Tag Archives: fishing

Fishing – 04-27-2016

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.

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

Fishing – 04-20-2016

Why can’t April angling last all year?

 

April fishing is shaping up for anglers working the waters around Anna Maria Island. With calm winds, clear waters and the arrival of baitfish both in the Gulf and in Tampa Bay, fishing is nothing less than outstanding.

Now’s the time — drop everything, get out and fish.

On my recent Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’ve been taking advantage of the stellar conditions and trying to fish as much as time allows. Whether working the flats, targeting snook and spotted seatrout or out in the Gulf of Mexico reeling up mangrove snapper around the reefs, I just can’t stay away.

On the flats I’m finding plenty of spotted seatrout, especially during morning tides. Slot and over-slot fish are so abundant that limits of fish are attainable for even the most inexperienced angler. Free-lined shiners, cast out over deep grass flats are producing many 15-18 inch trout. Fishing shallower flats is producing large, breeder trout of up to 26 inches.

Snook also are being found in respectable numbers. Mangrove shorelines where turtle grass and sandy potholes are present are holding many schooley-sized linesiders. These rallies of snook are great adversaries for visiting anglers looking to bend a rod and hear the drag peel out. Larger, keeper-size snook are being found in the same areas, but are spread out and scarcer. Plus, they’re smart, too. This helps make the snook bite more challenging.

Out in the Gulf of Mexico, I’m finding a variety of species. Fishing nearshore structure is producing an exceptional bite for mangrove snapper. Live shiners on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are resulting in mangoes up to 20 inches. On light tackle, these feisty snapper really put an angler to the test. Getting these fish away from structure is a jog in itself and then running the catch through a gauntlet of barracuda and jewfish is enough to rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned anglers.

While targeting snapper, we are reeling up mackerel, cobia, juvenile grouper, jack crevalle, blue runners and the occasional flounder. What a great variety to catch in a morning of fishing.

Finally, I’m still seeing and catching tripletail around the buoys. I don’t think targetable numbers of fish are present, but I’m seeing at least a couple a day while in transit from one spot to another in the Gulf.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore structure now that the winds have laid down. By using live shiners as bait, Lowman is reeling in a variety of species, including Spanish mackerel, bonito, kingfish and mangrove snapper. For the mackerel and bonito, free-lined live shiners on a longshank hook are producing a bite. For the snapper, Lowman is using a knocker rig paired with a lively little shiner dropped directly to the bottom for a hook up.

Moving inshore, Lowman is putting clients on snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. Although he says the bite is slightly “fickle,” he’s still managing to produce enough action to keep his anglers smiling throughout the charter. Keeper-sizes of all three species are being caught, especially the trout, with some fish exceeding 20 inches.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore with good results. By using live shiners as bait, Girle’s clients are rallying on mangrove snapper around the artificial reefs. Limits of fish 2-4 pounds are voraciously taking live bait offerings on a bottom rig. Mixed in with the snapper bite are keeper-size catch-and-release gag grouper, cobia, kingfish and macks.

Moving inshore, Girle’s clients are reeling in their share of spotted seatrout among the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Free-lined shiners or shiners under a popping cork are attracting limits of 15-20 inch trout. Mixed in with the trout bite are ladyfish, jack crevalle and the occasional Spanish mackerel.

Also on the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is putting anglers on redfish and snook. Live shiners free-lined over shallow flats where sandy potholes are present are producing explosive strikes on the surface of the water. Keeper sizes of both fish are being caught, as well as a few over-slot fish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of quality fish being hoisted to the deck, especially during the morning hours, sunrise until 10 a.m. Pier fishers using small jigs are hooking into pompano, jack crevalle and ladyfish. Spanish macks and blue runners are being taken on the same rig.

Pier fishers dropping live shrimp as bait are managing to reel up sheepshead, black drum and flounder. All three species are being caught under the pier and on the sandy bottom around the pilings. Keeper-sizes are being caught with some regularity.

