Tag Archives: fishing

Fishing – 07-20-2016

Good news: ‘Hatch bait’ makes it happen on the water


Despite the scorching temperatures, fishing around Anna Maria is on the rise.

The reason for this is the arrival of bait fish. Whether on the flats or out in Tampa Bay, you should notice the huge schools of baby shiners or, as we call them, “hatch bait.” With this migration of bait come the predators.

Around both fishing piers on the north end of the island, the bait schools have congregated to the point where the water looks black with bait. While this smorgasbord is occurring, many species, including Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and snook, are gorging themselves.

The same is occurring on the grass flats in Tampa Bay and throughout the Intracoastal Waterway. In these bait schools, you may find a host of predators, including spotted seatrout, mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish.

On recent adventures on Southernaire Fishing Charters, we have been targeting mangrove snapper around reefs and wrecks in the Gulf and Tampa Bay. While bottom fishing for snapper, I’m seeing decent numbers of Spanish mackerel feeding in the chum slick. For the macks, I’m free-lining live shiners in the chum to attract a bite. Other catches include flounder, juvenile grouper, cobia and permit.

Capt. Warren Girle is working inshore among the flats of Sarasota Bay. Throughout deep grass flats — 6-8 feet of water — Girle’s finding spotted seatrout accommodating to his clients. Free-lining live shiners or adding a popping cork to the rig is resulting in numerous trout. Mixed in with the trout bite are Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish. Fishing shallower flats — 2-3 feet deep — is proving prosperous for Girle, too. Redfish are found in these areas, especially up around mangrove shorelines.

Moving to the nearshore reefs, Girle is hooking up clients with mangrove snapper, macks and flounder. All three species are taking live shiners.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore reefs and wrecks with good results. Live pass crabs as bait are attracting the attention of schooling permit. Eager anglers are quickly getting their arms worn-out on multiple hookups with the permit, with some catches reaching 20 pounds or better.

And Stock’s finding mangrove snapper are cooperative offshore. Live shiners dropped to the bottom on a weighted rig are resulting in snapper up to 18 inches and limits of fish are being caught by Stock’s clients.

Finally, Stock is hooking up with tarpon in the passes and along the beaches. Live baits — threadfin herring and pass crabs ­— are getting the job done.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is spending his charters reef fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, where mangrove snapper are producing a steady bite close to the structure on the bottom. Bottom fishing around structure is producing flounder, while free-lining live shiners on the surface of the water around the reefs is keeping Lowman’s clients busy with Spanish mackerel, cobia and kingfish.

Moving into the bay, Lowman is finding sharks, bluefish and jack crevalle making their presence known. For the blues and jacks, small spoons and buck-tail jigs are working well. As for the sharks, Lowman is using the just-caught blues and jacks as bait.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says that with the arrival of the hatch bait in Tampa Bay comes the snapper, and the bait is making it easy for tourist and resident anglers to reel up keeper-size mangrove snapper. Mixed in with the snapper bite are black drum, sheepshead, flounder and the occasional catch-and-release snook. While these species are being caught on shiners or shrimp as bait, if you want to catch the sheepies and black drum, shrimp is your bait.

Spanish macks are attracted to the hatch bait surrounding the pier, but pier fishers are finding silver spoons and small white jigs are connecting with these high-speed toothy fish.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is bay fishing for mangrove snapper. Whether working deep grass adjacent to channels or structure in Tampa Bay, Gross is managing to find limits of these tasty fish for his clients. Gross also is finding flounder, Spanish mackerel and many catch-and-release snook. Live shiners are producing fish and the best bite is occurring during strong moving tides, he said.

Capt. David White of Great White Charters says the summer heat has slowed the afternoon bite — putting peak time for fishing action 8-11 a.m.

White is targeting snapper by drifting reefs and putting out a live shiner as bait. An occasional gag grouper can be caught using this method. Barracuda have been present in these areas, so White recommends keeping a ’cuda tube handy.

While inshore, White is targeting trout and catch-and-release snook with a live shiner under a popping cork. The redfish are very lethargic says White, although you may coax one with a piece of cut ladyfish. But don’t count on it!

White says to keep your eyes open for stingrays or an occasional spotted eagle ray — they frequently will have a trailing cobia ready to take a bait.

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

Fishing – 07-06-2016

Beat the heat — fish early or late for hot action


If you haven’t noticed, we’ve finally fallen into our summer pattern and by pattern I mean hot.

Temperatures in the mid to upper 90s are an everyday occurrence now. This, in turn, brings those water temps up, and I think the fish notice as much as we do.

Flats fishing is producing a bite, although you may want to try fishing early mornings, when air and water temps are slightly cooler. Typically, while on this schedule, I’m noticing the bite to be more consistent — not to mention the cool air of the morning is easier on my anglers. I’m experiencing rallies of catch-and-release snook during these early morning trips, which is great. Most catches are 20-30 inches.

