Tag Archives: fishing

Warm weather produces early spring bounty

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Foster and Stuart Hudsmith, visiting Anna Maria Island from Memphis, Tennessee, show off their cobia catch. They fished offshore March 10, hooking up numerous snapper and some cobia while using shrimp and white bait. They were guided by Capt. Warren Girle.
Joe Creadon, of Kingston, Illinois shows off his catch, a 10-pound redfish caught on a charter trip March 7 with Capt. Aaron Lowman. The fish took a live bait along the mangrove shoreline. Creadon hooked up with a half dozen more redfish, and some catch-and-release snook and seatrout.

With such a mild Florida winter, springtime fishing around Anna Maria Island is shaping up to provide some of the best bounty our waters have to offer. Snook fishing is red-hot and we haven’t even seen it at its best yet.

Spotted seatrout are making a good showing on the deeper grass flats throughout our region. Other species being found on the flats are redfish, pompano, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Fishing structure in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico is providing action on sheepshead. Artificial reefs, wrecks, residential docks and the local fishing piers are producing respectable catches of these most popular zebra-striped fish. Mangrove snapper, flounder and juvenile grouper are making a showing in these areas.

Fishing offshore is heating up, with catches of amberjack, kingfish and cobia being reported. Wrecks and reefs are superb habitat to find these species and, in our region, we have an abundance of such areas. The permit bite is being found around some of the wrecks, which should get better as the water temperature rises.

On my own fishing adventures with Southernaire, I’m finding the snook bite most entertaining. Rallies of schooley-sized fish — ranging from 20-26 inches — are providing great action for both skilled and not-so-skilled anglers. Rallies of 20-30 fish in a morning session are becoming commonplace.

With the sheepshead bite still going strong, I’m taking my time at the local reefs and wrecks. Live shrimp on a knocker rig is resulting in sheepies up to 6 pounds for my clients. While an occasional flounder or mangrove snapper is in the mix.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working the flats of Tampa Bay with good results on snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. Using live shiners for bait is resulting in bites throughout the morning incoming tides. When targeting snook, Gross is taking clients to shallow flats where seagrass and sandy potholes are present. On some days, these flats are so shallow that Gross can barely maneuver his 23-foot Dorado to reach the fish. But, with the tide swiftly moving in, there is no fear of getting stuck. In these shallow areas, rallies of snook are occurring. Most catches are falling between 20-24 inches, with an occasional slot-fish mixed in. Redfish are in the mix.

For the trout, Gross is fishing deeper water where seagrass is present. On flats of 4-6 feet, many slot-size trout are present, as well as numerous fish, just under slot. Live shiners fished under a Cajun Thunder cork are proving effective in these areas. Mixed in with the bite are ladyfish, jack crevalle and an occasional Spanish mackerel.Capt. Warren Girle is running charters offshore on days when the winds are light. Fishing artificial reefs and ledges in depths of 30-60 feet is resulting in a variety of fish, including mangrove snapper, hogfish, Spanish mackerel, kingfish and cobia. Live shiners are producing the most action. When targeting hogfish, live shrimp is the ticket.

Moving inshore, Girle is catching spotted seatrout and redfish. While targeting the trout, Girle is using free-lined shiners or artificials such as soft plastics on a jig head. For the redfish, live free-lined shiners are working well around shallow flats where oyster bars are present.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the sheepshead bite is in full swing at the northern tip of Anna Maria Island. Pier fishers are swarming to the deck with hopes of catching a few of these tasty fish to take home for dinner. An array of baits are working, including live shrimp, fiddler crabs, sand fleas and tubeworms. Most catches are 1-3 pounds.

Other catches at the R&R include Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, pompano and snook. For the Spanish mackerel and pompano, small jigs tipped with shrimp are working. As for the snook, live shiners or pinfish are top producers. Those finding luck with the snapper are baiting shrimp or shiners on a bottom rig under the pier.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing inshore among the flats of Anna Maria Sound, south to Sarasota Bay. In these areas, Lowman is finding snook along mangrove shorelines, oyster bars and channel edges. For bait, live shiners or shiners fished under a popping cork are producing a bite. Most catches are 22-26 inches, with a few slot-size fish in the mix.

Lowman is finding spotted seatrout increasing in numbers throughout the deeper grass flats. To target these fish, he’s fishing depths of 5-6 feet where clean water and lush grass exist. Live shiners under a popping cork are producing a bite, as well as artificials — the Berkley Gulp shrimp — combined with a 1/4-ounce jig head.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore, resulting in amberjack, kingfish and cobia while wreck fishing. Live baits such as shiners or threadfin herring are producing a bite.

Permit are being cooperative in these areas, where live pass crabs free-lined above the structure are resulting in screaming drags and sore arms.

Moving inshore, Stock is in pursuit of snook and spotted seatrout. For the snook, live shiners free-lined over shallow flats adjacent to mangrove islands are producing many schooley-size fish, as well as a few keepers. For the trout, Stock is using top-water plugs to attract a bite. Working these surface baits over shallow flats is resulting in over-slot, “gator” trout. Trout exceeding 20 inches or larger are exploding on these top-water lures, which is visually exciting for the angler.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore this week, where the passes of Longboat Key and New Pass are producing pompano. Doc’s Goofy jigs bounced off the bottom during slower phases of the tide are resulting in good numbers of these famous surf-dwelling fish.

Fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay is proving to be productive for snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. Live shiners free-lined or fished under a cork are White’s bait of choice.

