Tag Archives: fishing

Redfish here, there, everywhere and taking the hook

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Capt. David White helps Darlene Bartoletta of Tampa with the heavy lifting of her Sept. 3 catch, a red grouper caught 30 miles off of Anna Maria Island.
Look at all them spots. Jim Thobe of St. Petersburg shows off the 28-inch redfish he caught Sept. 5 while fishing with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.

Despite the threat of Hurricane Irma, fishing around Anna Maria Island is nothing less than exceptional. If you can break away from watching the “weather on the 9s” for a moment, you might discover the redfish have arrived.

Although they aren’t as abundant as I think they could be, there are a few nice schools of fish to run out and play with. A lot of these fish are over-sized, so you want to handle them with care. Quickly snap a photo and place them in the water, taking ample time to revive them before letting them go.

Remember, the water is hot, we’re hot, everything’s hot right now and that heat takes its toll on these big reds.
So again, handle with care.

Spotted seatrout also are worth mentioning. These fish are making a showing — and how. On one of my morning charters this past week, we sat on a grass flat and caught trout after trout for about an hour and a half. I’m talking, every bait. At least, unless the angler was asleep at the reel and missed the bite. Now, most of these trout are coming in right at 14 inches. Yeah, an inch short of being a keeper. But, don’t be discouraged, there’s bigger ones in the mix. Usually enough for a couple of limits to put in the cooler. And frankly, who needs more fish than that for dinner?

Snook fishing is hot. I’m fishing mangrove shorelines and even an oyster bar or two, where good tidal flow exists. Most of the linesiders I’m seeing reeled up are schooley fish — up to 26 inches — but a few keeper-fish are mixed in there, too. The strong outgoing tides are producing the best action.

Lastly, I’m amazed at how many mangrove snapper my clients are catching. And the best part is we’re finding them on the flats. This bite is happening while targeting trout on the deeper flats. Snapper up to 15 inches are being reeled up in this fashion. I think just about anyone would like a mangrove snapper on the plate for dinner over trout — I know I would.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is snook fishing throughout the grass flats of southern Tampa Bay and Anna Maria Sound. Mangrove shorelines where good tidal flow occurs are holding exceptional numbers of linesiders. Chumming with live shiners is proving effective to trick the snook into giving up their location. Most catches are falling between 20-26 inches. While targeting snook, Lowman is hooking into redfish.

On nearshore structure, Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper are in abundance. Occasionally schools of permit are being spotted. Small live shiners are producing the mangs and macks for his clients. For the permit, live crabs or Doc’s Goofy jigs are a good bet.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the nearshore reefs for mangrove snapper. Limits of these feisty fish are being caught. Most are falling 12-18 inches. Live shiners dropped to the bottom on a knocker rig are getting the attention. Mixed in with the snapper are flounder, juvenile grouper and Key West grunts. Moving inshore to Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding an abundance of spotted seatrout. Using live shiners as bait is working the best, although Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head also are producing numbers of trout. Expect to encounter macks, bluefish and ladyfish in the mix.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore wrecks and reefs for permit. Free-lining live crabs in these areas is attracting “perms” in the 30-pound range. Also on offshore structure, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel are showing in good numbers. Shiners are the bait of choice for either of these fish.

Moving inshore, Stock is flats fishing for snook and redfish. Keeper-sizes of both are being caught on live shiners and pinfish.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is experiencing a great bite offshore. Red grouper, mangrove snapper and African pompano are White’s main focus. To target these fish, live pinfish or dead shiners on a bottom rig will do the trick.

Inshore, White is catching a variety of fish — redfish, snook, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. For the reds and snook, fishing close to mangroves or around oyster beds is proving to be good. As for the macks and snappers, the deeper grass flats are holding plenty of fish.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is catching more redfish than he knows what to do with. Redfish here, redfish there, redfish everywhere. Even when he’s not trying to catch redfish, he says he’s still catching redfish.

Schooling reds are being found around mangrove shorelines, open grass flats and even some docks. For bait, Gross is using live shiners or fresh-cut bait — pinfish and ladyfish. Gross advises to keep a rod rigged with a gold spoon handy for when you spot a school of reds cruising the flats. That way you can make a cast in the moment.

When Gross isn’t catching redfish, he’s targeting spotted seatrout on the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Respectable numbers of trout are being found throughout the flats on incoming tides. Live shiners free-lined or under a cork are keeping anglers busy for hours.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous “bull” reds being caught. If you don’t know what a “bull” red is, it’s a redfish that is way over the top slot of 27 inches. In fact, they don’t really hit “bull” status in these parts until around 35 inches or bigger. For bait, jumbo live shrimp, pinfish, shiners and numerous types of cut bait will work.
Other species at the R&R include macks, snapper and snook. Keeper-sizes of all three species are coming to the deck.
Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

Crystal clear waters replaced by sweet water, fish still bite

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Bill Starrett shows off a bonita he hooked on an Aug. 30 fishing trip with George Kyd and local guide Gary Huffman. Kid said, “For whatever reason, the bite was incredible. Like I have never seen it!” The group reported hooking up mackerel or bonita on every cast while 4 miles out in the Gulf, and they got their limit on slot redfish and trout in the backwater. “It lasted all day,” Kyd exclaimed.

If you’re looking to dip a line into the crystal-clear waters surrounding Anna Maria Island, it’s not going to happen this week.

Of course, you can go fishing, but as for the clear water, you may have to wait for Lake Manatee to stop draining blackened “sweet water” into Tampa Bay via the Manatee River.

Although the fresh water has flooded along with runoff from the river, don’t think it has curtailed the fishing. It has not.

