Clear water results in great fishing action for AMI anglers
Our local waters are beginning to clear up and the fishing is clearly improving.
Fishing along the beaches and out to the inshore reefs is proving to be good for a number of species, including mangrove snapper, flounder and Spanish mackerel. The waters along the beaches once again are very clear, so it can pay off to pay attention to leader sizes. I’m finding that 20-pound test fluorocarbon is working fine. If you’re free-lining baits to mangrove snapper, you may want to scale down to 15-pound test fluorocarbon to really get the bite going.
On the flats, snook and redfish are proving to be a popular attraction. Many juvenile snook are present over shallow flats where strong tidal flow exists. Free-lined live shiners are the bait of choice. While most of these fish are under-slot, they provide good action on light spinning tackle. As for the redfish, I’m finding them a little spread out. Fishing mangrove edges and oyster bars is resulting in a few hookups on reds, but I’ve yet to see any rallies like we saw before Hurricane Hermine passed by in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ultimately, I think the best bite for me is from flounder. I’m having numerous days of clients catching up to a dozen flounder, and a lot of these fish are 18-22 inches. While these fish may not be the most sporty of catches, what they lack in stamina they make up for on the dinner plate. I’m definitely a fan of catch-and-release fishing, but I have to admit that if I catch a keeper flounder, it’s headed for fillet and fry.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing inshore this week, where as a result of large schools of baitfish congregating along the beaches and in the bays, he’s finding great action for snook, redfish and trout.
For the snook, Lowman is targeting areas where mangrove edges and/or oyster bars are present in conjunction with strong tidal flow, where redfish can be found. Live shiners combined with some 25-pound fluorocarbon for leader and a 3/0 circle hook are proving successful for Lowman’s clients.
For the trout, Lowman is working slightly deeper areas where clear water and sandy potholes exist. Casting free-lined live shiners to the edges of the potholes, where grass and sand meet, is attracting a bite. While targeting the trout, Lowman is finding ladyfish, jack crevalle and an occasional flounder are cooperating.
Capt. Warren Girle is wetting his lines over nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. Live shiners fished on a bottom rig around the artificial reefs and wrecks are resulting in mangrove snapper up to 16 inches. Mixed in with the snapper bite are Key West grunts, juvenile grouper and a few flounder. Casting free-lined baits in these same areas is resulting in Spanish mackerel in the 15- to 20-inch range for Girle’s clients.
Moving inshore, Girle is working the shallow flats in Sarasota Bay for snook and redfish. Both are being found in depths of 2-3 feet in areas with sandy potholes and depressions. Free-lined live shiners or shiners under a popping cork are attracting attention from fish on the feed.
Lastly, spotted seatrout are being caught with some regularity. Grass flats where depths are 5-7 feet are holding fish. Live shiners free-lined in these areas are proving to be the bait of choice. Expect to also encounter jack crevalle, ladyfish and macks while targeting the trout bite.
Capt. Rick Gross also is working the flats for snook and redfish. Both species, although somewhat elusive, seem to be finding their way onto the Fishy Business boat. Areas where tidal flow is present along with other features, such as turtle grass, mangrove edges and oyster bars, are Gross’ go-to spots to start the day’s fishing. Slot sizes of snook and redfish are being caught.
Fishing nearshore and inshore structure also is providing action for Gross. Mangrove snapper, flounder and imperial snapper are being taken on live shiners. You also can expect to see macks, ladyfish and blue runners.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is excited to see the arrival of redfish. Anglers using select shrimp or pinfish as bait are hooking into an occasional redfish at the pier with most catches over the maximum 27 inches. While targeting reds, pier fishers are catching black drum and a few mangrove snapper.
Snook are another favorite at the R&R this week. With snook season open, Malfese says local fishers are “coming out of the woodwork” to try their luck at the pier. And with the slot falling between 28-33 inches for a keeper, you better believe a little luck is needed. Live shiners, pinfish and jumbo shrimp are coveted baits at the pier, although live ladyfish and finger mullet are working, too.
Capt. Jason Stock is running offshore for mangrove snapper and gag grouper. Ledges, wrecks and reefs are his stalking grounds. Live shiners or pinfish combined with a weighted rig and dropped to the bottom are quickly being eaten by hungry snapper and gags. Limits of snapper are attainable with most catches falling between 15-20 inches.
Permit are coming to the boat for Stock while wreck fishing with live, free-lined pass crabs. He’s seeing permit catches up to 15 pounds for his clients.
Capt. David White of Great White Charters is working inshore for redfish, where the bite has picked up as a result of cooler water temps and an occasional front moving through. To hook up with the reds, White is dock fishing or plying the flats for schools of reds. For bait, he likes using pinfish under the docks. On the flats, he prefers a shiner under a popping cork.
Snook fishing also is heating up for White. Fishing deeper potholes in the bay during the low tides and up against the mangroves during high tides is proving prosperous. Shiners are his bait of choice, although top-water plugs, such as the Top Dog Jr. from MirrOlure, will get you connected.
Finally, mangrove snapper are being taken from local reefs and wrecks. Live shiners free-lined in a chum slick are proving most productive for White.
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Spearfishers set to compete
The fifth annual Suncoast Spearfishing Challenge will get underway Friday, Sept. 23, and continue through Sunday, Sept. 25, challenging participants in a variety of categories.
The weekend-long underwater hunt is being hosted by the Seafood Shack Marina Bar and Grill, 4110 127th St., Cortez, and is presented by Scuba Quest and Salt Life Optics. As in 2015, Operation Second Chance, a nonprofit comprised of citizens committed to serving wounded, injured and ill combat veterans, will be receiving proceeds from the tournament.
Entry is free for all active military personnel, fire, EMS and anyone in law enforcement.
Prizes and trophies will be awarded to the top overall competitors as well as the top three female, free dive and junior divers.
Cash awards will be presented to the top three overall boats and several fish categories, including largest lionfish.
Final registration for the tournament will be 6-8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, in the Neptune Room at the restaurant, with the captain’s meeting and mandatory diver check-in at 8:30 p.m.
Tournament weigh-in begins at 11 a.m. Sept. 25 at the marina.
For rules and entry forms, visit www.suncoastspearfishingchallenge.com. For more information, call tournament director Capt. Chris Barton at 941-405-9689.