Tag Archives: fishing

Rainy conditions put damper on local tarpon fishing

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Michael Corbino of Longboat Key and Hawaii holds onto his tarpon for a trophy photo. The silver king, estimated to weigh about 100 pounds, was caught on a pass crab, according to Corbino’s guide, Capt. Warren Girle.
Marlin Ellis shows off a 19-inch spotted sea trout he caught May 19 while fishing in the back bay waters.

When tarpon arrive, Anna Maria Island has just about all it can offer when it comes to fishing in west central Florida.

However, with all the rain in the past week and windy conditions, the tarpon experienced a slight break from the anglers. As soon as conditions improve, the tarpon will be back on the agenda. And it’s likely they will be here in greater numbers, having only recently arrived to the local waters.

Meanwhile, the inshore bite is going strong for spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Other inshore species include Spanish mackerel, big jack crevalle and a few redfish.

Offshore, permit are still the highlight, although many other species are being caught, including snappers, grouper, cobia, kingfish and amberjack.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, clients are experiencing an exceptional trout bite, especially on large, over-slot fish. Spotted sea trout up to 25 inches are being caught with regularity, although most are 18-22 inches. Live, free-lined shiners are working best as bait.

Catch-and-release snook fishing also is good right now. I’m finding the best action around the passes, where swift moving tides are producing the greatest numbers of fish.

Lastly, I’m seeing a few redfish being caught. Most of these bites are occurring around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is happy to announce the arrival of Spanish mackerel to the northernmost island pier. These high-speed fish are one of the most popular catches for anglers at the pier. The early morning bite has been best, according to “Fese,” because large schools of bait have yet to arrive. Still, the macks are being caught as they pass the pier on their way in and out of Tampa Bay. Once the baitfish arrive, the bite should improve and become more consistent, as the mackerel will not pass — they will stay with the food.

Other catches at the R&R include over-slot redfish and catch-and-release snook. And for those folks looking for table fare, black drum and flounder are available.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is starting to put anglers on tarpon along the beaches and in the passes. Casting live crabs or threadfin herring is producing a strike from these elusive fighting fish. According to Lowman, the best times to target the silver king is early morning and late afternoon.

On the flats, catch-and-release snook are keeping Lowman’s clients busy. Casting free-lined shiners to these fish is resulting in multiple hookups. Most catches are 20-26 inches. Spotted seatrout also are present on the flats — ready for the cooler. Free-lined shiners cast in 3-5 feet of water over lush grass are being blasted by hungry slot-size trout.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters also is targeting catch-and-release snook — his most consistent bite. Most catches are coming in at 20-26 inches, although fish up to 37 inches are mixed in. Spotted seatrout also are coming to the boat, although, due to recent rainstorms, Gross is targeting trout closer to the passes, where cleaner water exists.

Lastly, redfish are being found around oyster bars and mangrove edges. The bite is spotty at best, according to Gross. To attract these fish, Gross is instructing clients to cast cut bait and rest it on the bottom — and wait.

Capt. Warren Girle is on patrol along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key in search of tarpon. Although great numbers of fish have yet to make a showing, smaller schools can be found with a little determination and patience. Once discovered, a quiet approach and a pass crab correctly placed in front of the fish can attract a bite. For Girle, most catches are 60-100 pounds with some larger fish mixed in.

When not targeting tarpon, Girle is fishing nearshore structure. Casting shiners around artificial reefs is resulting in kingfish, Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting tarpon on the fly. Fly-fishing for any fish can be challenging, but especially so for tarpon. White specializes in fly fishing, so before you strike out on your own, you know who to call. Many in the 100-pound class are being caught on “tarpon bunnies” combined with a 12-weight fly rod. White predicts a push of big fish to arrive soon, when the water calms.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results on permit, cobia and tripletail. For the permit and cobia, wrecks and reefs are prime areas to fish. As for the tripletail, any floating debris found offshore is always worth a look-see.

Moving inshore, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are rounding out the bite. Free-lined shiners for either species are Stock’s top bait.

He’s also stalking tarpon inshore along the beaches and passes. Casting live crabs, threadfin herring or large shiners is producing a silver king on the hook.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Fishing bows to the king, the return of the silver king

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Josh Chisum of California caught his first tarpon — estimated at about 140 pounds — on a pass crab. He was guided May 7 by Capt. Warren Girle.
An offshore fishing trip May 5 proved productive — with a nice catch of amberjack, blackfin tuna, grouper, mangrove and vermilion snapper. Pictured are Capt, Chris McBeath, left, Penny Reinert, Jamie Stephens and Rich Reinert. The Reinerts are from Umatilla and Stephens is from Sarasota. The captain said: “Weather was perfect all day, with a switch in winds late in the day making for a slightly bumpy ride in.”

With the recent arrival of tarpon, I’d say the plate is now full for anglers visiting and fishing around Anna Maria Island.

The smell of tarpon is in the air. It’s time to dust off your tarpon tackle and make sure everything is in working order. There is no fish in our waters that is harder on tackle than the silver king — so make sure you’re covered.

Other fishing around Anna Maria is as follows.

Inshore, spotted seatrout are a mainstay. Stunning numbers of fish over 20 inches are being caught with live bait. Don’t forget, you want to return these big females back to the water in good shape so they can procreate. Plus, the big trout aren’t as tasty as the smaller ones.

Catch-and-release snook fishing is proving to be a hot topic for anglers. This is the time of year to find snook cruising the shoreline along the Gulf beaches. And that means sight-casting. There is not a more exciting way to target these fish. Plus, you have opportunities to cast at some big fish — 40-plus inches.