Finally, live shiners or pinfish are attracting attention from juvenile snook, although the numbers of fish present at the pier are minimal compared to what they will be in the weeks to come.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is leading his clients to some sizzling snook action this week. Rallies resulting in catches of 20 snook or more are commonplace in the right conditions. Most catches are falling between 20-26 inches, although some lucky anglers are catching a snook or two in the slot. Shallow grass flats where good tidal flow exists combined with healthy turtle grass are home to these rallying snook.

Redfish are finding their way aboard Gross’ boat “Fishy Business.” Flats containing oyster bars, sandy potholes or both are great haunts for the elusive redfish. To catch them, Gross is quietly approaching his “spots” via trolling motor, which tends to leave the reds in a relaxed mood. Casting live free-lined shiners to these happy, undisturbed reds is producing slot-fish for Gross’ clients.

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

Fishing – 04-13-2016

Inconsistent weather a constant factor for local fishers

 

Inconsistent weather is resulting in a sporadic bite in the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island.

Within four days of fishing I have seen the wind blow in four directions. Adaptability, knowledge of the local waters and persistence are all playing a huge part in being successful on the water.

On my recent fishing trips with Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m having to fish different areas on a daily basis. Not being able to get on a steady pattern can be challenging and frustrating, but I’m still managing to put fish in the cooler for my clients.

Most days are windy, so I’m fishing inshore and close to shorelines or mangrove islands to find shelter and calm water. By doing this, I’m finding respectable numbers of snook and spotted seatrout. Most of the snook I’m catching are 20-26 inches — the norm for most anglers in the area. Slot snook are being caught on occasion, which is a reward for anglers. As for spotted seatrout, many slot and over-slot fish are being caught. I’m seeing trout up to 26 inches, with most in the 18-inch range.

Finally, fishing nearshore structure when winds are blowing out of the east is providing great action, as well as ample amounts of great tasting fish for dinner. Mangrove snapper up to 20 inches are taking lively shiners combined with a 1/2-ounce knocker rig. In the areas I’m catching snapper, I’m seeing some flounder and a few stray Spanish mackerel.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore when the winds and seas are calm. By anchoring in depths of 30-40 feet of water over structure or hard bottom, Girle is catching mangrove snapper and gag grouper. Both species are taking live shiners combined with a knocker rig. Keeper-size mangrove snapper are ranging 15-20 inches. As for the gag grouper, fish up to 15 pounds are being caught and released.

While targeting snapper and grouper, Girle is catching the occasional kingfish and cobia. Both are being caught on free-lined live shiners.

Moving inshore, Girle is catching snook, redfish and trout throughout the flats of Sarasota Bay. Live, free-lined shiners are producing a bite on most days. On days when the bite is slower, Girle is fishing with fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish. This method is resulting in slot and over-slot redfish and snook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing the inshore water surrounding Anna Maria Island. Spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel and bluefish are providing rod-bending action on deeper grass flats. Free-lined shiners are Lowman’s bait of choice. Larger trout are being found on shallow flats where sandy potholes are present. For the fish, Lowman is employing the use of a popping cork along with a live shiner as bait.

Snook are being caught when fishing with Lowman. Live, free-lined shiners cast along mangrove edges and shallow grass flats are producing rallies of fish for Lowman. Schooley-size and slot-size fish are the norm.

Finally, mangrove snapper remain consistent for Lowman. Fishing nearshore structure with live shiners on a knocker rig is producing a bite. Mangoes 14-18 inches are being reeled up with regularity.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says Spanish mackerel are beginning to take a showing. Although the bite is in its early stages, anglers casting small jigs or spoons are managing to catch a few fish each morning. Malfese feels that as the bait schools increase around the pier, so will the mackerel bite.

Pier fishers using shrimp as bait are catching sheepshead, although the bite is about over. Keeper-size sheepies are being reeled up, but the numbers of fish are not comparable to the weeks past. Pier fishers targeting sheepies are reeling up flounder and black drum.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing inshore. Free-lining live shiners over shallow grass flats is producing rallies on snook. Many catch-and-release snook are being caught with slot-size fish mixed in every so often.