As the morning heats up and gets toward noon, I’m migrating to deeper water, where spotted seatrout are lurking. Flats in depths of 6-8 feet remain slightly cooler toward the grassy bottom, which is a refuge from the heat for these trout. Also, as we’re catching trout, we’re finding bluefish, Spanish macks and even a jack or two ready and willing to mix up the action.

In addition, nearshore structure is producing mangrove snapper and flounder. If you’re looking for food fish, these two are some of the best. The snapper are a little wary to bite, so I’m chumming and instructing my clients to free-line small shiners or hatch bait slowly back on our chum slick. As for the flounder, a 1/2-ounce knocker rig baited with a live shiner is resulting in fish in the 15- to 22-inch range.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore structure in depths of 35-50 feet of water. By fishing reefs and ledges, Girle is positioning his clients to catch a variety of species, including gag and red grouper, mangrove snapper and cobia. For bait, live shiners or pinfish are top picks.

Moving inshore, Girle is catching tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Live crabs or threadfin herring are the popular bait for Girle. Silver kings of 80-120 pounds are the norm, with larger fish mixed in.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the nearshore wrecks and reefs with good results. Live shiners as bait are producing mangrove snapper, gag grouper, flounder and Spanish mackerel for his clients. Larger baits — pinfish or fresh-cut chunks of mackerel — are attracting attention from blacktip sharks and cobia.

Lowman also is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria. Live crabs or threadfin herring are his baits of choice and the best times for a hookup with these silver kings is either early morning or evening, just prior to sunset.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says Spanish mackerel are becoming more frequent as larger schools of hatch bait congregate around the pier, where rtificials such as silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or speck rigs are top producers for bait. Mixed in with the macks are jack crevalle, ladyfish and the occasional bluefish.

Although only catch-and-release, snook are visiting the deck during evening and night hours. Schooley and slot-size fish are being taken on live shiners or pinfish. Also, artificials such as the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow will intrigue the snook enough to bite.

In addition, pier fishers using live shrimp are reeling up mangrove snapper, black drum, flounder and a random sheepshead.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats for catch-and-release snook. Rallies of snook are occurring during early morning hours just after sunrise. Live shiners free-lined over sandy potholes and around mangrove branches are being quickly inhaled by hungry snook.

Spotted seatrout are being caught on the flats, although in slightly deeper water. Deep grass flats where sandy potholes are present are holding plenty of slot-size trout. Live shiners free-lined in these areas are producing a bite. Mixed in with the trout are jacks, bluefish and ladyfish.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore structure for permit. Fish 10-40 pounds are being taken by using live pass crabs as bait. Along with permit, Stock is hooking up with mangrove snapper, cobia and goliath grouper. For the snapper and cobia, live shiners are working great. As for the goliaths, any large bait can result in a hookup.

Moving inshore, Stock is stalking tarpon, as well as some large bull sharks. Tarpon are being found during early morning tides around sunrise. As for the bull sharks, anytime of day will work for the big game.

Capt. David White of Great White Charters reports fishing for mangrove snapper has been “phenomenal.” The nearshore reefs and wrecks were exceptionally productive for his clients, with an occasional gag grouper in the mix. And, he says, the Spanish mackerel are showing up behind the small-fry bait that’s filling the bays and beaches.

The tarpon are still around, although finding the right school is key, as the fish are pretty spooky. Shark fishing is good right now — very prevalent with the warmer temperatures. White also found the deeper flats holding lots of action on catch-and-release snook and an occasional redfish.

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


Fishing – 06-29-2016

Anna Maria Island-area fishing as hot as temperatures


Despite temperatures rising quickly to the 90s in by mid-morning, plenty of anglers are on the water in search of a bite. Early morning or evening fishing is a popular idea, since these times tend to be slightly cooler than “high noon.”

Fishing the flats for catch-and-release snook is a good bet, especially right before and after sunrise. The beaches are good, although wait until the sun gets up a little so you can see into the water. Sight-casting to beach snook is somewhat addicting to avid snook fishers. Generally, if you’re in the right spot, seeing 50 or more snook in a morning is not uncommon. Notice I said seeing, not catching. Free-lined live shiners are the bait of choice for the finicky linesiders.

Reef and wreck fishing around the inshore and nearshore structure is proving to be worth the time to do, where flounder are making their presence known. On recent trips for Southernaire Fishing Charters, we’re catching flounder up to 22 inches, with many in the 18-inch range.

Also, tarpon fishing is worth a look-see, although skill and luck are major players now. The schools of fish are thinning, which means more work for the angler.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing tarpon during his early morning charters. On average, his anglers are hooking up with two or three fish per morning on live crabs.

While fishing offshore, Girle’s clients are enjoying an abundance of mangrove snapper and red grouper. Also in the mix are gag grouper and hogfish. All except for the hogs are being taken on live shiners. For the hogfish, Girle says live shrimp is productive.

Moving inshore, Girle is stalking redfish on the shallow flats of Sarasota Bay. Casting live shiners or chunks of dead ladyfish is resulting in fish up to 30 inches.