Come to think of it, while you’re working the beach, don’t forget to bring a pompano jig. These elusive little gold nuggets can be found cruising up and down the shoreline foraging on sand fleas and coquinas. If the snook aren’t cooperating — and they’re catch and release — you’ll have to suffer with pompano in the fry pan — oh darn.

Fishing offshore at the wrecks and reefs is providing good action on a variety of fish — permit, Spanish macks, amberjack, blackfin tuna and bonito.

Catch all in one day and you’ve earned your stripes.

On my fishing excursions with Southernaire charters, I’m concentrating on catching big trout in Sarasota Bay. The largest so far is 28 inches but I’m looking for a 30-incher. Most trout are in the slot of 15-20 inches. While targeting the trout, I’m also finding bluefish, mackerel and jack crevalle.

Catch-and-release snook fishing is providing plenty of sport for my clients. Fishing the flats is resulting in some good fish, but fishing the beaches and passes is proving to be even better.

Lastly, fishing around the artificial reefs is resulting in mangrove snapper and many Spanish mackerel. Both are being caught on live shiners. Large barracuda also are present, which adds some variety to the action.

Capt. Warren Girle says he’s fishing a month-of-May pattern. Translation: tarpon. To target these elusive silver torpedoes, Girle is casting live crabs into schooling fish. Free-lined crabs combined with a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 6/0 circle hook is getting the job done. Most catches are 60-100 pounds, with bigger fish mixed in.

Reef fishing offshore also is producing action for Girle’s clients. Numerous kingfish are being caught by free-lining large shiners around reefs and wrecks. Bottom fishing in these same areas is resulting in mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is spending most of his days hovering around the offshore reefs and wrecks. Due to the vast amounts of bait in these areas, numerous predatory fish are present and conditions are ripe. Kingfish, mackerel, cobia and bonito can be found during morning excursions out to the reefs. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper are taking the hook, too.

Shark encounters are frequent for Lowman while patrolling around the reefs and wrecks. Most commonly seen are blacktip and spinner sharks, plus an occasional tiger shark.

When not fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout throughout the flats of Sarasota Bay. Numerous slot and just-under slot fish are being caught.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species being reeled up to the deck. The return of Spanish mackerel is a welcome sight, although these fish are only present when large schools of bait fish surround the pier. Flounder, black drum and redfish also are being caught with regularity. Casting live shrimp under the pier is the key to success for these fish.

Lastly, large snook can be seen cruising in the shadow under the pier. Large baits, such as pinfish or ladyfish, are the baits of choice.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters — there’s a name we haven’t heard in a while. After a brief hiatus to enjoy his newborn granddaughter, Gross is back on the water with a purpose. And that purpose is to catch fish. According to Gross, spotted seatrout are the go-to species for those who want to catch a fish dinner. Patches of grass in 3-6 feet of water is where Gross is finding the most fish. Although many of the trout being caught are in the 14-inch range — just an inch shy of the size limit — Gross is managing to put limits of slot-size fish in the cooler for his clients.
Catch-and-release snook fishing is proving good for Gross. Numerous fish — 22-26 inches — and a nice slot-size fish every so often are taking the bait.

Lastly, Gross says tarpon should really fire off with the new moon in June.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting tarpon on the fly. Hookups are occurring on flies like “tarpon bunnies” and eel patterns.

White says he’s impressed with the number of kingfish being caught offshore and Spanish mackerel are present in the same areas.

Also, mangrove snapper are being caught with regularity on the artificial reefs.

Capt. Jason Stock is on patrol offshore, with good results. He reports permit are hooking up on live crabs around offshore reefs and wrecks. Amberjack and blackfin tuna also are on the menu, attracted to both artificials and live bait. The same applies for kings and Stock says slow-trolled bait is getting the job done.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

May brings consistently good weather, fishing, too

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Fishing around Anna Maria Island is consistently good for another week — mild air temperatures and water temps still hovering in the mid-70s.

Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are responding positively to the conditions, which makes the perfect recipe for a day on the water with a rod in your hand.

Offshore fishing is following suit as reports roll in of numerous catches of blackfin tuna, kingfish, amberjack and permit. Aside from some breezy days, waters have remained smooth to a light chop — splendid conditions for an offshore adventure.

On my own Southernaire charters, I’m finding it hard most days to return to the dock after the charter is done. The waters of Sarasota Bay are pristine this time of year.

A calm emerald green, the waters are so clear you can see the bottom. It can be quite hypnotizing when looking through polarized sunglasses.

Being able to see dolphins, manatees and sea turtles in the bay only adds to the experience for visiting and local anglers. And did I mention the fishing is good, too?

I’m seeing plenty of slot and over-slot trout reeled to the boat during my morning charters. These trout are a welcome sight as they provide good action for the anglers and make good table fare, too. This is even more apparent now that snook season is closed.

Speaking of snook, catch-and-release action remains good as these fish are still on the feed in preparation for their trek to the beaches of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island to begin their spawn. Lastly, I’m seeing greater numbers of Spanish mackerel making a showing, especially around the vicinity of the passes and on the deeper grass flats. Baiting a small live shiner on a longshank hook is a great way to catch these high-speed fish. And if you’re in a school of them, small white or pink jigs will work just as well. That way you can save your shiners to target snook and trout.