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

Fishing – 03-08-2017

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John Johnson of Louisville, Kentucky, shows off his keeper, a 29-inch snook, hooked up March 1 — opening day of the spring snook season — while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Johnson released this fish, along with half a dozen other snook, as well as seatrout and some big jack crevalle caught by he and his wife.
Lauren and Rich Hunter along with Al Lewis, all visiting AMI from New Jersey, show off their March 2 nearshore catch of mangrove snapper and sheepshead. Capt. Warren Girle guided the trio of anglers and baited the catch with shrimp.
Catherine Sheridan of Chicago shows off a permit caught while fishing with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.

The common snook — a common hookup for area anglers

 

Snook season is open. So, anglers from far and wide are visiting Anna Maria Island with hopes of hooking into the most famous of the famous in back country fishing.

Encouraging numbers of fish are making a showing in their typical springtime spots from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge south to Sarasota.

“Snook candy,” or scaled sardines, are the bait of choice to target the linesiders. Rumors of “snook rallies” are gaining frequency during morning sessions. Slot and over-slot fish are being taken occasionally, which makes the catch that much more rewarding. A trophy, you might say. Snook is a great fighter and prime fare for the dinner table.

On my Southernaire fishing trips, I’m finding good numbers of snook around shallow grass flats and around mangrove shorelines, where good tidal flow is occurring. Free-lining live shiners as bait is resulting in multiple hookups, especially during the late morning incoming tides. Most catches are 20-24 inches, with bigger fish in the mix.

I’m also catching plenty of sheepshead to finish out that season. All of the hype about snook fishing is really taking the pressure off the sheepies, which can result in a great catch.

A live shrimp on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig with a 3/0 circle hook are attracting sheepshead up to 6 pounds. Most catches are 2-3 pounds, which are prefect fish-fry fixins.

Lastly, spotted seatrout are rounding out the day. Live shiners and live select shrimp are working great for these flats favorites. Slot and under-slot fish are frequent with an occasional fish over 20 inches finding its way into the landing net.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for a variety of fish. Mangrove snapper are making a good showing. Live shiners combined with a knocker rig and fished around structure are resulting in mangoes 15-18 inches for Girle’s clients. Fishing structure with live shrimp on the same rig is resulting in numerous sheepshead, as well as a few hogfish.

Moving inshore, Girle is still dialed in on the pompano bite. Drifting select deep grass flats and jigging shrimp tipped jigs is providing pompano bites, as well as ladyfish, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is doing what he does best and that is snook fishing. Gross can be found around mangrove shorelines, where lush seagrass exists, casting free-lined shiners to unsuspecting fish. Rallies of snook 20-26 inches are being caught and released, with slot fish mixed in.

Other catches on the flats include spotted seatrout and redfish. For the trout, Gross is casting shiners under a Cajun Thunder cork into sandy potholes, where deep grass and clean water exist. Slot-size trout are most common, along with some over 20 inches. As for the reds, shallower water around oyster bars is the ticket.

Steve Leonard at the Rod & Reel Pier says the sheepshead bite still is occurring. Large numbers of these barnacle crunchers are now taking up residence under and around the R&R Pier, preparing to spawn. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are reeling up respectable numbers of sheepies, with some reaching 3-4 pounds. Mixed in with the sheepshead bite are flounder and a few black drum.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting snook throughout the surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island. Fishing in areas where mangrove shorelines, clean water, oyster bars and lush seagrass are present is key for Lowman. Casting live, free-lined shiners is resulting in many schooley-size fish, as well as some slot-size fish for his anglers.

Fishing rock piles and reefs is yielding sheepshead, hogfish and snapper. Live shrimp on a knocker rig is producing the bite. Using live shiners or shrimp is working for the mangrove snapper.

Capt. Jason Stock is targeting snook in the bays and Intracoastal Waterway. Linesiders up to 35 inches are being hooked on live free-lined shiners. Mangrove shorelines and sandy potholes are where to look, according to Stock. Snook rallies are common, with as many as 50 fish being caught in a morning session.

Stock is working the flats for spotted seatrout and redfish, both taken via live shiners as bait. Expect to encounter slot-sizes of both species.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters also is targeting snook. Fishing sandy potholes adjacent to mangrove shorelines is yielding good numbers of linesiders for his anglers. Live shiners rigged with a popping cork and Mutu light circle hooks — White’s deadly combination — is prompting these fish to bite.

When not snook fishing, White is targeting deep grass flats for spotted seatrout. Again, the popping cork and the live shiner combo is proving to be a successful rig. Slot-size trout are being taken, as well as jack crevalle and ladyfish.

To learn how Florida’s snook permit program benefits the fishery, visit http://myfwc.com/license/recreational/saltwater-fishing/snook-benefits.

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

Fishing action improves with early spring-like conditions

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Grady Smith proudly shows off his 20-inch flounder, caught Feb. 18 on a fishing trip with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Matt and John Wettstein of Iowa, and friends Brent and Roger Blunier of Illinois, visiting Anna Maria Island, met Feb. 17 and fished Sarasota Bay, where they produced some big pompano to take home for dinner. The foursome was guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is showing daily signs of improvement as we approach springtime. With snook season opening March 1 in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico and the adjacent federal waters, remaining open through April 30, it’s only going to get better.

With the weather already feeling like spring, the flats fishing is falling right into place an exceptional year. Catch-and-release snook fishing is heating up with reports of 50 or more hookups brought to the side of the boat in a morning session. Spotted seatrout are making a good showing on the flats of Anna Maria Sound and beyond.