Capt. Aaron Lowman says he’s catching tarpon, although the numbers of fish present are beginning to dwindle. Live crabs or live threadfin herring are working as bait on fish ranging from Fort Desoto south to Longboat Key.

In the backcountry, snook fishing is red hot according to Lowman. Fishing the passes, beaches or mangroves while using live shiners as bait is proving highly effective.

Bottom fishing for Lowman is quite accommodating to his clients. Mangrove snapper, gag grouper, cobia and flounder are being found around inshore and nearshore structure. Also in these areas: goliath grouper, sharks and barracuda.

Capt. Jason Stock is in pursuit of tarpon. Fishing the passes early in the day and then migrating to the beaches to find fish is routine for Stock. Two of three hook ups a trip is average for Stock.

Shark fishing is next on Stock’s agenda. By using large baits, such as whole barracuda, Stock is hooking into large sharks — hammerheads and bull sharks. Fighting these large sharks is not for your average angler. Battles may last up to an hour but the thrill of big game makes it worthwhile.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel being caught around the large schools of hatch bait congregating around the pier. Small white jigs or silver spoons are attracting the mackerel to bite. Early morning just after sunrise is proving to be the best time to cast for these high-speed predators.

Pier fishers using shrimp as bait are catching a variety of species, including mangrove snapper, flounder and an occasional black drum. Casting under the pier and around the pilings is working best when targeting these species.

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


Fishing – 06-22-2016

Tarpon return behind Colin, other species take the hook

Although Tropical Storm Colin sent tarpon on a brief hiatus from our waters, king of sport fishing is definitely back and in greater numbers, too.

The sand bars of Passage Key and Bean Point are host to hundreds of silver kings — if you’re there at the right time. Stealth plays a major role when fishing these clear, shallow waters in hopes of a bite. Keeping your distance from the fish and staying as quiet as possible will increase your odds of hooking up.

If you’re not into fishing the bars, the passes around Anna Maria and Egmont Key also are productive for tarpon. Pre-dawn casting live crabs to these fish is proving to be the best tactic.

Also, finding schooling tarpon running along the beaches in depths of 10-20 feet is an ideal scenario to attract a bite by casting live threadfins or shiners into the school.

For Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m migrating toward variety — fish other than tarpon. Fishing rock piles, reefs and wrecks is providing sizzling action on mangrove snapper and especially flounder. In the backcountry, fishing for catch-and-release snook remains exceptional. Rallies of schooley fish are common, with many catches of slot and over-slot fish.

Also, spotted sea trout are being found over deep grass areas. Slot and over-slot trout are readily taking live shiners free-lined or under a cork. Mixed in with this bite are Spanish mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key. By casting live crabs and threadfin herring to “happy fish,” Lowman says he’s getting hookups with silver kings 80-120 pounds. The fast moving waters in the passes to the north and south of Anna Maria Island also are producing tarpon action for Lowman and his clients. In these areas, Lowman is anchoring and chumming with fresh-cut threadfin herring to attract the bite.

Moving inshore, Lowman says he’s finding the catch-and-release snook bite is fairly consistent. Rallies of schooley fish in the 20- to 26-inch range are common during morning incoming tides. Also, while targeting snook, an occasional redfish is mixed in on the bite.

Finally, reef and wreck fishing for Lowman is outstanding. Mangrove snapper, gag grouper, flounder, Spanish mackerel and cobia are being taken on live shiners.

Capt. Warren Girle is on the hunt for tarpon. By patrolling the beaches and passes, Girle is leading his clients to schooling fish. Baits include live crabs and threadfin herring. Average sizes for the silver kings is 80-150 pounds.

Moving offshore, Girle is finding success on other species in depths of 35-50 feet of water. Ledges and hard bottom are producing quality mangrove snapper, as well as gag and red grouper. Hogfish also are present in a couple of Girle’s “secret spots.” To catch the hogs, live shrimp weighted with a split shot dropped to the bottom is attracting a bite.

Also, while fishing offshore, Girle is putting anglers on an occasional cobia. Fish in the 20-pound class are being enticed by live pinfish and shiners as bait.

Capt. Jason Stock is stalking tarpon all the way from Egmont Key south to Longboat Key. Fishing along the beaches is proving to be a successful approach for Stock, as he reports multiple hookups on a daily basis for his anglers. Live crabs, threadfin herring and large shiners are attracting attention from silver kings in the 100-pound class.

Moving offshore, Stock is pursuing permit around reefs and wrecks. Live pass crabs are proving deadly for permit in the 20-pound range. Also present offshore are cobia, mangrove snapper and gag grouper.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working inshore with good results. Fishing deep grass flats is providing clients a variety of species, including spotted seatrout, silver trout, Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. All species are readily taking free-lined shiners.

Rallies of catch-and-release snook are occurring aboard the Fishy Business. Fishing shallow grass flats during morning incoming tides is bringing the best bite, when catches of 20 or more snook in an hour are not uncommon.