Capt. Jason Stock is taking clients offshore to hunt for a variety of species. Kingfish, amberjack and blackfin tuna are being taken around wrecks in depths of 70-100 feet of water. Casting large live shiners, threadfin herring or cigar minnows is attracting these large migratory fish.

In shallower offshore waters — depths of 40-60 feet — permit are being caught with regularity. Live crabs are the bait of choice for these elusive fish.

Goliath grouper are being caught on large baits, such as jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting catch-and-release snook during the full moon outgoing tides. Casting live shiners to these linesiders is resulting in fish up to 30 inches. Spotted seatrout are in Lowman’s sights during the full moon tides.

Slower periods of the tide, according to Lowman, are producing excellent action on slot-size trout, as well as a few over-slot fish.

Moving out of the bays and into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is finding nearshore action on a variety of migratory species. He’s putting clients on bonito, kingfish and Spanish mackerel on free-lined shiners. Casting around reefs is proving to be most productive.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing some large catch-and-release snook being reeled up. Patient pier fishers using stout tackle and large baits such as pinfish or ladyfish are hooking into snook in the 30- to 40-inch range.

Redfish are being caught in the same size range while targeting snook. Fishers wishing to catch something to eat are targeting black drum, flounder and mangrove snapper. To catch these fish, a bottom rig baits with live shrimp and cast under the pier is bringing success. Also, casting jigs or silver spoons from the pier is attracting Spanish mackerel to bite, which provides great action on light tackle as well as some nice table fare depending on your palate.

Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. Whether its ledges, reefs or wrecks, Girle is putting clients on keeper-size snapper, which are taking small live shiners as bait. Mixed in with the snapper bite are Key West grunts, flounder and many juvenile grouper. Free-lining the shiners instead of bottom fishing is resulting in some hits from Spanish mackerel and a few kingfish.

Moving inshore, Girle is finding his share of spotted seatrout. Fishing over deep grass flats in 5-6 feet of water is yielding the most fish. Shallower flats of 2-3 feet are producing redfish and catch-and-release snook for his clients.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is running charters offshore for a variety of species. Fishing around offshore wrecks in depths of 70-100 feet is resulting in numerous amberjack. Bottom fishing over hard bottom and ledges in the same depths is also proving to be good for red grouper and American red snapper.

Moving into shallower water with depths of 40 feet is producing good action on mangrove snapper, especially around artificial reefs and ledges. Lastly, fishing the flats southward of Tampa Bay is providing action on catch-and-release snook as well as spotted seatrout and large jack crevalle.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Endless fishing possibilities await anglers in May

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As we move into May, fishing around Anna Maria Island presents endless possibilities.

With water temps still hovering in the mid-70s, inshore fishing is proving to be excellent. Spotted seatrout seem to be dominating the bite. Fishing the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay is proving to be most productive for these ever famous flats species. Limits of slot size trout are attainable on most days with numerous fish 18-20 inches.

Larger trout of 20-inches and up are in abundance.

Snook fishing —although catch-and release as of May 1 — is providing great backwater action. Many slot-size snook are being caught as they stage up on the grass flats, heavily feeding before migrating to the beaches to spawn.

Redfish are in the mix, although the real abundance of fish are still a month or two away.

Fishing offshore also is offering up some of the best fishing of the year. Fishing wrecks and reefs is resulting in a plethora of species, including permit, grouper, snappers, black fin tuna, kingfish, cobia and African pompano. Venturing into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico is rewarding for anglers looking for both good table fare and some exceptional fish stories.

May brings the opening of greater amberjack in Gulf state waters. The season remains open through May 31 and will reopen again Aug. 1 and continue through Oct. 31. Minimum size limit for greater amberjack is 34 inches to the fork with a daily bag limit of one fish per person.

Lastly, don’t forget that May is typically the month that marks the arrival of tarpon. That’s right — it’s that time of year again. A few catches already are being reported, which means it’s time to dust off the tarpon gear and start cruising the beaches and bays in search of the elusive “silver king.”

On my own Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m concentrating on the back country. Targeting snook and spotted seatrout is keeping the rods bent — and fish in the cooler for my clients, depending on the target.

Although snook are catch-and-release again, it is still fun to target these back-country bruisers. Their explosive strikes and drag-screaming runs have anglers coming back for more, time and time again. As for the trout fishing, slot-size trout are in abundance, a convenience for those anglers who want a good fight and a fish dinner.

On a final note, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted new regulations for tripletail and sheepshead, which will go into effect July 1. For the tripletail, bag limits will remain the same, although the minimum size is increasing from 15 inches to 18 inches total length. As for the sheepies, the bag limit of 15 per person is reduced to eight fish per person.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working offshore for a variety of species. When using live crabs as bait, permit are being caught by his clients. This bite is occurring around reefs and wrecks in depths of 45 feet or deeper. Switching baits to sardines or pinfish is resulting in kingfish, red grouper and African pompano for White’s anglers. Moving inshore, White is fly fishing, casting for catch-and release snook and spotted seatrout. Small clouser flies or epoxy minnow are working best, he says.

Lastly, White is seeing an occasional tarpon as they begin to make a showing on the flats.

Capt. Jason Stock is catching his share of blackfin tuna while working offshore. Free-lined shiners or cigar minnows are luring these high-speed footballs to the hook for his clients. Other catches occurring offshore are mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, amberjack and goliath grouper.

For the inshore bite, Stock also is targeting spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Both are being taken on live shiners, plugs or soft plastics.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species brought to the deck — including catch-and-release over-slot snook and over-slot redfish. Snook in the 40-inch range are taking the hook of anglers using large baits — pinfish and large shiners.