Finally, the sheepshead are in full feeding mode as they continue to fatten up for the ongoing spawn.

On my own charters with Southernaire, I’m concentrating on sheepshead, and fishing inshore and nearshore structure is proving to be nothing less than exceptional. Sheepies up to 5 pounds are finding their way into the cooler, although most catches fall between 2-3 pounds. Mixed in with the sheepies are many white grunts, as well as an occasional mangrove snapper and flounder.

Moving onto the flats, I’m finding plenty of spotted seatrout willing to take a bait. Free-lining select shrimp on deeper grass flats or along channel edges is yielding limits of slot-size fish, however, moving tides are a must. As the tide slows down, so does the bite. Slot-size fish are being taken with regularity while over-slot fish are being released to spawn.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is hunting in southern Tampa Bay and the surrounding waters for catch-and-release snook. By using live shiners as bait, Gross is hooking up clients with respectable numbers of linesiders on the shallow grass flats where sandy potholes and mangroves are present. Most catches are falling between 20-30 inches, although bigger fish are being caught by the really lucky anglers.

Redfish and spotted seatrout are hooking up with Gross’ clients and the cooler. For the reds, free-lined live shiners are working as bait. For the spotted seatrout, Gross is rigging artificials such as soft plastics with a 1/4-ounce jig head. And anglers are taking keeper-sizes of both species.

Capt. Warren Girle is still having good results on pompano in Sarasota Bay. Drifting and jigging is his method of success for these elusive fish. Small jigs colored in pink or chartreuse and tipped with small pieces of fresh-cut shrimp are yielding ample catches. Mixed in with the pompano bite are spotted seatrout, ladyfish, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Fishing offshore is providing good action for Girle. In depths of 40-50 feet, Girle is finding an abundance of mangrove snapper, sheepshead and porgies. Hogfish are present in these areas, and live shrimp is proving to be Girle’s bait for success.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore structure for a variety of species. Baiting live shrimp is resulting in sheepshead, porgies, hogfish and white grunts. On most days, this bite is creating nonstop action for his clients, although sheepshead are dominating the bite with catches ranging from 1-4 pounds.

In the backwater, Lowman is hooking into numerous redfish around residential docks. Casting live shrimp under and around the pilings is attracting a bite. Mixed in with the reds are sheepshead and black drum.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the sheepshead bite is getting better day-by-day. Respectable numbers of these tasty striped fish are taking up residence under the pier to nibble the vast amount of barnacles that cling to the pilings. These striped fish are on the feed with hopes of fattening up for their spawning period. Live shrimp and other baits — fiddler crabs and sand fleas — are producing a bite.

Other catches at the R&R Pier include black drum and flounder. Both are being taken on live shrimp, and don’t be surprised to see an occasional redfish, too.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore this week. Drifting the flats for pompano is resulting in multiple hookups, and Doc’s Goofy jigs tipped with shrimp are the bait of choice.

Fishing around the bridges and residential docks of Anna Maria and Longboat Key is supplying White’s anglers with plenty of sheepshead. Live shrimp cast in these areas is attracting a bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is taking clients to the grass flats for catch-and-release snook, and free-lining live shiners as bait is proving successful. Most catches are falling between 22-34 inches. While targeting snook, Stock’s anglers are finding slot-size redfish as well as some over-slot spotted seatrout.

Fishing offshore also is yielding good results for Stock. Amberjack are cooperating on live baits as well as artificials. Bottom fishing offshore is providing action for catches of mangrove snapper, hogfish and porgies.

February provides better-than-average fishing

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Alex Staneski, Beth Hesse, Trisha Bayer and Rich Staneski, visiting Anna Maria from Michigan, show off their Feb. 10 inshore-north Sarasota Bay catch. The family limited out on redfish using shrimp as bait. They chartered their day of fishing with Capt. Warren Girle.
Jeremiah Perdue, visiting from Tucson, Arizona, shows off his limit of firetruck red grouper caught Feb. 13 offshore of Anna Maria Island in about 130 feet of water using sardines for bait. Perdue’s charter fishing group also caught snapper and shark with Capt. Larry McGuire, who says, the “firetrucks are running hot” this week. McGuire added, “Now is the time to come on out and getcha some this!”

The fishing is beautiful.

Wish you were here?

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains better than average for February.

Mild temperatures and light winds only briefly interrupted by a weak cold front are supplying excellent conditions for a variety of fishing.

Reports from offshore include catches of grouper, amberjack and hogfish. Inshore fishing is shaping up nicely with reports of catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout, pompano and sheepshead.

On my own charters for Southernaire, I’m finding an abundance of sheepshead. Using live shrimp on a knocker rig is resulting in fish up to 7 pounds with most coming in at 2-3 pounds. On calm days when the tide slacks, I’m actually switching to free-lining small chunks of shrimp to the sheepies as they rise from the bottom and curiously swim a foot below the surface of the water. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s a real treat when it does. Sight-casting to these fish in the clear waters of Tampa Bay is an experience any sheepherder would enjoy. These fish provide great table fare.

On the flats, I’m finding good numbers of spotted seatrout beginning to show. I’m fishing ditches and channels adjacent to shallow flats during the low tides to find concentrations of fish. Free-lining hand-picked shrimp or using soft plastics on a jig head is resulting in limits of trout for the cooler.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay, resulting in numerous species. By drifting and jigging, Girle is leading his clients to some sizzling action on spotted seatrout and pompano. Also in the mix are ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish.