Finally, along the beaches, Gross is finding tarpon to be accommodating. Live crabs and threadfin herring are attracting a bite for his clients. Most hookups are coming to the boat around 75-100 pounds.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing fishers taking advantage of the morning Spanish mackerel bite. Since the arrival of baitfish at the pier, greater numbers of macks are appearing by the day. Small jigs, spoons or Gotcha plugs are attracting the bite, and ladyfish and jack crevalle are mixed in.

Pier fishers electing to use live shrimp for bait are catching mangrove snapper, flounder and an occasional catch-and-release snook.

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



Fishing – 06-15-2016

Tropical Storm Colin dampens fishing, but only short-term


In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Colin, which blew past Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico June 6, fishers are managing to hook up with some fish. I’m not saying the fishing is as good as normal, but having a successful day on the water is attainable.

The action is improving daily as the water settles and the calendar heads into summer.

Fishing inshore on the flats might be tough for a few more days this week due to the water being stirred up from currents, wind and rain. You may find your favorite spots aren’t producing like they normally do. Well, give the water some time to clean itself up and settle and you should notice the fish falling into their summertime patterns.

If patience isn’t your thing, consider a move from the flats into the Gulf of Mexico. Cleaner, clearer water is present in the Gulf, where mangrove snapper and grouper can be targeted and what’s wrong with that? You’ll probably come across some Spanish mackerel, sharks and, if you’re lucky, a cobia or two.

So, rather than cancel your weekend of fishing to stay home and do chores, try venturing out to the reefs and wrecks for some “reel” action.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore and offshore structure for mangrove snapper. Quality fish in the 20-inch range are being caught on free-lined pieces of fresh-cut shiners. While targeting snapper, Girle’s putting his clients on Spanish mackerel, gag grouper and an occasional cobia.

Moving to the flats, Girle is catching his share of spotted seatrout. Slot-size fish 15-20 inches are readily taking live shiners for bait. While targeting trout, Girle is hooking up macks, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Also, tarpon — although a little more scarce than the past few weeks — are being caught via live crabs or live threadfin herring. Fish 80-200 pounds are jumping the hook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working inshore and nearshore reefs and rock piles with good results. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper are taking shiners combined with a bottom rig. Spanish mackerel and cobia are being taken by his clients in the same areas — only on free-lined shiners instead of weighted ones. Some hungry sharks are lurking around nearshore structure, providing great action for those willing to toss a bait. Spinner and blacktip sharks are the most abundant.

Finally, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are steadily biting during moving tides. Free-lined live shiners are a sure bet for both species.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are making frequent stops by the pier to harass the schools of hatch bait. Pier fishers using small jigs, spoons and Gotcha plugs are finding success with all three species.

Pier fishers baiting with live shrimp are reeling in variety — most common are mangrove snapper and black drum — along with flounder and an occasional catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working the flats of southern Tampa Bay and throughout Terra Ceia Bay with good results.

He’s setting up his anglers with live shiners to attract attention to the hook from catch-and-release snook. Shallow areas where oyster bars are present are holding good numbers of fish — most 20-30 inches in length — to target.

Spotted seatrout are being found on 6- to 8-foot-deep grass flats. Live shiners as bait are attracting slot and over-slot trout to the hook and, mixed in are bluefish and macks.

Also, inshore rock piles and docks are good for mangrove snapper and flounder. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught during slower moving tides. Live shiners combined with a split shot are proving effective.

Last but not least, Capt. Jason Stock is having an exceptional week on the water. While working offshore, Stock is catching some of the best of the best —cobia, tripletail, permit and hefty mangrove snapper.

For the trips and permit, Stock is sight-casting live baits to the fish — crabs for the permit, whitebait for the tripletail. For the cobia, Stock is setting up anglers with artificials like the Hogy Lure. Lastly, for the snapper, free-lined shiners — whole or fresh-cut into chunks — are resulting in fish up to 22 inches.

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


Fishing – 06-08-2016

Variety, silver king persistence keep local anglers busy


Tarpon fishing remains the main attraction for yet another week on Anna Maria Island. Anglers from Tampa to Boca Grande — and beyond — are flocking to our little island to get a taste of what our local waters have to offer.

Some say the tarpon fishing here is better than anywhere on the Gulf coast. And by the numbers of boats I’m seeing out there, maybe that’s the case.

The fish are finally dispersing from the passes to roam the beaches and roll in the surf of Anna Maria Island, Egmont and Longboat Key. Live crabs and threadfin herring as bait are top producers, although large shiners, pinfish and menhaden, also known as “shad,” are attracting a bite.

For those choosing to fish the backcountry, spotted seatrout are putting up the most consistent bite. Live shiners, free-lined or under a cork, are producing good action during morning incoming tides. Deep grass areas of 6-8 foot depth are a good place to start.

On my own Southernaire charters, I’m flip-flopping between tarpon and backwater trips. Both are productive, with fish being caught consistently. For the tarpon, I’m working pre-dawn until about 10 a.m., which seems to be a good plan. Casting live crabs into schooling fish is producing multiple hookups, especially before sunrise.