There are still plenty of snook, trout and redfish to keep you busy. And, if nothing else, it’s just cool to be out on the water when such a change is occurring. I can’t help but look behind the boat as I’m running on the bay waters to see the red-gold tinge to the wake as it churns behind the engine. I could swear I’m running in fresh water at Lake Manatee.

Now, water this dark does compromise visibility for spotting fish , but that’s easily resolved with “chummers.” You’re going to have to put your “fishy sense” to the test.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m seeing numerous spotted seatrout being reeled up to the boat — on some mornings 50-60 trout. Out of those, you might catch 40 in the 14-inch range. Yeah, just under slot again — throw them back. But for action, the bite is excellent.

I’m seeing a few pompano skip here and there, usually as I’m bringing the boat down off plane to approach a flat and start fishing. To catch these golden nuggets, I’m keeping a rod rigged and ready with a small hot-pink jig. The pompano seem to love it and, within seconds, they’re hitting the jig and screaming out the drag.

Also, snook are abundant around mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. I’m not seeing a lot of keeper-fish since the Sept. 1 start of season, but I’m seeing a few. Free-lining shiners is proving to be most productive. Redfish are present in these areas, too, although they are not as apparent as the snook.

And speaking of snook, this open snook season will run through Nov. 30. The slot remains the same at 28-33 inches and anglers are allowed to harvest one fish per day per person — not including the captain and crew. And remember, to keep a snook, you need a fishing license and a snook stamp.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore on the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay. By drifting and jigging with DOA Cal jigs, Girle is putting clients onto a variety of species. Seatrout, the most frequent bite, is quick to inhale the small plastic grub, and keeper-size fish up to 20 inches are being caught. Other species taking the jig include macks, ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish.

On nearshore structure, Girle is finding numerous mangrove snapper to accommodate his clients. Bottom-fishing with live shiners is attracting these tasty fish to the hook. Most catches are 15-18 inches. Mixed in are an occasional flounder or juvenile grouper.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing the flats of southern Tampa Bay for a variety of fish. Snook, redfish and spotted seatrout are the three most predominant species. Targeting snook is providing the best action for anglers who want to catch high quantities of fish. Anchoring and chumming along mangrove shorelines during strong outgoing tides is resulting in rallies of linesiders 20-26 inches for Lowman’s clients. As for the redfish, they are being found with the snook bite.

Spotted seatrout are being found on deeper grass flats away from shore. Grass flats 3-4 feet adjacent to channels or other deep drop offs are holding good numbers of fish, according to Lowman. Free-lining live shiners in these areas is resulting in a cooler of trout in the 15- to 20-inch slot.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing over-sized redfish reeled to the deck on a daily basis. These reds are all over the maximum length of 27 inches. In fact, most are coming in anywhere from 32-38 inches and some even bigger. For bait, jumbo shrimp, pinfish or chunks of fresh mullet can get the job done.

Other catches at the R&R include snook, flounder and Spanish mackerel. The most abundant catch is mackerel, which can be taken either by lure or bait. Silver spoons or small white jigs are a go-to for artificials. As for live bait, you can’t beat a free-lined shiner on a small, long shank hook.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is known for his night charters, when he takes anglers fly fishing for snook. If you’re willing to fish late, this is something worth trying. Targeting snook at night is productive, as they are considered a nocturnal feeder. Stripping a fly through the glow of a green underwater light and watching it get inhaled by a voracious snook is enough to momentarily make one’s heart stop. What’s better, while targeting snook, you’re apt to hook into some “gator” trout in the process. For fly patterns, White is using some that resemble small shiners or shrimp.

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

Fish more accommodating by morning, easier on anglers

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Jordan Sprauge of Lakewood Ranch prepares his catch, a late-season tarpon, for release. He caught the silver king inside Tampa Bay on a dead bait Aug. 19 while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. He and his mates also caught mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout and some catch-and-release snook.
Twins Jesse and Halle Jimenez of Longboat Key show off their mahi-mahi Aug. 20. It was caught 30 miles offshore with Capt. David White.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains productive despite the heat and water temps of 90 degrees or better. Fishing early morning around sunrise is most favorable when the winds are calm and the tide is right.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m trying to fish the flats first thing in the morning. My reasoning behind this is that the shallower waters tend to heat up quickly as the sun gets up in the sky, which I feel makes the fish a little less active. Needless to say, its working for me. I’m finding plenty of spotted seatrout on flats 3-5 feet deep. The same applies for catch-and-release snook, although they are found in slightly shallower water and up against mangrove shorelines. Finally, redfish are being found primarily around residential docks, with a few mixed in on the flats.

As the sun gets higher in the sky, I’m migrating to deeper water to target mangrove snapper and flounder. Fishing the artificial reefs in 25-35 feet of water is producing good action.

This deeper water seems to maintain a steady temperature even during the heat of the day, and the fish are in the mood to bite. Also on the reefs are blacktip sharks and barracuda, which adds a nice mix to the bite for someone looking to reel in a fish larger than mangrove snapper — a photo trophy.

Capt. Aaron Lowman also is working nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. Live shiners on a knocker rig are producing a bite for his anglers. On days when the fish are finicky, or if the water is clear, he says free-lining baits is working better. Also, while free-lining shiners, Spanish mackerel are among the snapper, which adds variety to the bite.

On the flats, Lowman is finding numerous snook. Mangrove cuts and edges in combination with a strong outgoing tide are the perfect recipe to find these hard-fighting backwater fish. Live, free-lined shiners cast among large amounts of chummers are quickly being inhaled by hungry snook — which are back in season Sept. 1 through November.

