioners saying the liens had been cleared, but was ousted from his lease anyway with only Commissioner Ric Gatehouse opposed to terminating the agreement.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the lease language is contradictory to the proposed equipment agreement and that commissioners would have to amend the lease first, before accepting such an offer.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh expressed disappointment in having to close a business that has been operating in Bradenton Beach for five years, and suggested Russell seek a loan to pay off the $50,000 debt.

Russell said he could do it, but it would take time. Commissioners then voted to send Russell a notice of default and to terminate the lease. Russell was served those papers the following day.

Further discussion on the Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant issue appears on the city commission agenda at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 18, at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Russell said the city has agreed to hold off on closing the restaurant’s doors until after the meeting and that he has secured the funding to pay off the debt.

He was initially told he would have to close his doors, but the city has agreed to hold off on the closure.

“We have no intention of closing our doors,” said Russell. “We want to stay here. I love this community and I love the people.”

Apparently, Rotten Ralph’s customers love Russell, too.

“The support we are receiving from our patrons is overwhelming,” he said. “They have been flooding us with support and saying they want to write letters to the city to help keep us open.”

Russell said it’s been an emotional experience.

“I broke down and cried,” he said.

Russell said he has secured a loan to pay the city the $50,000, but that the loan was contingent on him remaining at the location.

He won’t be able to walk into the April 18 meeting with a check, but he said he can walk in with a promise to pay the debt, if commissioners reconsider their April 4 vote to terminate the lease.

“I don’t want to assume anything, but we’ve had a very good working relationship with the city for the past five years,” he said. “So, I’m hopeful they will see that I have done everything I can to come up with the money, and we can remain open.”

DOT calls for Cortez Bridge meeting

The Florida Department of Transportation will host the first in a series of public meetings about the Cortez Bridge 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

The meeting is part of the project development and environmental study required before any bridge project can begin, a DOT press release said.

The meeting will be an open-house format where people will be able to ask questions of representatives and provide comments in a one-on-one setting.

Options available to the DOT for the .9 mile section of S.R. 684/Cortez Road that links Cortez to Bradenton Beach include a short-term maintenance project, a long-term overhaul that might require the bridge to be closed for several months, or replacing the existing two-lane bridge with a new, two-lane bridge with emergency lanes.

Several public meetings on the bridge will be held before the DOT delivers its recommendations to the public.

For more information, call 863-519-2304.

HB commissioner calls out mayor’s proposals

It was a two-round battle April 9 between Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino and Commission Chair Jean Peelen.

Round two came at the end of the meeting when Peelen admonished Zaccagnino for his March 28 criticism of Mayor Carmel Monti’s choice for a new police of chief.

Zaccagnino criticized other commissioners for not doing their due diligence in researching the new chief’s background before voting to accept the mayor’s recommendation.

Peelen, reading from a prepared statement, demanded Zaccagnino apologize for questioning the mayor’s choice, accusing the eight-year commissioner of “publicly trashing” the candidate. Zaccagnino did not apologize.

Round one opened the April 9 city meeting when Zaccagnino raised concerns over emails from Monti to Peelen, suggesting he would like the commission to consider three future revenue proposals.

One proposal would be to have the city build a toll gate and charge motorists entering the city on Manatee Avenue at the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Residents would be admitted free in the mayor’s proposal, while tourists would pay to enter.

A second proposal was to sell discounted tokens for trolley rides to businesses, who in turn resell tokens at a profit to trolley riders, and a third money-making scheme was to lease Scentral Park dog park to dog owners, who then would pay a fee to use the park.

“I find these very concerning and would not like to see them on a future agenda,” said Zaccagnino.

Peelen called a point of order and interrupted Zaccagnino, saying she has asked the mayor and commissioners to submit a wish list of proposals no matter how impossible or improbable.

Even though the emails are public record, Peelen criticized Zaccagnino for bringing them up at a public meeting.

“This is not the place to bring them up,” she said.

 

Moratorium lifted

In the night’s quickest action, commissioners unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance lifting the self-imposed building moratorium in the city’s R-2, or duplex, district.

The city enacted the moratorium Jan. 8, expecting it to last six months. The moratorium was designed to slow down the construction of duplexes until the city could address solutions pertaining to rental units causing congestion, parking, noise and trash problems.

In a related matter, the city passed the final reading of an ordinance defining a duplex and set new construction standards. New language in the land development code defines a duplex as having a common footer and at least 33 percent of a common wall.