As for the reds, fish in the 36-inch range are taking large live shrimp and pinfish. Other catches on the R&R include flounder, mackerel and pompano.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results for his clients. Spotted seatrout are dominating the bite with numerous slot-size fish being reeled to the boat. Free-lining live shiners in depths of 5-6 feet of water is resulting in limits of trout.

Targeting catch-and-release snook is proving to be good action for Girle’s anglers. Shallower flats of 2-3 feet are holding these most-famous flats fi sh. Finally, redfish are finding their way to Girle’s hook while fishing around oyster bars.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is hooking up with numerous catch-and-release snook along mangrove shorelines during strong out going tides. Fishing around passes and cuts where good tidal flow exists is key to this bite, according to Lowman.

Fishing deeper grass flats is resulting in spotted seatrout as well as jack crevalle, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel for Lowman’s anglers.

On calmer days, Lowman is venturing out to the artificial reefs for mangrove snapper, Spanish and king mackerel and an occasional permit.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

As local weather improves, so does the fishing forecast

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With some of the best weather of the year upon us, Anna Maria Island fishing is following suit. The inshore bite is excellent. That is, of course, if you’re lucky enough to be in the right spot, on the right tide, on the right day.

The waters of the Intracoastal Waterway heading south from Tampa Bay into Sarasota Bay are clear and in the mid-70s, which is the perfect recipe for a great day of flats fishing.

With only a couple of weeks left of snook season, anglers are coming out of the woodwork — especially on the weekends — with hopes of getting their chance at a keeper linesider.

Of course, there are plenty of 20-26 inchers out there to keep you busy until the big one hits. The slot size on snook is 28-33 inches. To get in on the action, look for mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, good tidal flow and clean water.

Spotted seatrout are hot now. Deeper grass flats around the passes are holding big spawning trout. Hopefully you let those go. We need them to lay their eggs so we have more to catch. Plus, there are plenty of slot-size trout around if you really want to eat one.

As for the redfish, I’m seeing some — but not many — which is a little alarming. Hopefully, things will change and they’ll start making a real showing on the flats.

On my Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m concentrating on snook and trout fishing. The bite is really good, so why not? Free-lined shiners are the perfect fish attractant and are producing plenty of action. Last week I saw trout up to 24 inches on the end of the line. Most trout catches were slot, although plenty were exceeding 20 inches.

As for the snook fishing, most of the action for my clients has been on those 20-26 inch fish. Catching 20 snook in a morning session is almost routine. As for slot snook, we’ve had a few here and there.

On a side note, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently announced a 40-day recreational red snapper season in the Gulf waters — an increase from the originally proposed 24-day season. If approved, season would open June 11 and close July 21. To learn more about snapper, visit  myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/snappers/ and don’t forget to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com if you plan to target snapper or other reef fish from a private vessel.

Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. Fishing over deep grass flats in depths of 4-6 feet is working well for Girle. Free-lined live shiners are resulting in many slot-size trout 15-20 inches for his clients. Larger fish exceeding 20 inches are mixed in, although not as frequent as the slot fish.

Snook fishing in Sarasota Bay is keeping rods bent for Girle’s clients. Moving to slightly shallower grass flats in 2-3 feet of water is resulting in snook 20-30 inches. Mangrove edges and oyster bars are key parts of the equation when hunting these snook.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the arrival of snook at Anna Maria Island’s northernmost pier. The time is near to start seeing the big spawning females cruising the shadow lines at night as they take up residence under the pier. They should start to feed as they prepare to move out to the beaches to spawn. Other species being caught at the R&R include black drum, flounder and redfish, all being caught on live shrimp.

To round out the bite, Spanish mackerel and pompano are making guest appearances at the pier for fishers casting small white or pink jigs.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the nearshore artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Due west of Anna Maria Island in depths of 20-45 feet, Lowman is putting his anglers on mangrove snapper. Live shiners dropped to the bottom around the reefs are attracting mangrove snapper 12-18 inches.

Also around the reefs are kingfish, Spanish mackerel and blacktip sharks, which add variety to the bite.

Moving inshore, snook and spotted seatrout are the targeted species. Both are taking a free-lined live shiner.

Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore for a variety of species. Kingfish are accommodating Stock while fishing around offshore reefs and wrecks. Live free-lined shiners or cigar minnows on a light wire are getting the job done. Kings in the 20-pound range are average catches for his clients.

Permit are being found offshore. Casting live silver dollar-sized crabs to these “floating garbage can lids” is resulting in fish exceeding 25 pounds.

Moving inshore, Stock is concentrating on snook and spotted seatrout.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing offshore now that the winds have finally subsided. In depths around 100 feet, red grouper are cooperating eagerly, taking frozen sardines on a weighted rig as they near the bottom. Other species offshore include amberjack and African pompano.