Snook fishers need to abide slot sizes of not less than 28 inches total length and no more than 33 inches.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing pier fishers reeling up mangrove snapper on a daily basis. Most catches are 10-12 inches, although bigger catches are mixed in. While targeting snapper, fishers are encountering flounder, grunts and juvenile grouper.

Spanish mackerel are being caught with regularity at the R&R. Small white jigs, silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are enticing these toothy fish to bite. You also may catch jack crevalle, blue runners and skip jacks while targeting the macks at Anna Maria Island’s northernmost pier.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of Tampa Bay with good results. Fishing shallow flats on incoming tides is yielding redfish and catch-and-release snook for clients. Mangrove shorelines and oyster bars are key when trying to locate either species. On deeper grass flats away from the shoreline, spotted seatrout action is proving to be quite good. While targeting trout, his anglers also are reeling up Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and ladyfish.

On the nearshore reefs, Gross is bottom fishing for mangrove snapper. Limits of these fish are being taken when the conditions are right. Flounder and Kew West grunts are in the mix.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding respectable amounts of mangrove snapper around nearshore and offshore structure. Most catches are 12-16 inches, although bigger snapper are in the mix. Live shiners on a knocker rig are working to attract a bite. Mixed in with the snapper are some “door-mat” flounder, along with many juvenile gag and red grouper.

In Sarasota Bay, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout. Free-lining live shiners over grass flats of 5-6 feet is resulting in slot-size fish in the cooler for his anglers, as well as some action from Spanish mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is finding plenty of mangrove snapper while working offshore. Also included in the offshore bite are red grouper, African pompano and a few mahi-mahi. Live shiners are working as bait. To target these species, White is fishing a variety of terrain including hard bottom, wrecks and springs.

Moving inshore, White is targeting juvenile tarpon in some of the back bays adjacent to Tampa Bay. Targeting these catch-and-release fish can be challenging, although the fight from a hookup is a great reward.

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

Temps still hot, resulting in mixed bag for anglers

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Jaden, left, Sandra, Claudia (kneeling), Helene and Richard Wong, visiting Anna Maria Island from Toronto, Canada, fished offshore Capt. Warren Girle and, using shiners for bait, caught snapper for their dinner.
Dr. Roger Danziger and Dr. Bruce Lipskind show off some 5-6-pound mangrove snappers they caught Aug. 13 in 150 feet of water about 50 miles offshore of Holmes Beach in the Gulf of Mexico while fishing on Danziger’s “NozDoc.”

Despite water temps in the high 80s, flats fishing is still productive so long as you fish early morning as opposed to midday.
Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook seem to be the predominant bite, especially during swift-moving, early morning tides. Redfish are present, although the numbers of fish are not what they should be this time of year.

Moving out to deeper structure — artificial reefs, wrecks and rock piles — is a good idea, as you approach the heat of the day. Mangrove snapper, flounder and even grouper are being caught in these areas. You’ll also find Spanish mackerel and sharks in abundance.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m finding a great trout bite on the early morning tides. Spotted seatrout 12-22 inches are being caught by free-lining live shiners over grass flats in water depths of 4-8 feet. Mixed in are bluefish, mackerel, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.

After putting some trout in the cooler, I’m moving to shallower flats of 2-3 feet of water where mangrove shorelines and/or oyster bars are present. In these areas, rallies of schooley-sized catch-and-release snook are occurring. Free-lined live shiners are quickly being inhaled by the 24-inch fish. Bigger linesiders are mixed in, although most are 22-26 inches. An occasional redfish is being caught between snook bites, but it’s random at best.

Catch-and-release shark fishing is at its best right now along the beaches of Anna Maria and throughout Tampa Bay. Blacktip sharks are the most apparent and are ranging 25-100 pounds. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel are working great as bait, but ladyfish, jack crevalle or blue runners work, too.

Lastly, the mangrove snapper have invaded the inshore waters in abundance. Whether fishing the flats, reefs or rock piles, I’m consistently seeing snapper being reeled up. I’m noticing the fish being caught on the flats are barely legal, but the fish on structure are much larger. Free-lining or bottom fishing baits is productive, depending on where you are and what mood the snapper are in.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for mangrove snapper. By using live shiners as bait combined with a bottom rig, Girle’s clients are reeling up limits of snapper 12-15 inches. While targeting snapper, Key West grunts and flounder also are finding their way to the hook.

Moving inshore, Girle is catching numerous spotted seatrout throughout the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Also in these areas are bluefish and Spanish mackerel, which is a nice variety between trout bites.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species being caught during the morning hours. Fishers using live shrimp as bait are reeling up pompano, which are always a welcome catch. The sheer power of these fish, plus their high cuisine value, make them a favorite catch at the pier. Switching to jigs or spoons as bait is attracting Spanish mackerel and blue runners to the hook. Lastly, shark fishing is proving to be productive for blacktip and hammerhead sharks.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is putting his clients on plenty of mangrove snapper on nearshore and inshore structure. Most catches are running 12-16 inches, although bigger catches are in the mix. Also on structure, in depths of 40-50 feet, Lowman is hooking into an occasional permit. These elusive fish are being taken on crabs or jigs.

Along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, within a mile or so, Lowman is finding an abundance of blacktip sharks. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel or ladyfish as bait are attracting a bite for sharks weighing 50-100 pounds.

Lastly, fishing shallow flats for snook is proving to be good action for Lowman. Although catch-and-release right now, schooley-size linesiders are entertaining on light tackle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is focusing his time on the local reefs and rock piles in both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Most predominant are the mangrove snapper, although Spanish mackerel are not far behind. An occasional kingfish or bonito are mixed in — a welcome surprise for this time of year.