As for the backwater trips, spotted seatrout are taking baits on the flats of Sarasota Bay. Limits of fish are attainable, which is great for clients who like to take a fish or two home for dinner. Plus, while targeting trout, we’re catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish, adding a nice variety to the bite.

Capt. Warren Girle also is seeing success, jumping tarpon along the beaches and passes of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Live crabs cast into schooling tarpon are resulting in multiple hookups during the hour just before and after sunrise. Once the sun is up, Girle is switching to threadfin herring — live or dead — to attract a bite. Fish up to 150 pounds are being caught.

Moving to the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding limits of spotted seatrout. Mixed in with the trout bite are macks, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Free-lined live shiners as bait are top producers for Girle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting tarpon in southern Tampa Bay, as well as along the beaches and passes, and is finding good numbers biting the hook. On that hook, Lowman is baiting up with live crabs or threadfin herring. Both baits are producing catches in the 100-150 pound range.

While working in Tampa Bay at the northern tip of Anna Maria, Lowman watched a large hammerhead chase a tarpon on the beach. He got some great photos while managing to head off the hammerhead and give the tarpon room to scoot away — for the moment.

Moving inshore, Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are on the menu for Lowman. For the macks and trout, Lowman is working on grass beds with 5-10 feet of water. For the snook, shallow grass flats adjacent to mangrove shorelines are producing good action.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says with the arrival of bait schools, fishing is better by the minute. The schools of hatch bait are attracting the usual trio of suspects: Spanish mack, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Snook are cashing in on the abundance of bait, gorging themselves in preparation for their spawn.

Pier fishers using shrimp as bait are catching a variety of other species, including black drum, mangrove snapper and flounder. All three species are welcome sights to hungry anglers with hopes of a “fresh” fish dinner.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is following tarpon along the beaches and passes of Tampa Bay south to Sarasota Bay. He’s finding schooling tarpon during early morning incoming tides, and live crabs of threadfin herring for bait are attracting bites from fish 100-150 pounds.

In the backcountry, Gross is catching respectable numbers of catch-and-release snook. Live, free-lined shiners cast around mangrove shorelines and lush grass flats where tidal current exists are producing rallies of snook, sometimes exceeding 25 fish in one spot.

Capt. Jason Stock is on the hunt for tarpon, patrolling the beaches and passes and finding ample numbers of the silverking biting the hook for his clients. Live crabs or threadfin herring are producing hookups and most catches are averaging 100 pounds, although fish exceeding 160 pounds are not uncommon.

Moving offshore, Stock is keeping clients busy on gag grouper. Keeper-size fish are being reeled up with regularity. While targeting gags, Stock also is putting red grouper and mangrove snapper in the cooler.

Finally, fishing offshore wrecks with live crabs is resulting in permit in the 15-pound range.

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

Fishing – 06-01-2016

Tarpon remain in the spotlight, other species attainable


Tarpon remain in the spotlight for yet another week for fishers near Anna Maria Island.

Talk of Bean Point resembling the famous Boca Grande Pass is becoming commonplace among fishers in the area. The numbers of boats present during the morning tarpon bite is the reason. Seeing 50 or more boats this time of year is common.

Also, some of the best tarpon fishing on the Gulf Coast is occurring from the channel near Egmont Key south to New Pass and Longboat Key. Tarpon along the beaches and passes are ranging 80-150 pounds, with reports of larger fix mixed in. Preferred baits are live crabs, threadfin herring or shiners.

On my Southernaire fishing trips, clients are tackling their share of tarpon. The bite from just before sunrise until about 8 a.m. is producing the most action. Live crabs cast to rolling fish are quickly being inhaled. Most of the fish I see coming to the boat are about 100 pounds.

Meanwhile fishing the flats is proving prosperous for table fare and for sport, especially due to the fact most everyone is out trying to catch tarpon along the beaches. The outer flats from Miguel Bay south to Rattlesnake Key are producing good numbers of slot-size spotted seatrout. Mixed in with the trout bite are jack crevalle and bluefish — being taken on free-lined live shiners.

Also, catch-and-release snook fishing is productive. Again, I think less pressure due to everyone tarpon fishing is a factor. Many snook in the 20-26 inch range are being caught during morning and afternoon tides. Slot fish are mixed in, but not with the regularity.

On a final note, gag grouper season opens June 1 and a new size limit is effective the same day. The black grouper and gag minimum size limit will increase from 22-24 inches in Gulf state waters, to match changes in federal waters.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the gag grouper recreational season will be June 1-Dec. 31 in all state Gulf waters excluding Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties — which have their own season April 1-June 30 — and excluding Monroe County — Monroe County follows the Atlantic state season.

Capt. Warren Girle is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Live crabs are Girle’s bait of choice during the sunrise bite. This bite is occurring 5:30-8:30 a.m. Once the sun gets higher, Girle is anchoring and chumming with threadfin herring. Cruising the beaches and casting live threadfin herring into schooling fish is producing the bite. Average sizes are 75-150 pounds, reports Girle.

