Persistence, faith and a little luck key to hooking up
With winds persistently blowing 10-20 mph for what seems like an eternity, fishing around Anna Maria Island still manages to put smiles on the faces of fishers — especially the visiting anglers.
Whether fishing the flats in the local bays and Intracoastal Waterway or in the Gulf of Mexico, a bite exists. Other factors, such as red tide, exist, but the bite endures.
Persistence, faith in your angling skills and a little luck all play a role in your angling experience. I’m finding many instances where I’m catching rallies of fish in an area only to discover there’s no bite the next day in the same spot. This tells me the fish are on the move. That famous line always comes to me — you should have been here yesterday. Well, that’s where the persistence pays off. Keep looking.
Then there are days when the fish are present but it’s as if they’re laughing at me — they won’t bite. Then, suddenly, they turn on. Maybe a change in tide, the wind laying down or even a pressure change triggers this. This is where the faith in angling skills comes into play. You know you’re fishing correctly, but the fish determine the outcome.
Lastly, a little good old-fashioned luck is welcome. I don’t know how many times the bite has been tough and toward the end of the trip, clients hook a trophy fish or the species they hoped to catch. That’s when the captain can climb down from the tower, knowing he or she can show face proudly.
Ultimately, fishing is good. I’m fishing in areas where mangroves are sheltering me from the wind. Rallies of schooley snook are occurring during morning incoming tides. Chumming with live shiners is helping the bite. Seeing and hearing snook boiling on chummers is music to my ears. And on recent trips, it’s been like a symphony. Keeper-size snook are hard to come by, but lucky anglers are getting one here and there.
Around structure in Tampa Bay and out in the Gulf, I’m finding good action on Spanish mackerel. These macks are big, too, with some measuring 26 inches to the fork. Long shank hooks combined with medium- to small-size shiners are being sliced and diced by the razor-sharp teeth of the mackerel. Rod-bending, drag-screaming runs bring clients an air of excitement on these high-speed fish.
Lastly, there’s a pile of buoys out there marking the traps that catch the tastiest of crabs — the stone crab. It’s time to visit the Cortez markets for a few pounds of claws and a feast.
Capt. Jason Stock is working near- and offshore in search of big game. With a sudden drop in water temperatures, kingfish, amberjack and even sailfish are making a showing just off the coast.
According to Stock, there is an abundance of bait offshore — ballyhoo, threadfin herring and blue runners — attracting predators. Kingfish in the 20-pound range are being taken by free-lining live shiners or by slow-trolling larger baits such as a blue runner. The same procedure applies for amberjack.
The highlight of the week for Stock occurred while trolling just offshore. According to Stock, the kingfish bite was consistent. Seas were ranging 2-3 feet, favorable for hunting kingfish, when Stock hooked a sailfish of 80-100 pounds. When the fish hit, Stock says he was pretty sure it was too big to be a king. The thought of it being a shark crossed his mind. Then the fish broke water, confirming a sailfish on the line. After a lengthy battle, Stock persuaded the fish to the side of the boat where it could be dehooked, posed for a quick picture and released.
Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore when winds are light for kingfish, macks and mangrove snapper. For the kings and macks, Girle is anchoring around structure and chumming live shiners to get the fish on the surface. Once the frenzy begins, Girle is casting free-lined live shiners on long shank hooks into the feeding fish. For the snapper, knocker rigs baited with small live shiners and sent to the bottom are producing a bite.
Moving inshore, Girle is catching “tournament” redfish on the flats during the beginnings of the outgoing tide. “Tournament” redfish measures close to the 27-inch maximum size. This term also boasts that the fish is most likely a fat one —worthy of a contender.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is reporting a variety of species coming to the hook. Despite a string of windy days, pier fishers are reeling up small redfish, black drum, mangrove snapper and a few sheepshead. Live shrimp is the bait of choice. A shrimp and a bottom rig cast under the pier will attract a bite.
Spanish mackerel and ladyfish are being taken by pier anglers casting small jigs. Other species being caught on the jig include jack crevalle, blue runners and even a permit. Favorite colors of the jigs include white, chartreuse and hot pink.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting snook throughout the waters surrounding the island. Whether working flats, mangrove islands, oyster bars or docks, snook are turning up. According to Lowman, “plenty of live chum makes snook fishing more productive.”
Lowman is pitching handfuls of live shiners into a prospective area, which gets the snook in a feeding mood and tricks them into giving up their location by breaking the water to feed. Fishing in this manner is resulting in many schooley-size snook, as well as a few breeders.
Macks are making a showing along the beaches of and Lowman is cashing in here, too. Schools are being found around nearshore structure and where bait schools are present and macks in the 22-inch range are taking the bait combined with a long shank hook seconds after the cast.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is catching numerous snook along the shorelines south of the Sunshine State Skyway Bridge to the mouth of the Manatee River. Schooley-sized snook up to 26 inches are being caught with regularity on shallow grass flats where clean water exists. Some slot-size fish are being found as well, but the bite improves in slightly deeper areas, farther from the masses of smaller snook.
Spotted seatrout are being caught as they take up residence in the Manatee River. Rallies of slot fish are being caught some days, while other days are producing a lot of 14-inchers. Small live shiners under a cork or free-lined are the top producers as bait.
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