Moving inshore, White is clients on big snook and numerous spotted seatrout. For both species, fishing around the passes is producing good action on White’s boat.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Outbreaks of spotted fever overtake island waters

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Cory Schleyer, visiting Anna Maria Island from New London, Pennsylvania, shows off a hefty red grouper he caught April 9 on a sardine in 130 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. David White. White said the fish made for “a few good grouper dinners.”
Mitchell Kuhn, 14, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, shows off a female spotted seatrout he caught and released April 4 while on a charter with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Mitchell worked a free-lined live shiner around an oyster bar to get the bite.
Linda Rousseau of North Carolina shows off her 32-inch slot snook, caught April 13 using live shiners. Husband, Larry, left, shows his over-slot fish. Larry released his catch, while Linda sent her catch to Islander publisher Bonner Joy. The Rousseaus were guided by Capt Warren Girle.
Linda Rousseau of North Carolina shows off her 32-inch slot snook, caught April 13 using live shiners. Husband, Larry, left, shows his over-slot fish. Larry released his catch, while Linda sent her catch to Islander publisher Bonner Joy. The Rousseaus were guided by Capt Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is causing anglers to see spots— and the spots are on the catch.

The local grass flats stretching from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge south to New Pass are being invaded by much sought-after spotted seatrout.

The popularity of trout not only emerges from the fact it is good eating, but also its eagerness to take bait. Whether using live bait or artificials — shrimp and shiners or soft plastics and top-water plugs — most anglers are able to coax a trout to bite.

What is special about this month is the trout are preparing to spawn, which means there are some particularly large specimens available to anglers. Most trout catches fall 12-18 inches, with an occasional fish making it to 20 inches. During this spawn, fish 20 inches or larger are common, which is a real treat for trout enthusiasts. These 20-plus inch trout, or “gators” as we call them, really bulk up in size. They also put up quite a fight — much more like a redfish on the end of the line than a trout.

For tablefare, I prefer the slot-size fish. It’s my experience that fish 15-20 inches tend to have a sweeter meat than the bigger catch. Also, most fish over 20 inches are spawning females — full of eggs. I let those fish go, and encourage my clients to do the same.

When targeting trout, I like to see a few components in the water. For one, clean semi-clear water is a good start. Next, lush grass flats such as those in Sarasota Bay are a must. Trout love to lurk in the grass, which helps to camouflage them from prey. It also creates a great ambush point for them to attack shrimp, pinfish and shiners.

Lastly, locations where good tidal flow exists will usually hold fish. Incoming tides seem to work best for me, but that depends on the spot I’m fishing.

As far as baits for trout, live shiners and shrimp work great, although my all-time favorite is the Mirrolure 84 MR top-water plug. Trout are notorious for exploding on baits at the water’s surface and the Mirrolure does a great job of triggering this response. There’s nothing better than working that lure along the surface of the water — click, click, click —only to have a monster trout come up and inhale. That loud slurping sound is the best.

So, if you’re looking for some great action close to shore, get on out there and target some trout.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results. Free-lining live shiners over deep grass flats is resulting in limits of spotted seatrout for his anglers, as well as numerous jack crevalle and ladyfish. Fishing the shallower flats of Sarasota Bay is resulting in snook. To target the snook, Girle is working mangrove edges and oyster bars. Moving offshore, Girle is putting clients on mangrove snapper in good numbers. Live shiners fished on a bottom rig around structure are getting the job done.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier noted he’s seeing the sheepshead spawn wind down and the remainder of the bite dwindle. Taking the sheepies’ place are black drum, flounder and an occasional redfish. All are being caught on live shrimp. Pier fishers casting silver spoons or small jigs are being rewarded with Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is roaming the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. Numerous fish in the 20-inch range or bigger are being caught on live, free-lined shiners. According to Lowman, clean, moving water is key to finding a good trout bite. This also applies while snook fishing. During strong moving tides, Lowman is targeting snook around mangrove points, cuts and oyster bars.

Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is putting clients on kingfish, mangrove snapper and bonito around artificial reefs and wrecks.

Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore for kingfish. According to Stock, the kingfish bite is really heating up, especially around offshore structure. Live threadfin herring or large shiners combined with a light wire leader are attracting kings in the 70-pound range. While offshore, Stock is putting clients on permit with live crabs as bait. Goliath grouper are being caught on large baits such as jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters also is targeting spotted seatrout throughout the grass flats of southern Tampa Bay. Free-lined shiners or shiners under a cork are attracting many slot-size fish for White’s clients.

White reports Spanish mackerel are starting to show on the deeper grass flats, which adds an exciting variety to the trout bite.

Moving offshore, White is hooking up with a variety of fish, including African pompano, amberjack and red grouper. Lane and mangrove snapper round out the catch for his anglers. For the African pompano and AJs, live pinfish are White’s baits of choice. As for the grouper and snapper, dead sardines are working nicely.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Outbreaks of spotted fever overtake island waters

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Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters and Mark Willis of Harbour Isle on Perico Island show off a simultaneous catch of spotted seatrout April 6.
Cory Schleyer, visiting Anna Maria Island from New London, Pennsylvania, shows off a hefty red grouper he caught April 9 on a sardine in 130 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. David White. White said the fish made for “a few good grouper dinners.”
Mitchell Kuhn, 14, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, shows off a female spotted seatrout he caught and released April 4 while on a charter with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Mitchell worked a free-lined live shiner around an oyster bar to get the bite.
Linda Rousseau of North Carolina shows off her 32-inch slot snook, caught April 13 using live shiners. Husband, Larry, left, shows his over-slot fish. Larry released his catch, while Linda sent her catch to Islander publisher Bonner Joy. The Rousseaus were guided by Capt Warren Girle.
Linda Rousseau of North Carolina shows off her 32-inch slot snook, caught April 13 using live shiners. Husband, Larry, left, shows his over-slot fish. Larry released his catch, while Linda sent her catch to Islander publisher Bonner Joy. The Rousseaus were guided by Capt Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is causing anglers to see spots— and the spots are on the catch.