Zaccagnino previously said he would oppose the ordinance because it will create box-like structures and limit green space, which is contrary to the city’s vision plan.

He said the city is setting itself up to create perpetual rental units as opposed to giving an opportunity to new permanent residents seeking to own duplex units that appear to be single-family homes.

Zaccagnino did question setback requirements in the ordinance, but city planner Bill Brisson addressed his concerns, saying the setback requirements aren’t changing.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance.

The ordinance will apply toward any new permits filed on or after April 9. Any pending permits caught in the moratorium timeline and existing structures are grandfathered.

In other matters, commissioners provided a consensus for Monti to write a letter supporting Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzecker’s 26/13 Plan, a proposal to provide for an added half-cent sales tax and a reduction in tax rates in all island cities by 26 percent.

The property tax savings would be achieved by removing the cost of Manatee County Sheriff’s Office patrols from property taxes for owners in cities that provide law enforcement for its citizens.

The plan calls for a half-cent sales tax to begin paying for indigent health care costs, which has been funded by a portion of property taxes. The sales tax rate in Manatee County is 6.5 percent.

The plan also will lower property taxes in the unincorporated areas of the county by 13 percent.

County commissioners April 9 voted to pass the plan’s approval to voters in a June 18 referendum.

Zaccagnino said this is a once in a 25-year opportunity for taxpayers to see a drastic reduction in property taxes.

“We are a big contributor to the county tax base,” he said. “Finally, we are getting some help.”

Peelen said the plan also fits the city’s goal of retaining its population while promoting new residency.

2 Holmes Beach commissioners square off over police chief

What was supposed to be an informal celebratory swearing in ceremony for new Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer turned hostile at an April 9 city commission meeting.

Tokajer was hired March 28, during a hastily organized special meeting where commissioners voted 4-1 to accept Mayor Carmel Monti’s recommendation to hire him over longtime HBPD veteran Dale Stephenson, who resigned after the meeting.

The lone dissenter was Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who presented past disciplinary issues in Tokajer’s personnel file that included covering for an officer who pointed a gun at his wife’s head, numerous at-fault traffic accidents and hindering a police brutality investigation.

Most of the incidents are more than 20 years old and Tokajer climbed the ranks within the Bradenton Police Department to become second in command before taking a position as captain with the Longboat Key Police Department in 2011.

He is a 26-year veteran of law enforcement dating back to 1979, when he served as a military policeman in the U.S. Army.

City clerk Stacey Johnston swore Tokajer into office April 9. The new chief thanked the commission and mayor for the opportunity and said he is looking forward to working with the community.

Tokajer and his family left, and the meeting went downhill from there.

During commissioner comments at the end of the meeting, Commission Chair Jean Peelen admonished Zaccagnino for what she said was a public bashing of Tokajer at the March 28 meeting called to confirm Tokajer’s appointment.

“I was distressed, very distressed that a candidate was publicly trashed by a commissioner,” she said. “I was disturbed that applying for a job gets you publicly condemned.”

Peelen referred to Zaccagnino pointing out Tokajer’s past disciplinary issues. While she said Tokajer did have two “notable” incidents, she made reference to lesser incidents in which Tokajer forgot to apply his vehicle’s emergency brake and another when he opened his patrol car door and struck a pedestrian.

Peelen demanded that Zaccagnino publicly apologize to Tokajer. That apology would not come.

“Of all the people here, it’s your responsibility to uncover the facts,” Zaccagnino told Peelen. “Do not kill the messenger. He failed a lie detector test and he failed to report an officer holding a gun against his wife’s head. These are the facts. It’s your responsibility to vet the facts.”

Zaccagnino said it was his job as an elected official to present all of the facts to the public and criticized Peelen for not doing her job and serving the public in an open manner.

Commissioner Pat Morton sided with Peelen and commissioners then began to speak over one another before Peelen said, “Let’s stop this back and forth.”

Zaccagnino told Peelen she was the one who brought it up. “You started it,” he said.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth called for reason.

“It wasn’t our decision to keep Stephenson on,” she said. “He was already not selected to be the next chief. Emotions should have been put aside and we need to look at Tokajer for who he is. It was a very hard decision, but I think every commissioner here vetted Tokajer.”

Not everyone agreed.

During public comment, resident Andy Sheridan criticized the city for hastily organizing a special meeting on an important decision, calling it an “affront to the citizens.”

Sheridan wanted to know if the commissioners read Tokajer’s file before or after they voted. Both Peelen and Morton had already said they read Tokajer’s file after the March 28 confirmation, but Peelen interrupted Sheridan saying commissioners would not answer his question.