Moving offshore, Girle is catching limits of mangrove snapper while bottom fishing around reefs and ledges. In these areas, he is catching hogfish, sheepshead and plenty of red and gag grouper.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing offshore ledges between 4-7 miles with good results. By using live shrimp on a bottom rig, Lowman is leading his clients to a variety of species — hogfish, mangrove snapper and sheepshead, to name a few.

Fishing inshore is proving productive for Lowman. Using artificials, such as the Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head, is attracting attention from redfish and snook. This bite is occurring in the afternoon after the sun has had a chance to warm up the waters on the flat.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is cashing in on the spring-like conditions by targeting catch-and-release snook on free-lined live shiners. According to Gross, some morning snook sessions are resulting in up to 50 fish, all released. Most catches are falling between 22-27 inches.

Fishing nearshore structure with live shrimp as bait is resulting in limits of mangrove snapper, as well as many sheepshead and white grunts.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore for amberjack. Using artificials, such as surface poppers, Stock is enticing these “reef donkeys” to explosive strikes as they attempt to eat the lure on the surface of the water. Once hooked, these overweight aggressive jacks fight a fierce battle to the end.

Also while offshore, Stock is targeting hogfish, white grunts and porgies via live shrimp for bait. A knocker rig or jig head combined with a shrimp is deadly for any of these species.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore for sheepshead and black drum. To target these fish, White is pulling up around docks and bridges, using live shrimp as bait. Sheepies up to 5 pounds are being taken with some black drum to match.

Moving offshore, where White is spending most of his days, is resulting in catches of red grouper and amberjack. For the grouper, White is using a fish-finder rig combined with an array of baits, including pinfish, shiners and even squid. For the jacks, large baits such as big shiners or pinfish are producing for his anglers.

 

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

Sheepshead season in early stages, savy anglers hook up

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Dick “Redhook” Fye from Kokomo, Indiana, shows a nice sheepshead he caught while fishing at the Rod & Reel Pier.
Patrick Meko of Louisville shows off a 38-inch amberjack he caught Feb 6 while fishing offshore with Capt. David White of Anna Maria charters.
Peter Lofaso Jr., left, and Peter Lofaso Sr. double-teamed this tough amberjack Feb. 2, taking turns in the fight to get it to the boat. They fished offshore of Anna Maria Island in about 120 feet of water using live grunts for bait. The Lofasos also caught large red grouper, snapper and battled a goliath grouper until it pulled loose. They were guided to the fish by Capt Larry McGuire.
Ian True and Sam True of Anna Maria Island, Emmanuel Petkas of Georgia and Kevin Hendrickson of Virginia find success Feb. 2 with trout, pompano and mackerel on a guided fishing trip in Sarasota Bay with Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains consistent. Consistently good.

With spring-like conditions dominating our weather, fishers are venturing outdoors in droves to soak up the warm Florida sunshine and hook up with the bite and dinner.

Sheepshead season, which arrives with winter, is still in its early stages due to the mild temperatures in the waters, which leaves plenty of anglers filled with the anticipation of enjoying a nice fish fry.

Sheepshead are a favorite among fishers in our area. Whether you’re fishing from shore or from a boat, finding access to these tasty striped fish should be fairly easy as long as you do your homework.

If you’re a shore fisher, the advance scouting could be as easy as taking a walk on a pier. You can’t beat a meal at the Rod & Reel Pier and great views of Tampa Bay, where you can see the fish around the pilings.

Those who opt to fish from a boat should be able to find sheepies fairly easily, too. Most of the local reefs will be holding fish. And if you don’t have a GPS on the boat, try casting to the pilings at the bridges or the docks in the residential canals. As long as there are barnacles growing on the pilings, your chance of finding a sheepshead are pretty good.

Once you load your stringer or the cooler with fish, it’s time to enjoy a nice fish dinner. For frying purposes, my family and I like to cut the fillets into nuggets, bread and deep-fry them. For breading, we have a couple of favorites we like to use. One is Zatarain’s Wonderful Fish Fri. This one is easy. You simply put the mixture in a plastic bag, add sheep nuggets and shake vigorously, making sure all the pieces of fish are fully coated.

Another seasoning we like is Drake’s Crispy Fry Mix. With this seasoning, you make beer batter. It might make a little mess in the kitchen, but it’s worth the effort in flavor and a crispy texture. Just dip the nuggets in the beer batter — made by following the recipe on the box — and into the hot oil it goes.

And there they are. Tasty nuggets of goodness. A little of your favorite tartar sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon and you’re eating some fine fish. What better way to enjoy a warm Florida evening in February? Bring on some cold beers and good company — just don’t forget the sheepshead.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore around local docks and bridges for sheepshead. Using live shrimp combined with a knocker rig is producing a bite for White and his anglers. Sheepies up to 6-pounds are being caught, as well an occasional black drum and redfish.

Fishing offshore for amberjack also is productive for White’s charters. For bait, White is casting free-lined pilchards, pinfish and blue runners to attract a bite. While targeting amberjack, he’s also hooking up plenty of bonito.

Jim Malfese, who helps folks get hooked up at the Rod & Reel Pier, says more numbers of sheepshead are beginning to arrive at Anna Maria Island’s northernmost pier. Pier fishers using live bait are reeling up convict fish with some consistency. According to Malfese, most of the regular anglers who target sheepshead anticipate the bite will steadily get better in the next couple of weeks.