The local grass flats stretching from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge south to New Pass are being invaded by much sought-after spotted seatrout.

The popularity of trout not only emerges from the fact it is good eating, but also its eagerness to take bait. Whether using live bait or artificials — shrimp and shiners or soft plastics and top-water plugs — most anglers are able to coax a trout to bite.

What is special about this month is the trout are preparing to spawn, which means there are some particularly large specimens available to anglers. Most trout catches fall 12-18 inches, with an occasional fish making it to 20 inches. During this spawn, fish 20 inches or larger are common, which is a real treat for trout enthusiasts. These 20-plus inch trout, or “gators” as we call them, really bulk up in size. They also put up quite a fight — much more like a redfish on the end of the line than a trout.

For tablefare, I prefer the slot-size fish. It’s my experience that fish 15-20 inches tend to have a sweeter meat than the bigger catch. Also, most fish over 20 inches are spawning females — full of eggs. I let those fish go, and encourage my clients to do the same.

When targeting trout, I like to see a few components in the water. For one, clean semi-clear water is a good start. Next, lush grass flats such as those in Sarasota Bay are a must. Trout love to lurk in the grass, which helps to camouflage them from prey. It also creates a great ambush point for them to attack shrimp, pinfish and shiners.

Lastly, locations where good tidal flow exists will usually hold fish. Incoming tides seem to work best for me, but that depends on the spot I’m fishing.

As far as baits for trout, live shiners and shrimp work great, although my all-time favorite is the Mirrolure 84 MR top-water plug. Trout are notorious for exploding on baits at the water’s surface and the Mirrolure does a great job of triggering this response. There’s nothing better than working that lure along the surface of the water — click, click, click —only to have a monster trout come up and inhale. That loud slurping sound is the best.

So, if you’re looking for some great action close to shore, get on out there and target some trout.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results. Free-lining live shiners over deep grass flats is resulting in limits of spotted seatrout for his anglers, as well as numerous jack crevalle and ladyfish. Fishing the shallower flats of Sarasota Bay is resulting in snook. To target the snook, Girle is working mangrove edges and oyster bars. Moving offshore, Girle is putting clients on mangrove snapper in good numbers. Live shiners fished on a bottom rig around structure are getting the job done.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier noted he’s seeing the sheepshead spawn wind down and the remainder of the bite dwindle. Taking the sheepies’ place are black drum, flounder and an occasional redfish. All are being caught on live shrimp. Pier fishers casting silver spoons or small jigs are being rewarded with Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is roaming the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. Numerous fish in the 20-inch range or bigger are being caught on live, free-lined shiners. According to Lowman, clean, moving water is key to finding a good trout bite. This also applies while snook fishing. During strong moving tides, Lowman is targeting snook around mangrove points, cuts and oyster bars.

Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is putting clients on kingfish, mangrove snapper and bonito around artificial reefs and wrecks.

Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore for kingfish. According to Stock, the kingfish bite is really heating up, especially around offshore structure. Live threadfin herring or large shiners combined with a light wire leader are attracting kings in the 70-pound range. While offshore, Stock is putting clients on permit with live crabs as bait. Goliath grouper are being caught on large baits such as jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters also is targeting spotted seatrout throughout the grass flats of southern Tampa Bay. Free-lined shiners or shiners under a cork are attracting many slot-size fish for White’s clients.

White reports Spanish mackerel are starting to show on the deeper grass flats, which adds an exciting variety to the trout bite.

Moving offshore, White is hooking up with a variety of fish, including African pompano, amberjack and red grouper. Lane and mangrove snapper round out the catch for his anglers. For the African pompano and AJs, live pinfish are White’s baits of choice. As for the grouper and snapper, dead sardines are working nicely.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Inconsistent weather remains consistent on the water

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Bob Zaagman of Michigan shows off the 22-inch trout he caught April 5 while fishing with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Mike Cope of Atlanta shows off the results of his April 2 offshore charter with Capt. Warren Girle. Girle said a calm Gulf of Mexico allowed Cope to hook up with several nice mangrove snappers and some under-size red grouper using shiners for bait.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains consistently inconsistent.

On warm, calm days, fishing is exceptional, especially in the bays and Intracoastal Waterway.

On the windier days during the cold fronts, fishing is sporadic. There are too few places to fish out of the wind and the stirred up water.

So, the warm calm days are where it’s at for anglers.

Fishing Tampa and Sarasota bays for spotted seatrout and snook is keeping anglers busy. Live bait fishing with shiners is producing the best action on either species. Redfish are taking the hook, but not with the volume of the snook and trout. Jack crevalle have moved into the shallows, terrorizing everything in their paths. Most jacks being caught are 4-6 pounds — anyone who fishes light tackle knows they put up quite a battle when hooked. Anglers jigging around the passes and the adjacent deeper grass flats are catching pompano. Don’t forget to tip those jigs with shrimp for an advantage.