On days when he’s not tarpon fishing, Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay. On deeper grass flats, Girle is catching plenty of slot-size spotted seatrout. On shallow flats, the snook bite remains consistent. Both species are being taken with live shiners as bait, although the snook are release-only.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing tarpon along the beaches and passes from Egmont Key south to Longboat Key. Live crabs or threadfin herring as bait are producing multiple hookups on morning and afternoon tarpon excursions. Average sizes are 80-120 pounds.

In the backcountry, Lowman is finding snook fishing productive around the mangroves. Live free-lined shiners cast under the bushes are being ambushed by snook in the 20- to 26-inch range.

Finally, deeper grass flats in Tampa Bay are host to a number of species that Lowman refers to as “rod benders.” These fish include jack crevalle, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel. All are being taken on live shiners.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishers there are catching a “mixed bag.” Using artificials, such as silver spoons or small white jigs, they’re hooking an occasional Spanish mackerel, as well as jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish. All of these species are found when bait schools are present around the pier.

Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are reeling up a number of species — mangrove snapper, flounder and black drum. Using a bottom rig to keep the bait on the bottom is key in catching these fish. Also, casting up under the pier among the pilings, where these fish are feeding increasing the odds.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters also is on the hunt for tarpon during early morning outgoing tides. Patrolling the beaches and passes from Egmont Key to Longboat Key is producing catches in the 100-pound range, with bigger fish mixed in. Live crabs or threadfin herring as bait are attracting a bite.

While fishing deep grass flats in Tampa Bay, Gross is catching a variety of species. Spotted seatrout — the targeted species — are being reeled up in abundance. Limits are attainable and in the mix are macks, jacks and bluefish.

Also, catch-and-release snook are red-hot for Gross. Free-lined shiners as bait are producing rallies of snook in the 20-28-inch range, with larger fish mixed in.

Capt. Jason Stock is working the morning sunrise in pursuit of tarpon. During this bite, live crabs are Stock’s preferred bait. As the day wears on, Stock is using a variety of baits, including crabs, threadfin herring and large shiners. Tarpon in the 100-pound range are the norm for Stock.

While working offshore, Stock is putting clients on amberjack and grouper. Both species are being taken on live shiners and pinfish. Mangrove snapper are included in the offshore bite.

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

Fishing – 05-25-2016

The cure for tarpon fever? Go out and get one


The tarpon fever epidemic is rapidly spreading throughout the small barrier island on the south side of Tampa Bay.

Anna Maria Island anglers, as well as fishers from around the world, are experiencing sleepless nights due to the intoxicating anticipation of doing battle with the elusive silver king.

Other symptoms of “tarponitis” include spending vast amounts of money on the proper tackle and ample amounts of bait and, then for some, calling into work “sick” because the bite is on. Also, sunstroke and fatigue result, due to endless hours of patrolling the waters in search of fish. It’s very common.

And forget about those weekend family outings for the next two months, that is, unless the family is going tarpon fishing, too.

Yeah, I guess tarpon just have that effect on people. Think about seeing a 7-foot-long fish come skyrocketing out of the water with its head shaking frantically to spit the hook. Then landing in a huge splash and dumping your spool before you even knew what happened. Sound appealing? You betcha.

I must warn you, however, that tarpon fishing requires some physical endurance. If your workout program mainly consists of 12-ounce curls, you may find yourself second-guessing your choice of targeted species after an hour behind the reel. But, if you’re lucky enough to land the fish, the memory will be forever fixed in your mind. That’s where it all starts. You’ve been exposed and infected with the epidemic known as “tarponitis.” You’re hooked.

On my Southernaire charters, the clients are ailing from tarpon fever. The early morning bite just prior to sunrise is producing the best action for my clients. Multiple hookups are occurring before dawn on live crabs cast directly into the schooling fish. As the sun rises and the abundance of boats becomes unbearable, I’m cruising the beaches in search of “less stressed” fish. Casting crabs or threadfin herring to these fish is resulting in a hook up or two.

For those lacking tarpon fever, the backcountry is still producing plenty of catch-and-release snook. Rallies of 20 fish or more are occurring during the maximum flow of the incoming tide. Live shiners are a favorite for bait.

The same applies for spotted seatrout. Deep grass flats are host to numerous trout, as well as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish. This spring scenario is great for visitors who want action, but also want a few trout for a meal.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the beaches and passes of Anna Mara Island for tarpon. Live crabs and threadfin herring as bait are producing bites. He reports the average size of tarpon this week is in the 50-100 pound range.

On the nearshore reefs, Lowman is finding mangrove snapper accommodating to his clients, as well as Spanish mackerel and a few kingfish. For these species, Lowman is putting live shiners on the hook and chumming is improving the bite.

Finally, on the flats, Lowman is putting his anglers on spotted seatrout in depths of 6-8 feet. Mixed in with the dinner trout are macks, bluefish and jack crevalle — fun to catch but nothing for the cooler.