Aside from sheepshead, pier fishers using bait up shrimp or use small jigs are hooking into a few pompano. Bouncing shrimp-tipped jigs along the sandy bottom outward from the pier is resulting in a bite. Flounder, jack crevalle and blue runners are being caught in the same fashion.

Capt. Warren Girle is drifting the deeper grass flats of Sarasota Bay for a variety of catches. Small jigs tipped with shrimp are enticing pompano to bite, as well as bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Switching over to a jig head combined with a soft plastic grub is attracting a bite. Spotted seatrout are readily eating these soft plastics when cast into deeper potholes throughout the flat.

Working docks and canals, where casting live shrimp is proving most effective for sheepshead, black drum and redfish on Girle’s charters.

Capt. Aaron Lowman also is working the nearshore structure with good results. With live shrimp as bait, Lowman is putting anglers on hogfish, porgies, sheepshead and white grunts. Dropping baits to the bottom around ledges and rock piles is the key to Lowman’s success, including mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper in these same areas.

Moving to the flats, Lowman is putting some Berkley Gulp shrimp to work. This popular, scented soft plastic combined with a 1/4-ounce jig head is leading many bites from redfish, trout and flounder. Working this lure on a slow retrieve and a bounce off the bottom is Lowman’s tip for success.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is keeping busy on the water, drifting the flats of Anna Maria Sound in search of spotted seatrout. While doing a drift, Gross and his anglers are casting soft plastics combined with a jig head throughout the deeper grass flats and especially on the edges of the sandy potholes. This method of fishing is resulting in keeper-size trout, as well as a variety of other species — jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish.

Gross also is fishing nearshore structure for sheepshead. Live shrimp, fished on a bottom rig around artificial reefs, wrecks and rock piles is resulting in sheepshead up to 5 pounds.

Capt. Jason Stock is running his anglers offshore for hogfish. By fishing around reefs, ledges and wrecks with live shrimp, Stock is leading his clients to some of the best tasting fish available. Mixed in with the hogs are porgies, white grunts and mangrove snapper. Most hogfish catches are in the 2-pound range, although Stock says fish exceeding 5 pounds are not uncommon.

Trolling for grouper also is on Stock’s agenda. By trolling lipped plugs around inshore and nearshore reefs, Stock’s clients are hooking into gag grouper — some exceeding 30 inches in length.

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

Mild temps result in uptick on catches of convicts

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Mark Willis of Harbour Isles on Perico Island shows off one of the many sheepshead he caught Feb. 2 on a charter trip with Capt. Danny Stasny.
Melissa Medori of Atlanta shows a 15-pound black drum she caught Feb. 1 on light tackle while bottom fishing with live shrimp 5-8 miles west of Egmont Key with Capt. Aaron Lowman.

With another week of mild temperatures, fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be quite good.

Sheepshead are beginning to really make their presence known around Tampa Bay. The local fishing piers, as well as reefs and rock piles, are attracting fish. Pier fishers are finding success using live shrimp as bait and the same applies for boaters. Dropping live shrimp to the bottom around the reefs and wrecks is proving quite effective.

On my trips with Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m targeting sheepies. Not only do these fish fight to the bitter end, they taste great after they’ve been battered and fried. Half a shrimp placed in a 1/2-ounce knocker rig is resulting in sheepshead up to 5 pounds. Rallies are occurring with most catches falling between 2-3 pounds. To find these fish, I’m pulling up to artificial reefs, rock piles and even beaches where structure exists.

As the winter bite matures, you should be able to find the buck-toothed fish almost anywhere barnacles exist — fishing piers, bridges and seawalls. For bait, live shrimp are a great start, although experienced sheepherders usually carry a variety of baits — fiddler crabs, tubeworms and sand fleas as well as shrimp.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is venturing offshore on days when winds are light and the seas are calm. By fishing ledges with live shrimp as bait, Lowman is hooking into a variety of fish including mangrove snapper, sheepshead, porgies, grunts and hogfish. For rigging, Lowman is tying on a knocker rig consisting of a 1-ounce egg sinker, some 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 2/0 circle hook. This rig is most effective because it anchors the bait on the bottom, while still allowing the line to slip through the sinker on receiving a bite.

Fishing rock piles and artificial reefs in Tampa Bay is producing a bite for Lowman — sheepshead and flounder are coming to the boat. Again, the use of a knocker rig combined with a shrimp is Lowman’s go-to rig.

Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay for a variety of species. By drifting and jigging, Girle is putting clients on spotted seatrout, pompano, ladyfish and bluefish. Drifting over flats where the depth falls between 4-8 feet is producing the most action. Small jigs tipped with shrimp or simply naked are attracting the bite for his anglers.

Fishing residential canals and docks is providing action for Girle’s clients. Casting live shrimp under docks and along seawalls is resulting in redfish, black drum, sheepshead and flounder.

Capt. Jason Stock is circling the shallow flats of Sarasota Bay when strong winds and rough seas prevent him from going offshore. On these days, Stock is pushing his 23-foot Trevco boat as shallow as he can reach the potholes where the gator trout and redfish lurk. Casting artificial baits — Berkley Gulp shrimp — into these areas is resulting in a bite. On days when these fish are finicky, Stock is using live baits, shrimp and pinfish to draw a bite.