Spotted seatrout are being found over flats with water depths of 5-8 feet. Casting free-lined shiners or shiners under a cork is producing a bite. Most trout being caught are in the slot of 15-20 inches, although trout up to 25 inches are not uncommon.

Finally, while targeting trout, Gross is finding decent numbers of flounder. Free-lined shiners that manage to swim towards the bottom of sandy potholes are being devoured by flounder in the 10-20 inch range. Average flounder catches are four-six fish per trip.

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

Fishing – 04-06-2016

Springtime brings increase in boaters, fish to target

 

Springtime fishing is in full swing in the surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island — and so are the springtime boaters. In fact, I can’t remember a spring with as many boats as I’ve seen this year. Even with all the boat traffic, the weather is beautiful and the fish are biting.

For this week’s Southernaire Fishing Charters, my clients were eager to go snook hunting on the grass flats. And with water temps reaching the mid 70s, the snook are on the feed. Live, free-lined shiners are resulting in fish 20-32 inches. Most catches are in the 20-26 inch range, which is typical, although slot-size snook — 28-33 inches — are being caught, too.

On the morning low tides, I’m working the edges of sandbars where the shallow flats make a slight drop to deeper water. As the day goes on, we target mangrove edges right along the shore on afternoon high tides. Both tides are producing excellent action.

Spotted seatrout also are on the menu this week. Numerous trout 18-22 inches are being found in water depths of 2-4 feet. Live free-lined shiners are not lasting long when cast in areas where these big specks are lurking. On morning lows, I’m finding big trout in the same areas I’m catching snook. During afternoon tides, sandy potholes on shallower flats are holding concentrations of fish.

Finally, mangrove snapper are providing great action on nearshore structure. Limits of fish 12-20 inches are a great confidence-builder to start off your day. It seems like the fishing gets a tad bit easier when you’ve got an ample amount of fish in the cooler and this bite should remain steady for weeks to come. Live or fresh-cut dead shiners on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are working just fine.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing pier anglers targeting a variety of species with shrimp as bait. Combining live shrimp with a bottom rig is resulting in sheepshead, black drum and flounder. Most catches are occurring during the hours just after sunrise. Keeper-sizes of all species are being landed.

Pier fishers using small pink or chartreuse speck rigs are finding jack crevalle, ladyfish and even a few mackerel willing to take the bait. Tipping these jigs with a small piece of fresh-cut shrimp also is resulting in pompano for a few anglers.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay for redfish. Afternoon and evening high tides are producing slot-size reds on live shiners. By using his trolling motor for stealth, Girle is quietly patrolling the shallow flats until he comes across schooling reds. Once upon the fish, Girle has his clients cast live shiners to the school to achieve a bite. Most catches are falling within the slot of 18-27 inches.

On these same shallow flats where the redfish are present, Girle is finding good numbers of snook. Sandy potholes amid the grass are great ambush points for snook, which in turn are where Girle directs his baits. Live, free-lined shiners cast into these potholes are resulting in snook measuring 20-30 inches.

Finally, offshore fishing for snapper is proving prosperous for Girle. In depths of 30-50 feet of water, Girle’s anglers are reeling up mangrove snapper in the 12-20 inch range. Live shiners on a knocker rig are producing the best action.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is snapper fishing around artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, where live shiners sent to the bottom on a knocker rig are resulting in hookups of 12-20 inches. Limits of fish are being caught, while some juvenile grouper and flounder are mixing up the action.

Spotted seatrout are being found in abundance by Lowman on deeper grass flats in Anna Maria Sound. Live shiners under a cork are attracting trout 15-18 inches. Along with trout, Lowman’s clients are reeling up Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

Finally, Lowman is putting his anglers on good numbers of snook along the mangrove edges during high tides. By casting free-lined live shiners right up against the mangrove roots, he’s hooking up many 20-24 inch snook. Larger, slot-sized fish are mixed in with the small linesiders.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding some great snook action in southern Tampa Bay. During morning incoming tides, Gross is working on the outside edges of sandbars and grass flats. On these edges, there typically is a small drop off where the snook congregate during low tides, as they stage their move back to the sanctuary of the mangroves. By anchoring and chumming in these areas, Gross is managing to create rallies of fish for his clients. Snook 20-26 inches are most frequent, although keeper or slot-size fish also are present.