On the flats, spotted seatrout are a mainstay for White. Free-lined shiners are his bait of choice. He says deep grass areas where good current exists are the best bet.

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

Brave the heat for hookups in-, near- and offshore of AMI

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Terry Shockley and grandson Jaden, visiting Anna Maria from Longmont, Colorado, show off their Aug. 8 permit catch. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Chris Galati Jr., left, and Dylan Brennan of Team Galati show off Brennan’s catch, two swordfish hooked up 120 miles offshore of Anna Maria Aug. 4. Team Galati also included Chris Galati Sr., Chris Raible, Mike Julian and Dan Cain. The team fished the catch-and-release billfish division of the Sarasota Slam tournament, taking second-place swordfish and the wahoo division.
Amanda Paige Winters, of Millington, Tennessee, shows off the a nice platter-size permit she caught on a live crab Aug. 8 in the Gulf of Mexico while on a charter with her family. The group, guided by Capt. Aaron Lowman, also caught mangrove snapper, mackerel, blacktips, seatrout, snook and redfish.
Visiting Anna Maria Island from the Netherlands, Lars Wygers, left, Meike Van Donk, Renata Pauwelse, Tjomas, Sjoerd, Jasper and Adrian VanDonk combined a day of offshore and nearshore fishing Aug. 10 and caught their limit of snapper along with several keeper spotted seatrout. The trip was guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

If you can deal with the heat, there is some great fishing waiting in the waters around Anna Maria Island.

Venturing offshore is resulting in numerous yellowtail and mangrove snappers. Keeper gag and red grouper are being caught with some consistency. And, if you’re staying inshore or nearshore, the list goes on. Spotted seatrout are in abundance around most deeper grass flats. Also inhabiting these areas are a variety of rod-benders, including bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Fishing structure inshore, which includes rocks, docks and artificial reefs, is producing a good mangrove snapper bite, as well as some flounder. Lastly, catch-and-release snook action along mangrove shorelines is proving to be at its best.

On my Southernaire fishing adventures, I’m experiencing a great bite. Mangrove snapper is proving to be a winner, especially for clients looking to take a couple of fish home for dinner. An added bonus, an occasional flounder is taking the bait. In the areas I’m catching the snapper and flounder, there are numerous Spanish mackerel to catch on surface baits, which adds a nice mix to the bite.

There are plenty of blacktip sharks in Tampa Bay, which is a great way to make use of the abundance of Spanish mackerel we’re catching. Palm-sized chunks of these oily fish cast among schooling blacktips aren’t lasting more than a minute or two before they are sniffed out and devoured. The shark bite is from blacktips that range 4-6 feet.

Finally, on the grass flats of Tampa Bay I’m finding ample amounts of spotted seatrout. Most catches are running just under slot, but we’re still managing to find enough keepers for a trout dinner. Mixed in with these trout are jack crevalle, ladyfish, mackerel, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is seeing nothing less than exceptional fishing for August. Fishing the artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and in Tampa Bay is resulting in limits of mangrove snapper. Small shiners either free-lined over structure or dropped to the bottom around the structure are like candy for a hungry snapper.

Moving to shallower water or deep grass flats is producing a range of species for Gross’ anglers. Finding bait schools on the edges of these grassy areas also is leading to spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and small sharks.

Finally, redfish and catch-and-release snook are being caught with some regularity. For the snook, fishing around the passes with good tidal flow is resulting in linesiders up to 30 inches. As for the reds, casting free-lined shiners around oyster bars or under hanging mangroves is deadly.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for mangrove snapper. Fishing artificial reefs and ledges is resulting in limits of snapper for Girle. Also present are Spanish mackerel. Free-lined shiners on a long shank hook are attracting some of the high-speed predators to bite.

Moving inshore, Girle is finding exceptional numbers of spotted seatrout throughout the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Most catches are 12-20 inches. Free-lined shiners or shiners under a cork are Girle’s plan of attack for these fish. Mixed in are Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are hooking into black drum, mangrove snapper and flounder. All of these fish are being caught by casting bait under or around the pier pilings.

Large, over-slot redfish and snook also are making their presence known at the Rod & Reel. For both species, live pinfish are producing a bite. Stout gear with leaders of at least 50-pound test are a must if one expects to pull one of these big fish from under the barnacle-encrusted pier.

Spanish mackerel are making a showing at the pier due to the vast amounts of schooling scaled sardines. Small jigs, silver spoons or Gotcha plugs can entice these toothy fish to bite.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is putting clients on numerous Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper around nearshore and inshore structure. Chumming heavily with small shiners is getting the fish fired up, resulting in good action. Also around structure, Lowman is finding permit accommodating. Casting a live crab or jig to these fish is triggering a strike.

On the flats, catch-and-release snook fishing is proving to be stellar for Lowman. Some morning fishing charters are resulting in up to 50 snook to the boat. During these rallies, Lowman is finding an occasional redfish in the mix.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is cruising the bait schools along the beaches for bonito, macks and an occasional kingfish. For some pure adrenaline-pumping, drag-screaming action, the kings fit the bill. Casting live free-lined baits to frenzied schools of ravenous fish is resulting in immediate hookups.

Around structure offshore, White is finding mangrove and yellowtail snapper. Chumming with small, dead shiners and placing one on a hook is resulting in success.

Every so often, a keeper-size gag is getting in the chum and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting anglers.

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

Tropical storm, bad etiquette can spoil a day’s fishing

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Fred Yahya, Mike Grier and Naaman Ritchie, visiting Anna Maria Island from Wichita, Kansas, show off their catch from an Aug. 4 offshore charter fishing trip with Capt. Warren Girle. Back at the dock, everyone was pleased with their catch of mangrove snapper. Girle provided shiners for bait.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be slightly challenging in the wake of Tropical Storm Emily.

