Fishing around Anna Maria Island is shaping up again after a quick, passing cold front —hopefully the last cold weather as we greet spring.
We’re seeing water temps are on a steady rise and the fishing results, too.
Respectable numbers of snook are taking up residence on grass flats awaiting the large bait schools coming from offshore. Spotted seatrout are following suit, staging in areas where currents combine with deep grass flats adjacent to channels and troughs. Along the beaches, Spanish mackerel are free-jumping through schools of glass minnows and, just offshore, king mackerel are sky-rocketing from the emerald green waters.
On my own charters with Southernaire, I’m finding snook lurking in the mangrove-lined shores of spoil islands, as well as around sand bars and oyster bars. Live, free-lined shiners are working well for “less experienced fish” — the smaller ones. As for the slot-size snook, my anglers are getting a bite here and there.
Spotted seatrout are beginning to really turn on as the water temps rise. Many slot-size fish are finding their way into the boat, as well as some fish over 20 inches. Most of the 20-plus inch trout I’m catching are being found on shallow flats where the depth is less than 3 feet. As for the slot-size fish, deep grass flats where sandy potholes exist are prime hunting grounds.
Lastly, dock fishing for redfish is proving effective. Live shrimp on a knocker rig are producing bites from reds 20-26 inches. Also around docks, I’m finding black drum, mangrove snapper and flounder.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is finding great action while fishing the flats of Tampa Bay south to Sarasota. Spotted seatrout are making their way onto the flats with many slot-size fish coming to the boat, as well as some over-slot fighters for lucky anglers. Snook fishing is really heating up, with many fish 20-26 inches being hooked.
Gross also is targeting Spanish mackerel in Tampa Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway, where fish 15-20 inches are the norm. Long shank hooks combined with free-lined live shiners are attracting fish for his clients.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting snook on shallow grass flats where sandy potholes exist. Free-lined live shiners are being taken by 22-26 inch snook. Lowman reports slot-size fish are being caught in the same areas.
Spotted seatrout also are coming to the boat for Lowman’s anglers. Deep grass flats in 5-6 feet of water along channel edges are prime spots to target these fish, and live shiners under a popping cork are providing plenty of action.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is putting his anglers on red grouper in waters depths of 80-100 feet where there’s a hard bottom. Live bait, such as pinfish and shiners, are attracting attention from the bottom-dwelling fish. While working offshore, White is finding amberjack, kingfish and barracuda around the reefs and springs.
On colder days, White is targeting sheepshead around rocks and docks. Live shrimp as bait is resulting in sheepies up to 8 pounds. Black drum, redfish and flounder are being taken in these same areas.
Capt. Jason Stock is running charter fishers offshore for a variety of species. Although amberjack is out of season, catch-and-release action is keeping Stock’s clients with sore arms and great memories of a strong fighting hookup. Kingfish are in the mix and are being taken on slow-trolled threadfin herring.
When it’s time for table fare, Stock is bottom-fishing for red grouper and mangrove snapper. Both species are being taken on live baits — pinfish and shiners.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing plenty of sheepshead coming to the deck. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas are top baits for these zebra-striped fish. While targeting sheepies, anglers also are hooking into black drum, redfish, mangrove snapper and an occasional flounder.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the deeper grass flats in Sarasota Bay and surrounding areas, which is providing action for Girle’s anglers. By drifting and jigging, he is coming up with a variety of species for his clients to enjoy. Pompano, the targeted species, is being caught with some regularity. Mixed in with the pomps, anglers are attracting spotted seatrout, bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle.
Offshore, Girle’s clients are enjoying catches of mangrove snapper, juvenile red and gag grouper, grunts and porgies.
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