Moving offshore, reports of permit, cobia, kingfish and tuna are on the rise. Live baits and artificials are working for these fish. Remember to pick your days wisely, as we are experiencing windy conditions on a regular basis.                     Mangrove snapper and grouper are being reported while fishing nearshore structure, such as the artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

On my own Southernaire Charters, I’m patrolling the flats of Tampa and Sarasota bays and Anna Maria Sound. Snook and spotted seatrout are on the menu. Snook fishing around mangrove edges is producing impressive numbers of fish — on some days, as many as 30 snook are being reeled to the boat. The same applies for the spotted seatrout, although I am finding them on deeper grass away from the shorelines. My clients are catching many slot-size trout —fish 15-20 inches. Over-slot fish — up to 25 inches — are in the mix, but not as apparent as the slot fish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier continues to see sheepshead hanging around the pilings under the pier. Live shrimp is working as bait for these tasty fish. Shrimp also is producing action on some redfish and flounder. Pier fishers using jigs tipped with shrimp are catching an occasional pompano as well as ladyfish and jack crevalle. Lastly, Spanish mackerel are being caught on silver spoons or small pink jigs.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is spending his days throughout the inshore waters. Trout fishing is dominating the action, especially on calm days. Free-lining shiners under a cork is producing numerous fish 15-20 inches, as well as some fish exceeding 24 inches. Snook fishing is producing good action for Lowman while working in the bay. Many 20-26 inch snook are taking baits. Slot-size fish, although quite smarter than their smaller counterparts, are occasionally being tricked by Lowman to “take the bait.”

Redfish are in the mix, found around oyster bars during high tides.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay, where live bait fishing with scaled sardines is producing consistent action on spotted seatrout for his clients. This bite is occurring over flats with depths of 4-6 feet. Casting bait into sandy potholes or grass edges is proving to work best.

Snook fishing is producing action for Girle’s clients. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice. Girle is stalking these snook among shallow flats of 3 feet or less. Oyster bars and or mangroves make up the terrain.

Lastly, moving his clients offshore, Girle is putting them on mangrove snapper, kingfish and numerous juvenile grouper in depths of 40- 50 feet. Ledges, reefs and wrecks are producing the bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is doing what he does best and that’s catching permit. Casting live crabs around reefs and wrecks is resulting in permit exceeding 20 pounds. Other species being hooked while offshore with Stock include cobia, flounder, blackfin tuna, gag grouper, kingfish and an occasional goliath grouper. On windier days when fishing offshore is not possible, Stock is hunting big snook and trout on the flats.

With unpredictable wind on the Gulf, Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing charter clients inshore. Spotted seatrout are in abundance and White is catching his share. Using live shiners for bait over deep grass flats is resulting in limits of trout. Live bait fishing with shiners is attracting many snook to the hook, too. Shallow grass flats around mangroves and oyster bars are holding plenty of 20-26 inch fish, as well as some keepers. Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is host to both Spanish and king mackerel. This bite is occurring around nearshore structure within 7 miles of shore, according to White.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Spring break brings little break from wind on the water

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Andrea Sasman of Wausau, Wisconsin, shows off the 31-inch snook she caught March 26 while fishing with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Eight-year-old Charley Klein jumped off the plane from Los Angeles and onto the boat March 29 with Capt. Warren Girle. Within an hour, he caught this 32-inch snook on a shiner along the mangrove shoreline. The fish was released for conservation.
Philip Powell, 8, and family, visiting Anna Maria Island from Macon, Georgia, fished March 29 in the bay waters, where he landed this nice trout on a live pilchard. The group was guided by Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters.
Colby Trauttner of Wisconsin shows off the 30-inch snook he caught on a March 28 charter with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Colby tempted his snook out of the mangroves using a live shiner for bait and, after a trophy photo, the fish was released.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is producing action for anglers despite numerous windy days. And I do mean numerous.

Fishing the flats for snook and spotted seatrout is proving productive. Using live shiners as bait is attracting attention from snook and trout, especially later in the day, when the water has warmed.

Redfish are in the mix, too, although they are not as abundant as snook and trout.

The sheepshead have spawned out, but fishers using live shrimp as bait are managing to catch some convict fish around the reefs and wrecks and at the Rod & Reel Pier.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m taking some extra time to scout out sheltered areas that protect anglers from the wind. Mangrove shorelines, oyster bars and channel edges can be great fishing spots. The key is to find the sheltered areas where there are fish. Casting around mangrove shorelines is resulting in some slot-size snook, as well as many snook in the 20- to 24-inch range.

Trout fishing is bending rods with most catches falling in the slot of 15-20 inches. I’m also finding redfish around local oyster bars, although getting them to bite is a challenge. While targeting reds in clear, shallow water, patience is a virtue.

Lastly, fishing structure with live shrimp is producing a few sheepshead for my anglers. This will be the last week to catch sheepies in numbers, as they have finished their spawn and soon will disperse.

Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay. To start, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout. He’s instructing clients to cast live shiners over grass flats in 5-6 feet of water, which is resulting in limits of these popular fish for his anglers. Most catches are falling in the slot of 15-20 inches, with larger fish in the mix. While targeting trout, ladyfish and jack crevalle are taking the hook as a bycatch. Using live shiners as bait on shallow flats of 3 feet or less is attracting the attention of snook and redfish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting snook on shallow grass flats and along channel edges. Casting shiners along mangrove shorelines is producing action on linesiders in the 20- to 24-inch range. Casting live shiners along channel edges in slightly deeper water is resulting in some slot-size fish, 28-30 inches.

Fishing deep grass flats with shiners as bait is proving to be good for spotted seatrout. Slot-size fish of 15-20 inches are the norm. Finally, Lowman says fishing around oyster bars and docks is a good way to hook into a redfish. Most catches are 18-24 inches.

Capt. Jason Stock is finding a great bite on his runs offshore. Patrolling the wrecks for permit is proving to be excellent, with fish in the 20-pound range being caught on live crabs. Kingfish, gag and goliath grouper also are present in these areas. Casting free-lined live baits is working well for the kings. As for the gags, a bottom rig combined with a shiner or pinfish is producing nicely. Flounder are in the mix while bottom fishing.