Capt. Warren Girle is stalking tarpon, too. Live crabs are producing the greatest number of bites, although threadfin herring also work well. He reports most hookups are falling are 80-120 pounds, with larger fish occasionally mixed in.

Moving to the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle’s clients are catching numerous spotted seatrout. On deeper grass flats, Girle is free-lining live shiners to attract a bite. He’s not only attracting trout, but also mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish.

On calm days, Girle is venturing offshore, where mangrove snapper and catch-and-release gag grouper are dominating the bite. In this situation, bottom fishing with live shiners for bait is optimum.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is taking advantage of the less crowded backwater fishing now that so many anglers are fishing for tarpon in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

He’s finding catch-and-release snook fishing on shallow flats adjacent to mangrove edges to be exceptional. Live shiners cast under the bushes are readily being taken by snook in the 20-30 inch range. Hookups with 25-50 snook are not uncommon aboard the Fishy Business.

On deep grass flats with depths of 8-10 feet, Gross is finding plenty of spotted seatrout. Slot-size trout are voraciously taking free-lined live shiners. This bite is occurring during morning incoming tides. Due to the clear water conditions, Gross recommends leader sizes exceeding no more than 20-pound test.

Finally, redfish are being caught around oyster bars in the backwater on outgoing tides. Live shiners cast around the bars into sandy potholes are producing catches up to 26 inches.

Capt. Jason Stock also is targeting tarpon along the beaches and passes around Anna Maria Island. By using live crabs or threadfin herring, Stock is managing to keep his clients hooked up on silver kings in the 80-100 pound class.

Moving offshore, Stock is finding amberjack and large grouper around wrecks and reefs, where live shiners, pinfish and cigar minnows are producing a bite.

Also while offshore, Stock warns his clients to keep their eyes peeled for whale sharks. Having spotted one recently, he explains how exciting it is to see such a large animal approach the boat. Whale sharks aren’t common here, so this is a rare treat.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says he’s not seeing a predominant species being caught this week, but a variety of fish are keeping rods bent.

Pier fishers using artificials — small jigs or silver spoons — are hooking into Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, ladyfish and skipjacks. These fish are being taken during morning incoming tides, especially when schools of baitfish are present.

Fishers using shrimp for bait are bottom fishing under the pier to find success. Flounder, black drum and mangrove snapper are the usual suspects.

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

Fishing – 05-18-2016

The return of the king — tarpons hook up in local waters


Anna Maria fishing is host to a shiny new arrival this week.

That’s right. The silver kings have returned. Although the quantity of fish is still building, small groups of tarpon are running along the beaches, as well as in the passes from Egmont Key to New Pass.

On Southernaire charters, I’m finding success with tarpon in the 80-120 pound range. Most are being taken on pass crabs, although threadfin herring is bringing a bite, too.

For me, the early morning bite is producing the best action. After 9 a.m., the kings are finicky. As this occurs, I’m migrating up and down the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key to find schools of happy fish. And by happy, I mean undisturbed. These fish tend to bite a better than the ones in the passes that are constantly seeing boats running over them.

On days when non-tarpon anglers are on the boat, I’m working the flats of Anna Maria Sound and southern Tampa Bay for catch-and-release snook. Live shiners are attracting a bite during morning tides from linesiders in the 20-36 inch range. On lower tides, I’m fishing outside edges of the flat. As the tide comes in, we move closer to the bushes where we frequently find snook lounging in the shade.

Other fish producing action this week include spotted seatrout and limits of mangrove snapper. Deeper grass flats where a slight current is present are home to numerous 12-24 inch spotted seatrout. As for the snapper, artificial reefs and rock piles in depths of 20-30 feet are producing limits of fish 12-18 inches.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results. Catch-and-release snook are providing great action for Girle’s clients, who are finding rallies of fish in the 20-30 inch range common when using live shiners as bait. Redfish and spotted seatrout also are being taken on live shiners.

Fishing offshore is still producing good numbers of mangrove snapper for Girle. Dropping live shiners to the bottom around ledges and reefs is resulting in mangoes up to 18 inches in length, as well as numerous gag and red grouper. Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and an occasional cobia are being found by Girle while fishing offshore.

Finally, tarpon are showing for Girle and he’s hot on their trail. Live pass crabs free-lined to cruising fish are being inhaled. Tarpon in the 50-100 pound range are the average.

Capt. Jason Stock is running for big fish offshore, where in depths around 100 feet, he’s putting clients on amberjack in the 20-30 pound range. In shallower depths of 40-60 feet, Stock’s anglers are reeling up limits of mangrove snapper, as well as red grouper and catch-and-release gags. Goliath grouper are present at these depths and Stock likes to hoist a few up next to the boat for a quick photo before the release. Finally, Stock reports permit are being taken on live crabs around wrecks and reefs.

