Tag Archives: fishing

Winds, slight temp drop can’t stop steady fishing action

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Ashley Meimzer shows off a 21-inch trout she caught between snook bites while on a fishing trip April 4 with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.

With the winds blowing up to 25 mph for what seems like an eternity, fishing around Anna Maria Island is maintaining a steady bite for the determined angler or those who just don’t know better.

Spotted seatrout are being found in respectable numbers throughout the flats of Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay. Free-lining live shiners or adding a popping cork to the rig is resulting in many fish 15-18 inches as well as a few over 20 inches.

Snook fishing is producing good action. On my Southernaire charters, we are finding plenty of snook to keep everyone busy. I’m also noticing more slot fish being caught than normal. Most catches are 20-26 inches, although fish up to 32 inches are in the mix.

Lastly, while targeting snook on shallow flats, I’m finding quite a few redfish — most ranging 16-20 inches. Larger “bull” reds are being caught around residential docks.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working the flats for “gator” trout. These large trout — most exceed 20 inches — can be found lurking on deeper grass flats and in deep canals. By chumming the waters with live shiners and then casting a shiner under a popping cork, White is putting anglers onto these trout.

Snook fishing is providing good action for White’s clients. Many fish 20-26 inches are being caught on free-lined live shiners. Slot fish falling between 28-33 inches also are more frequent, according to White.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing sheepshead being reeled up to the deck, although the bite is not as aggressive as in past weeks. With the waters in Tampa Bay warming, the sheepies are dispersing. Pier fishers using live shrimp to target these convict fish also are hooking into over-slot redfish, flounder and an occasional snook.

Casting small jigs or silver spoons around the pier is resulting in bites from Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. Large schools of glass minnows are gathering around the pier, which are a favorite food of the mackerel. Try to use small jigs or spoons to mimic this small slender baitfish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing the flats of Anna Maria Sound for spotted seatrout. Keeper-size trout are being found on the edges of flats adjacent to channels or sandy potholes. For the over-slot trout, Lowman is fishing very shallow flats against mangrove shorelines. Live shiners under a cork are working for both scenarios.

Snook fishing is quite good for Lowman, as rallies of schooley-sized fish — 20-24 inches — are keeping his clients’ rods bent. Mixed in with the snook are an occasional redfish.

Capt. Warren Girle is flats fishing in Sarasota Bay. Spotted seatrout, bluefish and jack crevalle are abundant on the flats where the depths run 3-5 feet. Live shiners under a popping cork are producing. Also, lead head jigs combined with a soft plastic will do the trick.

Fishing shallow flats in water of 3 feet or less is resulting in snook and redfish for Girle’s anglers. He’s finding numerous schools of snook along mangrove shorelines in areas sheltered from the wind. And the same areas are holding redfish, although most redfish catches are running over the slot of 27 inches and must be released.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore when the winds are light and seas reasonably calm. Permit up to 40 pounds are being caught and released around wrecks and reefs out 7-15 miles. Live pass crabs are Stock’s bait of choice, although jigs are working, too.

Moving inshore to avoid the wind, Stock is flats fishing for snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. According to Stock, the snook and trout are the dominant bite with an occasional redfish in the mix.

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

Fishing – 04-05-2017

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Kevin Karrip of Fremont, Michigan, shows off the whopper 33-inch redfish he caught on a March 30 charter with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Taylor Knuth shows off the oversized redfish she caught and released March 30 while fishing inshore in Sarasota Bay with Capt. Warren Girle. Taylor is from Michigan and makes Anna Maria her annual spring break getaway.

Spring fishing results in rallies all around

 

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is finally exceptional.

Whether fishing inshore for snook, reds and trout or venturing offshore for permit and kingfish, anglers are returning to the dock with smiles on their faces and plenty of bragging rights.

Fishing the flats for snook is wide-open. Free-lining live shiners is resulting in rallies of fish. Chumming is helpful, although not necessary, as there are so many snook. With the water clarity being comparable to drinking water, light fluorocarbon leader and smaller hooks are a must.

On my charters with Southernaire, I’m finding success with 20-pound leaders and size-1 Owner hooks. This will suffice for catching schooley-size fish ranging 20-26 inches. When expecting to encounter slot or over-slot fish, I’m using at least 30-pound and sometimes even 40-pound leader.