Our clear emerald green waters are now the color of iced tea — and since we are in the south, I guess it’s “sweet tea.”

Anyway, persistence and having an arsenal of spots to investigate is key to finding a bite in the aftermath of one of these storms. The fish are still here, you just have to know where to find them. I find it best to start off with the pattern used prior to “the blow,” and start branching out from there. Eventually we find a bite and, if we don’t, we can always just say, “I guess they’re not biting.”

On my Southernaire excursions, we’re managing to find enough fish to stay busy. Some spots are working and some aren’t. In the spots that are producing, I’m watching clients reel up flounder up to 20 inches, as well as mangrove snapper and some keeper gag grouper. Needless to say, I’m fishing structure.

On the flats, I’m finding spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel accommodating, although I feel the bite will greatly improve once the water settles and clears up. There are mangrove snapper in the deeper grass areas, which are a welcome sight among the trout and mackerel. Kind of a “mixed bag” and variety for the dinner table.

On a final note, I’d like to touch upon the topic of etiquette on the water. Now I know this is a wide and vast area of discussion that could fill volumes, so I’m just going to write about a specific incident I experienced recently while fishing a small, not so well-known rock pile in Tampa Bay.

I was anchored up just minding my own business, smiling as I watched my clients reel up snapper and macks. The action was pretty good and, boy was it due. The morning bite up to then had been a bit of a struggle. As this bite commenced, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a boat in the distance making its way in my direction. I recognized the boat and wondered why the captain was heading straight at me.

As the boat got closer, I instructed my clients to reel up and take a break. At least this way it wouldn’t look like we were catching much. Within a minute or so, this guy was 20 feet off my bow checking his machine and hitting the “man overboard” button in an attempt to record a new spot. Without even making eye contact with me, he marked a couple of spots and motored away. Rather than make a scene, I sat idle, but the incident festered in my brain, like a rusty screw being hammered into my head.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had heard from other fishers that this boater had exhibited thoughtless behavior, but never gave it much thought until now. My clients knew what had happened and could tell I was holding back anger. They had some choice words for him, too — comments we won’t publish here — but it just goes to show his bad manners were noted by everyone aboard.

We calmed a bit and continued to catch a few more fish until it was time to head to the dock.

Now is when the story gets really good.

On our way in, we spotted the group that had so rudely barged in on us. As we passed, we watched as the captain pulled his anchor and headed directly to where we had just fished.

I felt nausea creeping up, but kept a smile on my face and steered the boat home to the Mainsail Marina. There I filleted a mess of fish for my happy customers. Another great day on the water.

This being said, I think visiting anglers should do a little research on a fishing guide before their day on the water. Asking the locals is a great way of doing this. They’ll know the local guides and will eagerly recommend a respectable fisher. And always ask an outside source— not the guy that’s trying to sell you a charter.

You can trust the captains mentioned in this report and the advertisers in The Islander. Those of us with good reputations welcome feedback. Those who don’t, know why.

Good manners and fishing go hand in hand for professional guides.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore and inshore structure for mangrove snapper. Casting small shiners in these areas is resulting in snapper 12-15 inches. In these same areas, changing to a larger bait, such as a live pinfish, is attracting attention from some legal-sized gag grouper.

On the flats, spotted seatrout are a go-to species for Lowman. Areas where grass edges are accompanied by clean water during incoming tides are producing the best action. Live shiners free-lined or under a popping cork are quickly being eaten by 12-18 inch trout.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout among the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Live, free-lined “hatch bait” or small shiners are working well for Gross. Keeper-sizes in both the mackerel and trout are being caught with regularity.

On shallower flats, redfish and catch-and-release snook are on the hook for Gross. Again, free-lined hatch bait are producing action, especially when casting around oyster bars. Due to the size of the bait, Gross suggests using light wire hooks, such as the Eagle Claw Aberdeen.

Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore and offshore structure for mangrove snapper. Mixed in with the snapper bite are Spanish mackerel and some surprises from a couple of barracuda. While catching these species, Girle is hooking into an occasional goliath grouper.

Moving inshore to Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding good action on spotted seatrout. Deeper flats where good tidal flow exists are holding numerous trout 15-18 inches. Mixed in are macks and jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is taking clients offshore for a variety of snapper. Predominately, yellowtail and mangrove snapper are being caught by free-lining small chunks of bait in a chum slick. This method also is attracting juvenile African pompano to the boat.

Moving inshore, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are keeping White’s clients busy. Casting small shiners under a cork throughout the grass flats is producing the bite. Keeper-size trout are fairly consistent.

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

Correct tide and bait produces productive fishing

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Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters holds up a sweet-looking juvenile African pompano July 29 for a kiss — on a dare — from angler Darrel Eaton of St. Charles, Missouri. White led his anglers to the fish 7 miles off the beach, where the Eaton family caught and released several pompanos.
Angler Paris Kostohryz shows off a 10-pound red grouper she reeled up by herself July 22 out of 40 feet of water off Anna Maria Island. It was caught on a live shiner on a knocker rig. Paris and family also caught Spanish mackerel and flounder on their charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is consistently good for those willing to take on the summer heat.

I am noticing a couple of factors fall into play. For one, a swift moving tide is in your favor. In fact, I’ve noticed the stronger the tide the better when fishing the flats for keeper trout and redfish and catch-and-release snook.

I’ve also noticed fishing earlier is better. Early morning when temperatures — both air and water — are slightly cooler and the fish seem to be more active. Plus, it’s a little easier on the angler, too.

