Temperatures, fishing action heating up
Fishing around Anna Maria Island is definitely heating up as the balmy spring mornings fade and progress toward summer and its long hot days.
Whether fishing the flats or venturing out into the Gulf of Mexico, you can rest assured there is action ahead.
On my Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m taking advantage of light easterly winds, which allows my clients to cast into calm seas. Fishing nearshore structure for mangrove snapper is proving prosperous. Mangrove snapper up to 20 inches are readily taking live shiners dropped to the bottom on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig. While targeting snapper, we’re also reeling up a lot of juvenile grouper, as well as cobia, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel.
Moving inshore, the flats fishing is nothing short of outstanding. Spotted seatrout are plentiful on deeper flats. Free-lined live shiners over the grass are producing trout in the slot and some over the slot.
And you’ve got a few more days to get a slot-sized snook in the cooler before this fishery closes May 1. It remains closed through Aug. 31.
Fishing the shallower water along mangrove shorelines is producing respectable numbers of snook. Most catches are just under 28 inches, although we did manage to put the landing net under a few keepers.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working in the bays, fishing for spotted seatrout, redfish and snook. Throughout the waters of Miguel Bay south to Sarasota Bay, Gross is finding excellent action on live bait. Live shiners, the bait of choice, are producing strikes, especially during morning tides. Rallies of spotted seatrout are being found on deeper grass flats on the incoming tides. As for the redfish and snook, the peak of the high and beginning stages of the outgoing tides are producing the best action. Keeper-sizes of all three species are being caught.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure in search of mangrove snapper — and he doesn’t take much effort to find the target. Limits of mangoes 15-20 inches are being reeled up — fast — to the boat. This is usually occurring just after the anchor has been dropped. Live shiners combined with a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are the winning combo to limits of these tasty snapper.
While targeting snapper, Girle also is finding gag grouper. Although they have to be released, Girle’s clients are reeling up gags in the 12-pound range and an occasional kingfish or cobia.
Moving inshore, Girle is finding the trout bite in Sarasota Bay to be most enjoyable. Live, free-lined shiners or shiners under a popping cork are readily being devoured by spotted seatrout. Trout in the 15-20-inch range are the norm, as are a variety of other species, including bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.
Capt. Aaron Lowman also is finding good numbers of spotted seatrout showing up on the bay flats. Deeper grass flats are producing respectable numbers of schooley-sized fish in the 12-18-inch range, while shallower grass is home to the larger gator trout, which tend to be solitary or in pairs. Live shiners under a popping cork are producing this bite for Lowman’s anglers.
Dock fishing around Anna Maria Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway is resulting in redfish and flounder in Lowman’s cooler. Live shiners or pinfish cast around the pilings of docks are attracting the attention of both reds and flounder in the keeper-size range.
Finally, snook fishing is proving productive for Lowman. Live, free-lined shiners over shallow grass flats are producing plenty of schooley-sized fish with a few slot-size linesiders in the mix.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says aside from Spanish mackerel being caught, most anglers are thinking more about what they’ll catch than actually hooking up. Pier fishers using small bubble gum colored jigs are finding good action on Spanish mackerel during the hours just after sunrise until about 10 a.m. A long cast and a quick retrieve of these small jigs is achieving the bite at the pier.
Pier fishers determined to catch a snook are finding some luck on live bait — shiners and pinfish. Most snook catches are in the 20-26-inch range. Larger fish are present, but too smart to take the bait, according to Malfese.
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