Fishing deep grass flats ranging from Miguel Bay to Emerson Point is resulting in limits of spotted seatrout for Gross. Live shiners free-lined or under a popping cork are luring slot and over-slot trout to the hook. Expect to encounter ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle while targeting trout in these areas.

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

 

Fishing – 03-30-2016

No (spring) break for hot fishing action

 

Spring fishing around Anna Maria Island remains outstanding for inshore and nearshore fishers.

Although a late cold front slowed the fish for a few days, water temps are back on the rise and so is the bite.

Snook from 14-40 inches are being spotted from Miguel Bay south to the Ringling Bridge in Sarasota. Spotted seatrout are making a strong showing throughout the Intracoastal Waterway and Sarasota Bay. Also, fishers venturing into the Gulf are being rewarded with limits of respectable-sized inshore mangrove snapper.

On my Southernaire Fishing Charter adventures, I’m centering on the spotted seatrout bite. This bite is consistent, which is a plus when you’re trying to put fish in the cooler for dinner. My clients are enjoying multiple hookups on fish 15-24 inches. Hard hits combined with surface breaching headshakes are keeping the flats fishers coming back for more.

Snook fishing is exceptional, especially during the peak tides and beginning of the outgoing flow. Rallies of fish 20-26 inches are common. Slot-size fish aren’t common, but I’m managing to get one here and there. Free-lined live shiners can’t be beat for bait.

Lastly, fishing structure in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is resulting in some sizzling mangrove snapper action. Fish up to 20 inches are being taken on live shiners sent to the bottom on a knocker rig. Juvenile and keeper-size grouper are lurking in the same areas, adding to the fun.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore structure in both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico for mangrove snapper. Live shiners on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are attracting the attention of mangrove snapper 14-20 inches. Limits of these feisty fish are frequent for Lowman’s clients. Mixed in with the snapper bite are flounder, juvenile grouper and Key West grunts.

Moving inshore, Lowman is having great luck fishing for snook on the flats. Rallies of linesiders are being found during afternoon high tides. Live free-lined shiners are Lowman’s bait of choice. Most catches are 20-30 inches.

Finally, spotted seatrout are providing good action on deeper grass flats. Live shiners under a cork or free-lined are catching trout 14-22 inches.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting spotted seatrout among the lush flats of Terra Ceia Bay. By anchoring on deeper grass flats, which host many sandy potholes, Gross is cashing in on limits of trout. Free-lined live shiners or shiners under a cork are attracting a bite. Most trout catches are falling within the slot of 15-20 inches although fish exceeding 20 inches are not uncommon.

On shallow flats, Gross is putting clients on their share of snook. Respectable numbers of these “large mouth bass on steroids” are finding their way to Gross’ hook via a free-lined live shiner. To target these fish, Gross is working the high tides around mangrove edges, where casting baits under the bushes is resulting in a strike. Schooley-size and slot-size fish are being caught.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing Sarasota Bay with good results. By drifting and jigging, Girle is finding concentrations of pompano over deep grass flats. Small jigs tipped with shrimp are Girle’s bait of choice. By twitching these shrimp tipped jigs along the bottom, Girle’s clients are picking up pompano, as well as jack crevalle, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel.

Moving offshore, Girle is finding limits of mangrove snapper. Snapper 14-20 inches are being reeled up no sooner than the bait has time to reach the bottom. While targeting mangrove snapper, Girle is catching grouper, Key West grunts and porgies.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are still dominating the bite. From the sheer number of sheepies being caught, he says Little Bo Peep needs to take a walk on the Rod & Reel Pier. She’s sure to find her sheep there. Preferred baits for these delectable little barnacle crunchers include live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas. Sheepshead up to 5 pounds are being caught with regularity, but the clock is ticking. Sheepie season is close to being done, so if you haven’t gotten your fix, you’d better act fast.