Moving offshore, Stock is working the ledges and rock piles for hogfish. Live shrimp dropped to the bottom are resulting in keeper hogs, as well as porgies, white grunts and snappers. Offshore wrecks are producing action for Stock’s anglers from amberjack.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business also is working rocks and docks in Tampa Bay for sheepshead. Rallies of these tasty striped fish are keeping Gross busy dehooking and rebaiting. Mixed in with the sheepies are a few snapper and an occasional flounder.

Fishing the flats of Tampa Bay is resulting in spotted seatrout in the cooler. A live shrimp weighted with a small split shot and cast into sandy potholes is resulting in slot-size trout.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the arrival of a most-anticipated convict. That’s right — the black-and-white striped sheepies are back. Although the large numbers of spawning fish have yet to arrive, there are fish to be caught at the northern-most pier on Anna Maria Island. Most catches are occurring on live shrimp or fiddler crabs. As the bite continues and the fish get smarter, you may want to try sand fleas or tubeworms. Fish up to 2-pounds are being reeled up to the deck, with bigger catches in the mix.

While targeting sheepies, anglers are hooking into an occasional black drum or flounder. Pompano are being caught by fishers who work small jigs tipped with shrimp.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is night fly-fishing on some of his charters around Anna Maria Island and in the Manatee River. Baitfish patterns worked around structure such as docks and seawalls are resulting in catch-and-release snook as well as ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish. Spotted seatrout are being caught, especially around lighted docks where either the green underwater light or the classic snook lights over the water are attracting the linesiders.

During the day, White is casting live shrimp around residential docks, producing sheepshead, mangrove snapper and black drum for anglers.

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

Winter puts a chill on weekend fishing around AMI

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Mike Cirese of Minocqua, Wisconsin, shows off a limit of pompano he caught Jan. 18 along with sheepies and redfish while fishing with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Chase Stevens, 11 of Suffield, Connecticut, (top), shows off his first-ever spotted seatrout, as young brother Fischer Stevens, 8 (bottom), also manages to hook up with his first seatrout on a spring-like day in January while fishing with grandfather Dick Stevens, a Connecticut-Holmes Beach snowbird and avid fisher.
Chase Stevens, 11 of Suffield, Connecticut, (top), shows off his first-ever spotted seatrout, as young brother Fischer Stevens, 8 (bottom), also manages to hook up with his first seatrout on a spring-like day in January while fishing with grandfather Dick Stevens, a Connecticut-Holmes Beach snowbird and avid fisher.
Jim Garrity of Deleware, left, Tony Tancredi of New Jersey and Gregg Balance of Deleware show off their trout, redfish and pompano, caught inshore on Sarasota Bay on a guided fishing trip with Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria is worth pursuing, despite the past week’s windy days and chilly mornings.

Venturing into the Gulf of Mexico remains questionable due to rough seas. So most anglers are migrating to the bays and Intracoastal Waterway to find a bite.

Fishing in the shelter of residential canals and docks is resulting in catches of redfish, black drum and sheepshead. And on the flats, spotted seatrout, pompano, bluefish and jack crevalle are available. With both of these scenarios on the agenda, fishers are finding enough to keep them busy for a day of fishing — and some fish on the menu.

On my trips with Southernaire fishing charters, I’m doing pretty much the same. The pompano bite is consistent most mornings. At least as consistent as a pompano bite can be. Drifting and jigging with small shrimp-tipped jigs is the best plan of attack. Limits of pomps are available, depending on the determination of the anglers.

Sheepshead, redfish and black drum are being found around local docks and areas on the flats where oyster bars or limestone bottom exist. A live shrimp on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig is getting plenty of attention for my clients.

Lastly, drifting and jigging with soft plastics, such as the DOA CAL jig, is yielding spotted seatrout, ladyfish, bluefish and jack crevalle. Casting these jigs into a sandy pothole on the grass flats is most productive. Also, casting around channel edges and the mouths of canals is a good bet.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore, around the flats of Sarasota Bay and the surrounding waters. Due to a string of windy days, inshore fishing is proving to be the ticket. Casting in the canals around rocks and docks is resulting in redfish, black drum, sheepshead and flounder for his clients. For bait, live shrimp is Girle’s choice.

Fishing the deeper grass flats in Sarasota Bay is providing action for Girle. By drifting and jigging, he is coming up with a variety of species for his clients to enjoy. Pompano, the targeted species, is being caught with some regularity. Mixed in with the pompano bite, anglers are attracting spotted seatrout, bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the inshore routine as well. Casting Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head under and around residential docks and seawalls is resulting in redfish, black drum and flounder. This practice is a good skill to have, especially on days when the wind is blowing and the seas are rough. Being able to produce fish in canals — where the waters are calm — is more pleasurable, for both clients and captain, rocking and casting in rough seas.

On calmer days, Lowman is fishing some of the inshore reefs. By using live shrimp as bait, he’s putting anglers on numerous sheepshead and few flounder.

Lastly, drifting the grass flats and jigging is producing a pompano bite for Lowman. Small jigs tipped with shrimp are attracting attention from pompano, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Jason Stock is hanging near shore this week due to strong winds and rough seas. By fishing the flats in the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island, Stock is catching spotted seatrout. The use of artificials such as soft plastics or top water plugs is producing good action for Stock and his clients. On days when the artificials aren’t living up to their potential, Stock is hooking up small live pinfish as bait to entice the trout.

On days with light winds, Stock is venturing to nearshore structure where live shrimp are producing hogfish, porgies and grunts.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is finding sheepshead by casting live fiddler crabs on a weighted jig under docks, where he’s also putting clients on a few mangrove snapper.