Sheridan raised his voice, saying he had the right to ask the question and Peelen continued to interrupt him.

Monti then threatened to have Sheridan escorted from the chambers.

The mayor said Sheridan was reaching the point of becoming disruptive and uncivil, and Peelen then asked him to conclude his comments.

Monti then criticized Zaccagnino for comments published in The Islander regarding the mayor changing the locks on his office and on Stephenson’s office.

Monti said he had the right to protect his own privacy in changing his locks, and said Stephenson was aware that he had changed the locks “to protect his files.”

Zaccagnino said he failed to understand the mayor’s complaint.

“Are both of those (statements) not true? I was asked a question and I answered it,” he said, of the comments published in The Islander.

Give me a chance says new HB top cop

Citizens expressed outrage over Mayor Carmel Monti’s March 28 announcement he was recommending the city hire Longboat Key Police Capt. Bill Tokajer over Holmes Beach Police Department’s 26-year veteran Dale Stephenson.

Tokajer, who officially started work April 10, said he understands the community’s apprehension, but called on people to give him a fair chance.

“I believe they will have the same respect and love the city of Bradenton did after 26 years,” said Tokajer. “I do understand they would have liked their internal candidate, but it’s not my decision.”

Tokajer said he’s honored to be given this opportunity “and once community members have an opportunity to sit down with me, they will be pleased with the choice our mayor made.”

Tokajer began his law enforcement career as a U.S. Army policeman, at which time he met his wife of 32 years and raised two daughters. He worked for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office for two years before beginning his 26-year career with the Bradenton Police Department.

He retired as deputy chief. Tokajer said he loved law enforcement too much to stay out, so in 2011 he took the job as captain on Longboat key, where he remained until being selected as the Holmes Beach police chief.

“I applied for the position when I received a call saying it was open,” said Tokajer. “I’ve always prepared myself through education and training to be chief. It’s always been a goal of mine.”

Tokajer said he knows both Stephenson and former Police Chief Jay Romine.

“This department has had some good leadership,” he said. “I know I have some big shoes to fill.”

Tokajer received the Bradenton police department’s Purple Heart in 1990 when he was shot in the line of duty during a drug raid, and was awarded the Bradenton Police Department’s highest honor — the medal of valor — in 1989 for disarming a suspect while saving the life of a fellow officer.

He has spent 20 years on the Manatee Children’s Services board of directors, 19 of which he has been president.

He has several awards and believes strongly in remaining active in the community he serves.

“I would like the people to judge me for what they see of me,” said Tokajer. “What they will see is someone very community oriented. I want to partner with the community to make sure it’s the safest place in Manatee County. We have a beautiful little community.”

Tokajer acknowledged reports of his disciplinary issues, saying they were minor and the last one was more than 20 years ago.

“Don’t judge me from my past,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes, but I would ask anyone to look at the past 20 years of their lives and ask themselves if there is something they did that they would do different. I’ve done that and try to be a better man and be a better coach to young officers so they don’t make those same mistakes.”

Tokajer’s immediate concern as the city’s new top cop is to get the rumor mill under control. He said he is aware of the rumors that drastic changes are coming and possible firings are around the corner.

“Before I make any changes, I need to do a needs assessment to see what the agency does and what they need before I make a premature judgment of the agency’s structure,” he said. “Once I do that, and meet with the officers and see what they need, then I will make the changes necessary to make sure we are making the community safe.”

Tokajer said he strongly believes in transparency and accountability, but also believes that each officer should have what they need to succeed.

“We expect them to be professionals,” he said. “But to be sure they are professionals, we need to make sure they have the training and education they need. You can’t hold someone to a standard if you aren’t going to give them an opportunity to meet that standard.”

Tokajer said the community should know that he is accessible.

“I’m not someone who continuously sits behind a desk,” he said. “I lead from being out on the road and being part of everything.”

Tokajer said he believes it’s part of his job to be a presence in the community and he intends to do that.

He was already on the street making contacts and introducing himself by going door to door in the business center last week.

He told The Islander staff that rumors are untrue that he will order patrol officers to strictly enforce laws and write tickets for all infractions.

“It isn’t true,” he said. “I believe in achieving compliance,” he said.

“All I ask is for the community to give me a chance to prove myself to them,” he said. “They will not be disappointed. They will see I am here for the betterment of this community and to ensure this is the safest town in the county.”