Spotted seatrout have invaded the local flats from Miguel Bay south to Sarasota Bay. From up in the tower, I’m peering into sandy potholes and seeing amazing numbers of these famous flats-dwelling fish. Free-lined shiners cast into these potholes are resulting in many slot-size trout of 15-20 inches, as well as quite a few measuring 24-26 inches.

Also, dock fishing for redfish is exciting my clients.    Casting large shiners, pinfish and even cigar minnows under docks is resulting in redfish up to 33 inches. In these areas, I’m using heavier leaders, up to 40-pound test, due to the barnacle-crusted pilings.

Ultimately, even with 40-pound leader, you’re still taking a chance. The razor sharp barnacles will cut your leader like butter if the fish runs around the piling. If nothing else, the heavier leader gives the angler a little more confidence when trying to pull big fish out from under the dock.

Capt. Warren Girle is working offshore around artificial reefs, ledges and hard bottom. By using live shiners, Girle is putting charter anglers on an array of species, including king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, mangrove snapper and juvenile red and gag grouper. For the macks and cobia, free-lined baits are working well. As for the snappers and groupers, a bottom rig will suffice.

On the flats, Girle is finding loads of snook and spotted seatrout willing to take a bait. Live free-lined shiners or shiners under a popping cork are producing a bite for slot and over-slot trout. As for the snook, many fish 20-26 inches are being reeled up with an occasional slot fish between 28-37 inches.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing offshore with good results. Cobia and kingfish are making a showing around reefs and wrecks. Chumming with live shiners is attracting these fish to within casting range. Large baits on a longshank hook are producing a bite, and kings in the 30-pound range are being taken.

Inshore, White is concentrating on snook fishing, where his anglers cast live shiners into potholes and around docks on low tides to yield action. On the higher tides, casting baits on the mangrove edges is resulting in a bite.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore within 5 miles of the beaches for Spanish and king mackerel. Targeting large schools of “fry” bait is key to finding these toothy migratory fish. Also, while fishing nearshore, Lowman is using live shrimp to target hogfish, grunts and porgies.

Moving inshore, Lowman is putting clients on their share of snook and spotted seatrout. For the snook, targeting them on a strong tide is producing the best action. As for the trout, sandy potholes and shallow grass flats during incoming tides are best.

Capt. Jason Stock is running nearshore and offshore to structures for permit. By free-lining live pass crabs around wrecks and reefs, Stock is hooking his clients into fish up to 30 pounds. Also, while offshore, catch-and-release amberjack are available as well as mangrove snapper and cobia.

Moving inshore, Stock is in pursuit of snook and redfish. Slot-size fish are being caught on live shiners as bait. Grass flats where good tidal flow exists combined with mangroves or oyster bars are the key places to hunt either species, according to Stock.

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

Spring fishing action, temps on the rise

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Mathew Adler, grandmother Addy Rosenberg, mom Julie Adler and sister Jamie Adler show of their catch from a day of fishing with Capt. Warren Girle in Sarasota Bay. The Adlers came from Illinois to Longboat Key for spring break and found success in spite of windy conditions, catching their share of redfish and spotted seatrout.
Mike Schaffer of Miami shows off a slot-sized snook he hooked into along a mangrove shoreline using a live white bait while fishing with Capt. Aaron Lowman.
Ike Lovelass, visiting from Syracuse, New York, shows off his catch, the king of the beach, a smoker kingfish caught March 22 using sardines for bait in about 40 feet of water offshore of Anna Maria Island. His party also caught grouper and snapper on a charter trip with Capt. Larry McGuire.

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.

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

Fishing remains hot, even with cold weather

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Carson Smith of Roseville, Indiana, and Ed Ryan of Nashville, Indiana, share the results of their double hookup on their first casts. The pair were on a March 16 guided fishing trip with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire charters. The two redfish were hooked on live shrimp.
Carson Smith of Roseville, Indiana, and Ed Ryan of Nashville, Indiana, share the results of their double hookup on their first casts. The pair were on a March 16 guided fishing trip with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire charters. The two redfish were hooked on live shrimp.
John Muench of Prior Lake, Minnesota, proudly shows off his catch of a lifetime. Muench was wade-fishing on the bayside of Coquina Beach March 10 when this 38-inch linesider tried to inhale a small grouper that had already taken the bait on Muench’s hook. After a few photos for proof of the monster catch, the snook was released. Islander Courtesy Photo
Robin Carlstein, a recent transplant from South Africa to Longboat Key, caught two snook March 13 measuring 40 and 42 inches on shiners less than an hour apart. Both fish were released. Carlstein was guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

With March upon us, spring-break visitors from far and wide are coming to enjoy our sleepy little island.