For fly fishers just looking to bend a rod, White is tying a finger-mullet pattern for good results on jack crevalle, ladyfish and catch-and-release snook.

Steve Leonard at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are the primary catch at the northern-most pier on Anna Maria Island. While large concentrations of sheepies have yet to show up, persistent anglers are managing to pull a few up on the boards. While targeting sheepshead with live shrimp, anglers also are hooking up some redfish and black drum.

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

Spring fishing in January produces abundant hook ups

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Keith Darby of Miami Beach shows off the hogfish he caught Dec. 27 using a live shrimp for bait while 7 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island on a guided trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman.
Larry Van Valkenberg,left, of Michigan and Kevin Hendrickson of Anna Maria and Virginia were guided Jan. 21 by Capt. Warren Girle to a good afternoon bite and several keeper pompano for to take home for dinner.

With nothing but a few minor cold fronts, this winter is feeling more like spring. And you don’t hear me complaining.

With springtime weather dominating, fishing the island waters is winding up better than average for January. Live shiners are still available for bait on the local flats. Catch-and-release snook fishing is quite productive in the back country and I’m seeing schooling redfish on the grass flats. These scenarios generally don’t occur in January, so having these opportunities now is a blessing. How can you not love Florida?

For my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m targeting the elusive pompano. With a little luck and also knowing where to fish, I’m hooking up with these famous light-tackle fish. Pompano can be hard to “nail down,” as they are constantly on the move. Like the old saying goes — “here today, gone tomorrow.” That’s pompano fishing. So knowing where to look is important and being lucky is imperative.

Once the pompano are found, I’m casting small pink or chartreuse jigs tipped with small pieces of fresh-cut shrimp. The bouncing of the jig, the puffs of sand on the bottom and the scent coming off the shrimp is resulting in ferocious bites followed by erratic runs and skips across the water that only end when the fish is in the landing net. On good days, limits of pompano are finding their way into the cooler and a fry pan.

Pompano are a prize for light-tackle anglers. They are considered by most to be the best of the best on the plate and, when hooked on light tackle, their fight can be matched by no other fish of the same size. Also, pompano can be taken from shore or by boat, which makes them available to everyone. Fishing along the beaches with live shrimp or sand fleas is a popular way to target these fish. Walking the beach while jigging is effective, too. You also can find pompano throughout the grass flats as they forage on small shrimp and other crustaceans. Typically, while fishing the flats, a jig is most effective, although they can be taken on the simplest of rigs — a shrimp and a popping cork.

Lastly, pompano sometimes like to gather in inlets and passes. Fishing Longboat Pass between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key and New Pass at the south end of Longboat Key can be most effective. In these instances, “cannonball” jigs work best because the large round balls are heavy enough to reach the bottom in a current. Again, tipping these jigs with shrimp is a good idea.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working in southern Sarasota Bay for pompano. By drifting and jigging over deeper flats, Lowman is putting clients on pompano as well as other migratory species — jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish. Tipping small jigs with fresh-cut shrimp is Lowman’s secret to success. These small pieces of shrimp add just enough scent to the jig to make it irresistible to an elusive pompano. Drifting while fishing also is effective. It helps the angler cover a wider area of water, which, in theory, will aid in finding the bite.

Moving offshore, Lowman is using live shrimp as bait, putting anglers on hogfish, porgies, red grouper and triggerfish. For rigging, Lowman likes to use a 1/2- to 1-ounce knocker rig paired with a circle hook.

Capt. Jason Stock is running clients offshore for amberjack. Rather than use live bait to catch these fish, Stock is taking advantage of their sheer aggressive nature and casting top-water poppers to trigger the bite. Working these poppers across the surface quickly creates a lot of splashing and the erratic behavior can prompt the amberjack to aggressively strike the lure. Then the battle is on. Amberjack up to 30 pounds are being taken in this manner.

Live bait also is proving successful offshore for Stock. Blackfin tuna, kingfish and gag grouper are being caught on live threadfin herring, pinfish and large shiners. Hogfish are being caught, too, on offerings of live shrimp on a bottom jig.

Steve Leonard at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are beginning to make a showing at the pier. Although they are not abundant like they will be in February, if the water turns colder, anglers are pleased to find these tasty fish lurking around the pilings. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas are the baits of choice.

Other species being caught at the R&R include flounder, black drum and an occasional mangrove snapper — all coming to the hook for a live shrimp.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is lining up inshore around docks and canals. By casting live shrimp combined with a size-1 hook and a couple of split shots for weight under and around docks, he’s putting anglers on sheepshead, mangrove snapper and black drum. According to White, dock fishing is proving productive for filling the cooler.

Moving offshore, White is finding numerous amberjack. Also snapper — lane, yellowtail and mangoes — are being caught in abundance. For bait, White is using live shiners, although on days when the fish are finicky, he’s finding frozen squid is attracting a bite. He’s using a 2-ounce fish-finder rig, combined with a Mutu Circle hook.

Lastly, jigging the passes for pompano is yielding results for White and his clients. White likes using a Doc’s Goofy jig tipped with a small piece of fresh-cut shrimp to attract a bite — and it works.

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

Weather cools, but old man winter can’t chill AMI fishing

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Steve Kline of Harbour Isles on Perico Island shows off his 35-inch catch-and-release linesider, caught Jan. 4 on a guided fishing trip with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Gabe Owens, visiting from Delray, Ohio, starts off the new year with a smoker kingfish, caught Jan. 1 using a sardine in about 45 feet of water offshore of Anna Maria Island. Owens and his family caught their limit of kings, plus grouper and snapper, while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters.
Kevin Hendrickson, left, and Ray Platz from Anna Maria show off two of the lucky hogfish snapper they reeled up Friday the 13th, Jan. 13, on a guided trip offshore with Capt. Warren Girle.