Lastly, the size of your bait plays a major role, especially when on the flats. Most of the shiners in the bar are small right now. We call them “hatch bait” because basically they are still juvenile. When on a good bite, I’m experimenting by casting one rod with a small bait and one with a normal or large-size bait and just about every time the small bait gets eaten first.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m giving my clients a thrill by setting them up on blacktip sharks in Tampa Bay. Most of these sharks are 3-4 feet, although fish up to 6 feet are not uncommon. For the small sharks, sight-casting with medium weight tackle is nothing short of addictive.

Small chunks of Spanish mackerel on a light-wire rig and a circle hook are attracting quite a bit of attention from small sharks. For the bigger stuff, I’m beefing up the tackle to extra-heavy spinning gear. Large chunks of mackerel soaked on the bottom during quick-moving tides are being devoured, usually within 15 minutes of being cast out. These large sharks are averaging 6 feet and taking 20-30 minutes to reel in, which really puts some of the visiting anglers to the test. This isn’t like catching blue gills and bass in the pond back home in the Midwest.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing offshore for a variety of species. By using a bottom rig combined with dead sardines or live pinfish as bait, White is attracting red grouper, African pompano and snappers — including mangrove, yellowtail and lane.

Moving inshore, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout are being caught with regularity. Live shiners free-lined or under a cork are White’s plan of attack when targeting these fish. Big snook are being hooked up and released around the beaches and passes.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is reporting a great bite on Spanish mackerel. By fishing along the beaches and in Tampa Bay, Gross is catching as many mackerel as his clients can reel to the boat. Mangrove snapper also are being caught in good numbers, with most being found around rock piles, docks and artificial reefs.

On the flats, Gross boasts of excellent catch-and-release snook action. Rallies of schooley-size fish 20-26 inches are being hooked with some slot-size fish mixed in. Also on the flats, Gross reports finding many spotted seatrout. His clients are reporting catching slot and under-slot fish with ease.

Capt. Warren Girle is working his charters in the Gulf of Mexico around the artificial reefs and wrecks for mangrove snapper. Limits of these fish are being caught during the hour or so just after sunrise. In the same areas are Spanish mackerel, which are attracting barracuda and blacktip sharks. All of which are keeping Girle’s clients busy.

On the flats of Sarasota Bay, catch-and-release snook fishing is productive. Spotted seatrout are being caught on the flats as well as mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting mangrove snapper around nearshore wrecks and ledges. Chumming with hatch bait and a chum block is really getting the snapper fired up for his anglers, according to Lowman. While fishing nearshore structure, Lowman is hooking into a few flounder and some permit.

Fishing in Tampa Bay is resulting in numerous spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel. Free-lined live shiners are a top bait for either species.

Lowman also is seeing jack crevalle and bluefish mixed in with the bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is still mustering up a tarpon bite, although it’s late in the season for silver kings. Lucky clients looking to do battle are being rewarded with sore arms and fish tales to tell their friends back home. Cruising the beaches and passes is still yielding fish for those willing to be patient on the hunt.

Moving offshore, Stock is fishing ledges and wrecks for mangrove and yellowtail snapper. This bite is going strong, at least until the goliath grouper show up. But don’t worry. Once this happens, Stock is pulling out the heavy gear and reeling them up, too. It makes for a good trophy photo.

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

Hot weather requires anglers prepare for success

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Dustin Vaughn, visiting Anna Maria Island from South Carolina, displays his catch-and-release snook skills mid-morning July 18, while using shiners for bait. Vaughn and family were guided to snapper and mackerel for their dinner table by Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains hot.

If you’re planning on spending time on the water, plan accordingly.

First, be ready to catch fish.

Second, make sure you protect yourself from the sweltering conditions that are in store for you. Stock up on water and ice, and don’t forget everyone needs a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. There’s nothing worse than having to go in early because you’re suffering from heat stroke or just plain old heat exhaustion. Stay in the shade and stay hydrated.

And keep an eye on the weather app or the horizon for pop-up thunderstorms.

On my recent trips with Southernaire fishing charters, I’m finding blacktip sharks in Tampa Bay. Most of these sharks are 3-4 feet, which makes them great to target with medium-heavy spinning gear. My anglers are sight-casting to the sharks, which makes the hunt really exciting. For bait, cut mackerel, ladyfish or pinfish will suffice. When targeting these smaller sharks, a rig consisting of 8 inches of wire connected to a 4/0 circle hook will do the trick. What’s nice about a circle hook is the fish often gets hooked somewhere visible, mostly on the outer edge of the jaw. This makes it easy to remove the hook and release the shark without too much hassle.

When I’m not targeting sharks, I’m finding an abundance of mangrove snapper around rocks and docks. And for that matter, even some of the deeper grass flats are hosting mangoes. Most catches are 12-15 inches, although every once in a while I’m seeing fish up to 18 inches.

Finally, fishing deep grass flats for spotted seatrout is providing action. Mixed in with the trout are ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, snapper and small sharks.

Capt. Aaron Lowman also is targeting mangrove snapper and flounder around the rocks and docks in Tampa Bay. To catch these species, Lowman is using a bottom rig combined with small shiners or “hatch bait.”

Fishing rock piles in Tampa Bay is producing action on gag grouper. For these, Lowman prefers a live pinfish for bait.

Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is putting clients on Spanish mackerel, sharks and even a couple of cobia turned up around the artificial reefs and natural ledges. Chumming with live shiners is key to getting a bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding good results at the nearshore reefs, where mangrove snapper, white grunts and flounder are coming to the hook. All three are being taken on live shiners. Spanish mackerel and some blacktip sharks also are being found around the reefs.