Most visitors are here to escape the cold of the north with hopes of enjoying some warm Florida sun and beaches and take in a day of fishing. Despite a recent string of cold days, the spring breakers endure.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is shaping up to its full springtime potential. Flats-fishing for snook is previewing what likely will be a stellar season. Rallies of snook are not uncommon when free-lining shiners around mangrove shorelines and lush grass flats.

Also on the grass flats, spotted seatrout are making their presence known. Live shrimp or shiners under a popping cork are being inhaled by hungry trout. Meanwhile, be ready to encounter bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle between trout bites. These fish may not be dinner fare like trout, but they provide much better action on light tackle.

During the cold front, fishing remained good as long as you were willing to change your tactics. I relied on my wintertime pattern of targeting sheepshead, redfish and black drum around residential docks and canals. By using live shrimp as bait, I was able to find action during even the coldest mornings. Although dock fishing may not be the most glamourous of backwater fishing, it provides action for my clients and puts fish in their cooler for dinner.

With temperatures back to normal March levels, it’s time to start stalking the backwater flats again. Snook, redfish and spotted seatrout will be on the feed and targetable for weeks to come. It’s also about time to start checking nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. Keep your eyes peeled for cobia, kingfish and Spanish mackerel, which will be around the reefs.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is catching slot and over-slot spotted seatrout. Working in areas where deep sandy potholes or channel edges combined with a grass bottom is producing the most fish. A live shiner under a popping cork is Lowman’s claim to fame on the trout.

Redfish and snook are being found along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars, where live, free-lined shiners are the bait of choice. Fishing during the stages of the higher tides is resulting in the best catches.

Fishing during the cold front was providing action despite strong winds and unseasonable temperatures by maneuvering around docks and seawalls. The result: Redfish and sheepshead, and live shrimp was the bait.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters, prior to the cold snap was fishing for Spanish mackerel in areas where hard bottom exists. Live shiners, free-lined on a 4/0 gold Aberdeen hook are attracting attention from mackerel in the 4-pound range.

Moving onto the flats, Gross is finding spotted seatrout ranging 16-18 inches. Bouncing from one sandy pothole to the next and casting free-lined live shiners is resulting in hookups. Snook and redfish are present on the flats. Again, free-lined shiners are the bait of choice.

Lastly, the cold front resulted in plenty of sheepshead. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay with live shrimp produced a bite for Fishy Business anglers.

Capt. Jason Stock is working the flats, where live shrimp and shiners are working on spotted seatrout, redfish and even a couple of snook.

Once the winds lay down and the sea flattens, Stock predicts the offshore bite will be exceptional. Amberjack, kingfish, cobia and mangrove snapper are all on the menu in the weeks to come.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters says fishing before the front produced many catches of snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. Morning incoming tides brought the best snook action, as well as a good redfish bite. For the spotted seatrout, fishing deeper grass flats with live shiners was producing action for his clients. Mixed in with the trout bite were jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish.

During the cold front, White fished rocks and docks for sheepshead and redfish. Live shrimp cast in these areas is producing a bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore structure with good results on mangrove snapper. Live shrimp or shiners fished on a bottom rig are resulting in snapper up to 18 inches. Mixed in with the snapper bite are grouper, hogfish and white grunts.

On days with too much wind, Girle is hanging out on the flats of Sarasota Bay, where spotted seatrout and snook are providing action for Girle and his clients. He reports there’s plenty of schooley snook being hooked, as well as numerous slot-size trout.

During the coolest of days, Girle used live shrimp to entice redfish, black drum and sheepshead to the hook in the protected areas of docks, canals and seawalls.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing good numbers of sheepshead being reeled up. Fish 1-3 pounds are being taken with shrimp or fiddler crabs as bait. Mixed in with the sheepies are an occasional black drum, redfish and flounder.

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

Warm weather produces early spring bounty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing – 03-08-2017

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

The common snook — a common hookup for area anglers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing action improves with early spring-like conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February provides better-than-average fishing

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

The fishing is beautiful.

Wish you were here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sheepshead season in early stages, savy anglers hook up

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

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains consistent. Consistently good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mild temps result in uptick on catches of convicts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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