Moving inshore to the flats, Stock says big snook and trout are the go-to species.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is still seeing sheepshead being caught by pier fishers using live shrimp as bait. While targeting sheepshead, the baited shrimp also is attracting redfish, black drum and flounder. For those anglers using artificials, such as silver spoons or jigs, Spanish mackerel are being reeled to the deck, as well as ladyfish, jack crevalle and blue runners.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Plenty of success fishing despite quick temperature drop

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Capt. Jason Stock took a busman’s holiday — fishing offshore — with wife Heather and baby Finley on St. Patrick’s Day, when momma got a big permit. Stock said they took photos, tagged and released fish
Despite cold weather March 23, Nathan, Abbey and Emily Vogelpohl of Cincinnati show off their cold-water catch of sheepshead back at the 59th Street boat ramp in Bradenton. The family fished with Capt. Trek Hackney.
Nathan Beveridge, visiting Anna Maria on a March break from school in Ontario, Canada, shows off his grouper catch, landed on fishing trip with Capt. Mike Greig. The fish was released but it was a thrill, according to grandmother Gail Beveridge of Westbay Cove in Holmes Beach.
Dave Talaba, left and Doug Burton, both of New York, Russ Rogers of Perico Island and Bob Megheen of Michigan show off their score March 23 from a day fishing in Sarasota Bay with Capt. Warren Girle. The group baited shiners and shrimp for their catch of trout and redfish.
Roger Danziger holds a 35-pound amberjack caught 40 miles offshore of Holmes Beach March 17 in 135 feet of water using a homemade speed jig.

With yet another blast of cold air upon them, Anna Maria fishers braced themselves for more wind and falling water temperatures.

But, don’t be discouraged, there is still plenty of fishing action as long as you target the right species.

You may have to give the snook fishing a break for a few days until water temperatures return to normal. But sheepshead, black drum and redfish offer great alternatives. Using live shrimp or crabs for any of these species is a great way to get started.

Next, you’ll have to find the bite. For the sheepies, any dock, pier or bridge piling will suffice. If you’re in the boat, fishing wrecks and artificial reefs are options. For the redfish and black drum, try fishing docks around the passes or residential docks in canals, as well the Intracoastal Waterway.

On calmer, less windy days, venturing into the Gulf of Mexico is worthwhile. Fishing ledges is yielding a variety of species — mangrove snapper, porgies, Key West grunts and hogfish. You may also encounter kingfish and Spanish mackerel if you cast out shiners as bait.

On my excursions with Southernaire, I am still cashing in on the sheepshead bite. Not only do these fish put up a fight to the end, they make great table fare, too. Most of the sheepies I’m catching are over wrecks, reefs and rock piles, although docks are producing, too. While targeting sheepies, I’m also seeing redfish, black drum and flounder on the hook.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is being surrounded by sheepshead and, of course, it’s the primary target for those fishing from the pier. Dropping live shrimp around the pilings is working well as bait, as are live fiddler crabs and sand fleas. Most catches are 1-2 pounds, although fish up to 4 pounds are common. Another welcome species to the pier is Spanish mackerel. Casting small white jigs or silver spoons is triggering a strike from these high-speed, toothy fish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing Tampa Bay for a variety of species. Sheepshead are the most predominant, especially with the arrival of recent cold fronts and the accompanying drops in water temperature. Black drum and redfish are being caught during the cooler days of March. Venturing offshore on calm days is yielding a good bite, especially for mangrove snapper. Mixed in with the snapper are porgies, grunts and a few hogfish.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters was targeting sheepshead at the end of the week as another cold front settled into our region. On windy mornings, Gross is staying within the sheltered waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Fishing around docks with live shrimp is working well on the convict fish roundup.

When winds are lighter, venturing into Tampa Bay to fish reefs and wrecks is producing a bite. Gross says these sheepies are averaging 2-3 pounds with some coming in at 5 pounds.

After his clients get their work out on sheepshead, Gross is targeting trout on flats where the water depth is 5-6 feet. Casting DOA shrimp combined with a Cajun Thunder cork is attracting trout in the slot range of 15-20 inches.

Lastly, during afternoon tides when the water is slightly warmer, Gross is putting clients on a handful of snook.

Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. Fishing deeper grass flats with soft plastics or shiners is producing trout in the slot range of 15-20 inches. Fishing shallower grass flats where mangroves and oyster bars are present is resulting in numerous redfish for Girle’s clients.

Moving offshore, Girle is experiencing frenzies of kingfish. Free-lining live shiners or a wire rig is attracting kings in the 15- to 20-pound range. Other offshore catches include mangrove snapper, triggerfish and a plethora of juvenile gag and red grouper.

Capt. Jason Stock is finding excellent fishing action offshore when the seas are calm. While patrolling wrecks and reefs, Stock is hooking into big permit, as well as king mackerel. Bottom fishing in these areas is resulting in action from flounder, sheepshead and gag grouper. Moving inshore, Stock is hunting big snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. The higher tides are yielding the best bite on the flats, according to Stock, especially for large gator trout.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting redfish along mangrove shorelines during the higher stages of the tide. To put clients on these fish, White is employing a variety of baits, including live shiners, shrimp and artificials. Snook are present in these same areas and are taking baits on warmer days. During the cold fronts, White is targeting sheepshead and black drum around rocks and docks.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.