Moving to the flats, trout are being found in abundance in Sarasota Bay, where free-lining live shiners over deep grass flats is triggering a strike. Mixed in are Spanish mackerel and bluefish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says he’s seeing plenty of snook under the pier. Pier fishers targeting the linesiders are finding success on a variety of baits, including live shrimp, pinfish, shiners and ladyfish. With all snook being catch-and-release, Malfese keeps a close eye on the pier anglers to make sure the fish are handled with care.

Other species being caught at the R&R include Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, flounder and sharks.

Capt. Jason Stock is taking clients offshore for a variety of species. Fishing around ledges and hard bottom is resulting in a variety of snapper, including mangrove, yellowtail and American reds. Moving to wrecks and reefs is providing action on permit, goliath grouper and a random kingfish.

Moving inshore, Stock is targeting big snook — 36-40 inches — around the passes and along mangrove edges where deep water exists. To target the big females, Stock is using large baits — pinfish and ladyfish. After taking photos, the snook are released to be caught another day.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is finding Spanish mackerel quite accommodating for his anglers. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay or in the Gulf of Mexico is resulting in good numbers of the high-speed fish.

Around offshore structure, White is finding mangrove snapper and even a few hogfish are coming to the boat on free-lined shiners.

Moving inshore, White also is targeting big catch-and-release snook. Large shiners and pinfish are producing the bite.

Linesiders up to 3 feet in length are being caught and released.

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

Tides produce a bite, storms put a damper on fishing

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Jack Baade and son Chris, visiting Anna Maria Island from North Carolina, show off a cobia caught July 10 nearshore on a shiner on a charter fishing trip with Captain Warren Girle. The pair also loaded up on mangrove snapper.
Todd Gaenzle of Pennsylvania shows off one of his two tarpon catches, hooked on a live crab July 7 while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Gaenzle fought this silver king for 30 minutes before taking a couple photos and releasing the fish. The tarpon were found biting in the morning off the beaches of Anna Maria Island.

Although the afternoon outgoing tides look nothing less than stellar for fishing the flats, the pop-up thunderstorms we are experiencing are making it tough to be on the water.

Don’t be discouraged — the morning tides are producing a bite. I’m finding limits of mangrove snapper around residential docks and on the deeper grass flats. Where you don’t have to run the boat far in the event of a storm. These snapper may not be the 18-20 inches you’ll find on the reefs and wrecks, but it you can get a limit of 12-15 inchers you’re doing all right.

To catch these feisty little fish, you can try one of two methods.

When fishing around the docks, a small knocker rig made of a 1/4-ounce weight and a size-4 circle hook will do the trick. When on the flats, omit the sinkers and try free lining the bait. And speaking of bait, the small shiners — known as “hatch bait” — are perfect. It’s like they were meant for this type of fishing.

Since we’re talking about hatch bait, don’t be discouraged about size when targeting catch-and-release snook, trout and redfish on the flats. I’m finding all three species don’t seem to mind. In fact, they’re biting the small stuff better than the huge shiners.

You may want to add a popping cork to aid in casting the small shiners. This is working especially well for trout fishing. For the snook, the free-line method is working, especially when the fish are in shallow, clear water. For the reds, try putting two small baits on one hook and see what happens.

Capt. Warren Girle is running his charters out to the nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. By using live shiners as bait with a bottom rig, Girle’s anglers are reeling up mangoes in the 15-inch range. Mixed in with the snapper are juvenile grouper and Key West grunts.

On the flats, Girle is finding spotted seatrout to be the most consistent bite. Free-lining shiners or rigging them under a popping cork is producing trout up to 20 inches.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the flats of Tampa Bay for spotted seatrout. On flats where the water depth is 5-8 feet, Lowman is finding numerous trout. Most catches are 12-15 inches, with bigger fish mixed in.

Fishing nearshore wrecks also is producing action for Lowman’s clients. Free-lined shiners are hooking up with Spanish mackerel and bonito. Shiners on a bottom rig are getting attention, especially from mangrove snapper, flounder and gag grouper.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting the inshore and nearshore reefs. Live shiners as bait are quickly being eaten by Spanish mackerel when fished on the surface. Adding a sinker to this rig and bottom fishing with the shiners is a sure way to catch mangrove snapper, gag grouper and grunts.

On the flats, Gross is finding many spotted seatrout. Most are 10-20-inches. This bite is occurring on deeper flats in 8-10 feet of water or less. On shallower flats with depths of 3 feet or less, Gross is hooking up clients with many catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results. On ledges and hard bottom, Stock is putting clients on a variety of fish, including mangrove and yellowtail snapper. Also in these areas are red grouper. Live pinfish and shiners are proven baits for any of these species.

Fishing offshore wrecks is proving to be good for Stock. Free-lining live pass crabs is resulting in hookups on permit up to 20 pounds. Another inhabitant at the wrecks is goliath grouper. Large baits, such as jack crevalle, can attract this huge catch-and-release species to the hook.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is taking his anglers offshore. By drifting in depths of 120 feet of water, White is leading his clients to a variety of snappers — mangrove, lane, vermillion and American reds. Big red grouper and African pompano also are being taken in this fashion.

For bait, live pinfish or shiners are working most of the time. When the fish are finicky, White likes to switch to dead baits, including threadfin herring and sardines, which often can trigger a bite.

Fishing 101: Before catching fish, you must have bait

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David Bittick, left, Josh Treeful, Halle and Gary Bittick and Bryan and Maddie Faria, all visiting Anna Maria Island from Texas, show off their dinner catch. The group fished July 4 nearshore with shiners and found success on spotted seatrout with Capt. Warren Girle.
Sunrise sets the tone for the early morning bait catch June 26 for writer Capt. Danny Stasny, operator of Southernaire fishing charters.
Mike Collins of St. Petersburg shows off a mutton snapper caught July 5 while targeting yellowtail snapper with Capt. Jason Stock.