Moving inshore, Stock is on patrol along the beaches and passes in search of tarpon. Tarpon in the 75- to 100-pound range are being hooked on live pass crabs and live threadfins.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a morning mackerel bite when schooling baitfish are present in Tampa Bay Small jigs in pink or white also work to produce a bite. Mixed in with the mackerel are ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are catching mangrove snapper and a few flounder. Live baits such as shiners or pinfish are attracting attention from catch-and-release snook from 20-28 inches.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working the flats of Terra Ceia and Miguel bays for redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. The trio is taking shiners, either free-lined or fished under a Cajun Thunder popping cork. Limits of spotted seatrout are being taken with ease. As for the redfish, a little persistence is paying off. And, Gross says, rallies of catch-and-release snook are occurring during incoming tides around mangrove shorelines.

Mangrove snapper are rounding out the bite for Gross and his anglers. After rallying on the flats, he’s moving out to deeper water, around reefs and wrecks, where he’s finding plenty of snapper in the 12-16 inch range — all taken with live shiners as bait.

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


Fishing – 05-11-2016

Snook — out of season but good catch-and-release sportfish


Snook season has come to an end, but catch-and-release action on linesiders remains better than average.

Many snook ranging 20-26 inches are being caught along mangrove shorelines, especially under the bushes during extreme high tide.

Larger fish are mixed in with this bite, although most slot and over-slot fish seem to be staked out in waters slightly deeper.

Live shiners as bait are producing the most consistent action, although pinfish and Spanish sardines are taking fish.

I’m finding early and late stages of the outgoing tides are producing the greatest number of hookups.

Spotted seatrout are present on deeper grass flats — especially in Sarasota Bay.

Fishing deep grass beds north and south of Long Bar are producing limits of slot fish for determined anglers.

Fishing along the Gulf beaches is proving prosperous for those seeking trout. Just remember, the fish are on the spawn, so let those big females go after you get a picture.

On my client’s adventures with Southernaire Fishing Charters, there’s plenty of catch-and-release snook fishing.

Finding new fish to target adds a challenge to the equation. It seems after you fish the same area for snook for a couple of days, the linesiders become wary of hitting a bait, but this can challenge you to search out a new target.

What’s even better is, while on the search, you might stumble upon a newer, bigger batch of snook.

Since it’s May, I’ve been on the lookout for tarpon, although I haven’t seen large numbers of fish.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge bite seems a little off for this time of year. Also, the dolphins are wreaking havoc on the tarpon fishers, making it challenging to get a bite. There are some small groups of fish along the beach and the same can be said for the flats of Sarasota Bay and southern Tampa Bay.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding success with live bait in south Tampa Bay.

With unusually high tides occurring during morning hours, Gross is finding snook along the mangrove edges. Casting free-lined live shiners under the mangrove branches is producing action on many 26-28-inch snook. Although snook are now catch-and-release, Gross’ clients are smiling ear to ear after finishing up a rally of snook.

When looking for fish worthy of taking home for dinner, Gross is targeting redfish. These reds are inhabiting the same areas as the snook and, typically, redfish bites occur while targeting snook. Again, free-lined live shiners are the bait of choice. Slot-size reds are finding their way to the cooler to later be filleted.

Finally, spotted seatrout are rounding out the day for Gross. Deeper grass beds in 4-6 feet of water are producing numbers of slot-size trout. Limits are attainable with a little persistence and changing location.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore structure when the winds are light and the seas calm. On these occasions, Lowman is finding the reef fishing to be bountiful. Limits of mangrove snapper are being reeled up, as well as catch-and-release gag grouper. King and Spanish mackerel also are present around the reefs, which makes for some great light tackle action.

Moving inshore, Lowman is finding redfish around docks and in the canals and along seawalls. Casting live shiners under docks is producing slot-size reds, as well as a few flounder. Determination is key as some docks may only be holding a couple of reds.

Capt. Warren Girle is working offshore when the weather and winds permit. In depths of 40-50 feet of water, Girle is finding a variety of species, including mangrove snapper, catch-and-release gag grouper, kingfish and cobia. All of these species are being taken on live shiners or pinfish. Limits of mangrove snapper are being caught daily, which makes them the most prevalent on the reefs.

Moving inshore, Girle is finding snook, redfish and trout in Sarasota Bay. Catch-and-release snook are being accommodating with some rallies producing more than 20 fish. The same applies for the trout. Limits of these tasty fish are being found in 6-8 feet of water on the grass flats. Mixed in with the trout are Spanish mackerel and ladyfish. And, as for the reds, let’s say they’re being caught here and there. Occasionally, Girle is working schooling fish, but most are spread out in groups of 2-3 fish.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results on a variety of species. Fishing around artificial reefs is producing good numbers of mangrove snapper and catch-and-release gag grouper for Stock’s anglers. King and Spanish mackerel are coming to the boat, as well as a cobia or two. Live shiners for bait are producing the bite.

Stock also is targeting black fin tuna on days when he can get out to depths of 60-70 feet. By using a Sabiki rig to catch live sardines, Stock is managing to fill his bait well. Once the black fins are spotted breaching the surface, Stock has his clients casting baits, where black fins in the 20-pound range are the average.

            Send your fishing report and photos to news@islander.org.