Tokajer said people have an open invitation to visit with him or call him.

“I want to give everyone a chance to get to know me and to partner with me in this adventure,” he said.

HBPD collecting prescription drugs for disposal

The Holmes Beach Police Department continues to partner with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back program.

The campaign has multiple goals — to curb the theft or abuse of drugs and keep dangerous drugs out of the environment.

People with expired and unneeded prescription drugs can drop off bottles at HBPD during regular business hours, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.

The DEA will be collecting prescription drugs from the HBPD on April 27.

Three previous national Take-Back efforts resulted in the DEA collecting about a million pounds of drugs that might have been dumped into sewer systems or landfills, or possibly misused, according to a news release from the DEA.

BB man arrested on a sexual battery charge

A 40-year-old Bradenton Beach man was arrested on felony sexual battery with a weapon and aggravated battery April 12 in the 400 block of Second Street North.

On Sept. 11, 2013, the state attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit in Manatee County declined to file the charges without prejudice.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Terry Moroz and the victim argued the previous night. Moroz awoke in the early morning hours of April 12 wanting to engage the alleged victim in sexual activities.

The victim complied, but Moroz allegedly placed a 9 mm handgun to the victim’s head.

According to the report, Moroz told the victim he really wanted to kill her.

The couple continued their sexual activity, but the victim said she did so at that point out of fear for her life.

She called the Bradenton Beach Police Department at the first opportunity and police arrived to confront Moroz.

According to the report, Moroz admitted he put a gun to the victim’s head. He was then arrested on the felony charges.

He was booked into the Manatee County jail and scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, May 3, at the Manatee Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Moroz’s bond information was not available as of Islander press time.

 

Sexual battery case closed

A Bradenton Beach man arrested in April for alleged sexual battery with a weapon against a victim 12 or older and aggravated assault will not be prosecuted.

Records at the Manatee County Judicial Center show that formal charges will not be filed against Terry Richard Moroz.

Moroz had entered a not guilty plea in April.

The notice from the prosecutor that the case would not go forward was filed in mid-September.

The probable cause affidavit filed by the Bradenton Beach Police Department alleged that Moroz put a 9 mm gun to a woman’s head to force her to have sexual relations with him.

 

Manatee County resort tax collections reach record high

February bed tax collections by the Manatee County Tax Collector’s resort tax division were $1.11 million, a record for February said Sue Sinquefield, director of the resort tax office.

The resort tax, often called the bed tax, is the 5 percent charged by Manatee County on accommodation rentals of six months or less. Resort tax collections have risen in 23 of the past 24 months according to the office’s online information.

February collections rose 6.2 percent from the $1.04 million collected in February 2012.

Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key accounted for 51 percent, or $561,000 of the $1.11 million total. For the past 24 months of collections, the island and Longboat Key provided around 62 percent of resort taxes collected.

The shift in collections is the result of a boost in accommodation rentals in unincorporated areas of east Manatee County, said Deb Meihls, marketing director for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For the past several years, the BACVB has conducted promotions to attract visitors, particularly during the winter season, to accommodations in east Manatee County and other unincorporated areas of the county. Looking at the $400,304 in resort tax collections in February for unincorporated Manatee County, Meihls said the strategy appears to be working.

The February collections for those unincorporated areas from $362,000 in 2012 to the $400,304 this February is a 10.5 percent hike.

Meihls said the BACVB is aware of the stress on Anna Maria Island during the winter season and has actively marketed rentals in other areas.

“We’re trying to market all our attractions in the county,” Meihls said. “The beaches will always be there, but there is so much else to see and do here.”

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said she was pleased by the BACVB efforts to relieve island stress during the season, but noted that “sooner or later, they all end up on the island.”

Resort taxes are collected one month in arrears. Figures for March will be available around the first week of May, Sinquefield said.

Resort tax collections for 2011-12 rose 14.8 percent, while the surveyed number of visitors to the Bradenton area was up 7.5 percent, according to information from Research Data Services Inc., the company that gathers tourism information for the BACVB.

Resort tax collections have set records for each of the past four years and 2012-13 is on pace to beat last years’ record amount of $8.1 million.

For the first five months of 2012-13, $3.55 million has been collected by the resort tax office, a 12.1 percent hike over the $3.17 million collected in the first five months of fiscal year 2011-12. And that was the record-setting year for resort tax collections.

The $8.1 million eclipsed the former record of $7.01 million set in fiscal year 2010-11.

Fishing – 04-17-2013

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 fish@islander.org.