Bait was on my mind.

As I left my house to go to the boat at 4:45 a.m., the temperature was already a balmy 80 degrees. And, to be honest, that felt cool compared to what I knew the rest of the day would bring.

In the dark, I pulled my truck into the Mainsail Marina in Holmes Beach and commenced to unload and prepare the boat for another charter and another day of fishing.

After loading the rods, nets, chum and ice, I untied my 23-foot C Hawk from the dock and made my way into Anna Maria Sound. Everything was quiet and peaceful, aside from the light hum of my Yamaha 4-stroke engine.

As I pulled away from the marina and exited the “no wake” zone, I gently pushed on the throttle and brought the boat up on plane. I reached 20 knots and the boat leveled out nicely. I felt the warm air press against me, cooling the sweat on my face and T-shirt. I pushed through the darkness en route to the grass flats with anticipation of loading my bait well.

Now it was 5:45 a.m. and I eased the boat onto the flat to set anchor and start chumming. Heat lightning was flashing to the west, illuminating large clouds that looked like far-away mountains in the Gulf of Mexico. I wondered if a storm was coming, but hadn’t seen anything on the weather radar, so I continued to chum.

The sun was going to rise in a few minutes and the sky took on a sequence of beautiful pastels — blue, pink and purple. In the twilight, I could see the surface of the bay beginning to dimple where I was throwing the chum. The shiners were beginning to show. Simultaneously, small groups of seagulls flew east from their roosting spots on the beach as they headed into the bay to catch breakfast.

It was time to throw the net.

I gathered my 10-foot cast net in my hand by the horn, folded it once and spun half the net over my shoulder. With a small piece of the lead line between my teeth, I let the shouldered part of the net gently slide down into my right hand, securing another piece of the lead line between my index finger and thumb.

Now I was ready. With a half spin of my body for momentum, I threw the net into the air. As it opened into almost a perfect circle, it peeled into the water. I waited a moment to let it sink, then began to pull on the line. As the line went tight, I would feel the bait darting in the net, sending a vibration to my hand.

I got it.

I gently pulled the net over the boat’s gunwale and cleared it into the bait well. Shiners, threadfin herring and pinfish began falling into the well, flipping and skipping, figuring out their new surroundings. “Not bad for the first throw,” I thought. “It’s not always that easy.”

I needed more bait so I repeated this process three more times. Then it was time to clean the boat and pick up my clients.

As I cleaned the seagrass from the deck, I saw pinfish, small crabs and even a pipefish on the deck, waiting for me to put them back in the water. There were some dead shiners and threadfins there, which, after being thrown overboard, were quickly devoured by juvenile snapper and ravenous pinfish.

I sat and watched this occur for a moment before realizing it was nearing 7 a.m., which was when I was supposed to be at the dock to pick up my charter. I pulled anchor and idled away from the flat to the channel. Now, back on plane, I skipped along the surface of the bay toward the marina, satisfied I was ready for the day.

It was time to go fishing. Another great day on the water stretched ahead of me.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore wrecks, reefs and hard bottom. While fishing reefs and hard bottom, Stock is catching a variety of snappers, including mangrove, yellowtails and mutton snapper. Fishing around the offshore wrecks is proving good action for Stock, especially on permit and goliath grouper.

Moving inshore, Stock is targeting catch-and-release snook. Casting live shiners along mangrove shorelines where lush seagrass is present is resulting in linesiders up to 30 inches for Stock’s clients.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters also is targeting catch-and-release snook, working shorelines throughout southern Tampa Bay. Rallies of fish exceeding 30 or more hook ups in an hour are not uncommon this time of year when fishing with Gross. For bait, live shiners are unbeatable. Casting these bait around mangrove edges or oyster bars is producing instant gratification for Gross and his clients. Most snook hookups are 20-30 inches.

For anglers looking to catch fish for dinner, Gross is leading clients to mangrove snapper, redfish and flounder. All three species are being caught by casting live shiners under and around residential docks. To put a respectable number of fish in the box, Gross is moving from dock to dock.

Capt. Warren Girle is putting clients on mangrove snapper around the artificial reefs. Bottom fishing with live shiners is resulting in mangrove snapper up to 16 inches. While targeting snapper, Girle is hooking up with juvenile grouper, Key West grunts, cobia and an occasional flounder.

In the backcountry of Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding spotted seatrout to be quite plentiful. Casting live shiners under a popping cork around deep grass flats is producing slot and under-slot fish. Mixed in with the trout are ladyfish and Spanish mackerel.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the rocks and docks for mangrove snapper and flounder. Casting live shiners combined with a split shot around docks is producing some nice catches for Lowman’s clients, especially on the flounder. Changing to a slightly heavier rig — a 1/2-ounce knocker rig — is working for the mangrove snapper around rock piles in Tampa Bay.

Other species being caught in Tampa Bay include gag grouper, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

On the flats of Terra Ceia and Miguel Bay, Lowman is attracting numerous catch-and-release snook to the boat. Live, free-lined shiners are his bait of choice. Chumming with live baits is a crucial aid in getting these fish to bite. It not only gets them in the mood, but as they strike the surface to eat a chummer, they give up their location, which enables the angler to cast to them.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is spending most of his week fishing offshore. Baits such as live shiners, pinfish and threadfin herring, are producing good action in depths of 130-160 feet of water. Species such as American red snapper, African pompano, yellowtail and mangrove snapper are being caught — just to name a few.

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