The cool down we’re experiencing might be enough to put us into a winter-fishing pattern.

Most local anglers who fish inshore are migrating toward local canals and docks in search of a bite, because the waters in these sheltered areas are a few degrees warmer than open waters. This warmth attracts the fish. Snook, redfish, black drum, snapper and sheepshead all gravitate toward these areas, even if the waters are only a degree or two warmer. If you’re lucky, you may stumble upon a large concentration of fish at one dock when there’s only a nibble at another.

Also, certain canals and specific docks will hold fish year after year. So go out, do your homework and try to keep a record of your spots for the next fishing trip.

Following the pattern, Capt. Aaron Lowman is working inshore around residential docks and canals. By using live shrimp as bait, Lowman is putting his clients on a fair share of fish. Casting live shrimp under docks is resulting in sheepshead, black drum and redfish. Also, an occasional flounder or catch-and-release snook is taking the hook.

Fishing along the beaches is resulting in a bite. Jack crevalle, blue runners and especially pompano are being caught on Lowman’s boat by using small jigs tipped with shrimp.

Capt. Warren Girle is working offshore on days when the seas are calm. By fishing ledges and hard bottom, he’s finding a bounty of catch-and-release gag grouper. Although it’s a shame to have to throw back these tasty fish, anglers are enjoying the sheer veracity of their fight once hooked. Girle’s clients are hooking into mangrove snapper, porgies and Key West grunts as they fish the ledges.

Moving inshore, Girle’s fishing canals and docks to find warmer water. In these areas, casting live shrimp is proving to produce the best action. Redfish and catch-and-release snook are the most likely to bite, although black drum, sheepshead and mangrove snapper are taking the hook.

Capt. Jason Stock is running inshore on days when the wind is blowing. By fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay and beyond, Stock is finding spotted seatrout and redfish for his clients. Canals and docks as well as deeper flats are hot spots for Stock and live pinfish and shrimp are his baits of choice.

Moving offshore on calm seas, Stock is catching many catch-and-release gag grouper. In the same areas, he’s finding flounder, porgies and mangrove snapper. Amberjack are present offshore, which can be quite entertaining for local and visiting anglers.

Steve Leonard at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are beginning to make a showing. Although it’s still a little early for large concentrations of sheepies to appear, pier anglers are reeling up a few to take home for dinner. Live shrimp are producing a bite as well as small crabs, sand fleas and tubeworms. Mixed in with the sheepshead bite are black drum, redfish and flounder.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore along the Intracoastal Waterway and the local bays. Fishing around the area bridges is proving to be good for mangrove snapper and a few sheepshead. Also, fishing deeper potholes on the flats for redfish and black drum is providing White’s anglers with some action. Live shrimp is White’s bait of choice.

Fishing offshore for amberjack is a good bet on calmer days, when White is finding a variety of fish, including amberjack, bonito and a few kings.

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

Red hot fishing for January start, followed by cold front

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It was a lucky day on the water Dec. 30 for Hanna Fitter of Indiana. Just as grouper season was running out, she landed a nice one. She made the best of her offshore charter using shrimp and shiners for bait as Capt. Warren Girle also guided her to a nice flounder and several snapper.

With mild weather lingering around Anna Maria Island in early January, anglers were enjoying perfect conditions on the water and great fishing.

A weekend cold front brought a quick drop in temperatures and choppy waters, but we will see a quick return to better conditions for anglers.

Meanwhile, before the front, fishers from offshore were boasting of amberjack, cobia and kingfish. The inshore bite was holding its own with catches of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Sheepshead and black drum were gathering around residential docks and there were rumors of pompano are popping up, according to beach fishers.

It was almost as though “old man winter” might have forgotten about us this year.

For Southernaire Charters, I’m concentrating on the inshore bite. The catch-and-release snook fishing is proving to be some of the best there is on the flats. Who would’ve thought we’d be free-lining live shiners for snook in January?

You don’t see me complaining. And my clients aren’t either.

Rallies of snook are occurring on the afternoon incoming tides, with most catches being schooley fish, 20-26 inches.

Residential docks and canals are host to a variety of fish. I’m casting live shrimp on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig around pilings and seawalls, resulting in redfish, black drum, sheepshead and mangrove snapper. We’re even hooking into a few catch-and-release snook this way. I frequently reserve these areas for windy days when fishing in open waters can be difficult, but any day is good.

Finally, casting shrimp or jigs along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key is resulting in pompano and permit. Both bites are sporadic, but there’s always a chance at hitting “the mother lode.” When these rallies occur, anglers get to experience some of the best light-tackle fishing our area offers.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working nearshore and offshore structure, resulting in a variety of species for his clients. By fishing around hard bottom and ledges in 30-60 feet of water, Lowman is leading clients to plenty of fish to take home for dinner. Using live shrimp as bait, combined with a 1-ounce knocker rig, is resulting in hogfish, porgies, white grunts and mangrove snapper. Also in the mix are juvenile and red grouper up to 18 inches.

Moving inshore, Lowman is fishing along the beaches for pompano, permit and other species. Live shrimp are working well as bait. Sheepshead, black drum and flounder are being taken along the shore of Anna Maria Island and beyond.