Other catches occurring at the R&R include black drum and flounder. Both species are being taken on live shrimp. Fishing with a bottom rig is a sure way to keep your bait in the shrike zone.

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

 

Tournament to benefit Mote

      The William R. Mote Memorial Snook Shindig will be Friday-Saturday, April 8-9.

The event, a fundraiser for Mote Marine Laboratory that honors Capt. Scotty Moore, was postponed last fall. Moore, a charter fishing guide based in Holmes Beach, is a research enthusiast and strong advocate of Mote missions.

The Snook Shindig is a “catch, sample and release” fishing tournament that provides recreational and research opportunities. Anglers get to fish. Mote gets their data.

A captain’s meeting will be at 6 p.m. Friday, April 8, at Mote’s WAVE Center, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island in Sarasota.

Fishing in Sarasota Bay will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, April 8, and conclude at noon Saturday, April 9.

An awards banquet will be at 5:30 p.m. April 9 at Mote.

For more information and to register, go online to mote.org/snookshindig or call Mote at 941-388-4441.

Fishing – 03-23-2016

Water warms, bringing changes in tactics, species

 

Water temps are on the rise, welcomed by local fishers and tourists alike. And with these rising water temps come a whole new batch of species and techniques.

The most prominent backwater species making a showing is snook. It’s time to start checking your springtime haunts for snook. I’m seeing good numbers of schooley fish measuring 20-26 inches. Keeper fish are being spotted in respectable numbers, too.

Spotted seatrout are another species coming back to the flats. Deeper grass flats adjacent to channel edges or among sandy potholes hold respectable numbers of these tasty flats species. Most catches are falling in the slot, although decent numbers of over-slot fish are being caught.

Mangrove snapper also is in abundance. These tasty, hard-fighting fish are congregating around nearshore and offshore structure. Live shiners fished on a knocker rig are readily taking fish from the bottom. Average sizes are 15-20 inches.

On my recent charters with Southernaire Fishing Charters, I am celebrating the reemergence of white bait. Currently, the snook bite is on fire and there’s no better way to catch snook than with a free-lined shiner. Watching a snook blast your bait on the water’s surface is an exciting backwater experience, both visibly and audibly. You may not know it, but a seasoned snook fisher can recognize the sound of a snook “pop” without seeing a thing. That sound is unmistakable once your ears are trained.

Most catches I’m seeing are 20-26 inches. Rallies are occurring daily on good moving tides. Keeper-fish are mixed in, although the consistent bite is on the smaller males.

Snook season is closed May, June, July and August, which is spawning time for the species. The closure provides reduced stress to replenish the population.

Mangrove snapper are enjoying my offerings of white bait. Nearshore structure is providing good action on post-spawn snapper. Limits are being reeled up from the depths, with most fish 15-20 inches. Yeah, that’s right — 15-20 inches. These are respectable sizes to catch in water depths of 20-30 feet. And good eating, too. A 1/2-ounce knocker rig with a 2/0 circle hook and some 20-pound fluorocarbon are the tools of the trade.

As spotted seatrout make their way onto the flats, limits of these fish are being caught on live shiners free-lined over deep grass. Strong incoming tides seem to be working best, especially along edges of sandbars where grass is present.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing Sarasota Bay with good results. By drifting and jigging over deep grass flats, Girle is finding great action on pompano. Keeper-size pomps are readily taking small jigs tipped with fresh-cut shrimp. While jigging for pompano, Girle is hooking into ladyfish, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Working deeper grass flats in the bay is producing limits of spotted seatrout for Girle’s clients. Select shrimp rigged under a popping cork are attracting the attention of many slot-size trout, as well as over-slot fish.

Finally fishing offshore is producing limits of mangrove snapper on Girle’s charters. Ledges, hard bottom and artificial reefs are all holding fish. Girle is finding success by dropping live shrimp or fresh-cut shiners to the bottom on a knocker rig. Mixed in with the snapper are gag and red grouper, as well as a few hogfish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the flats of Anna Maria Island, by free-lining live shiners along mangrove edges and in sandy potholes throughout the flats. He’s finding ample amounts of snook, with most catches 20-26 inches, although the occasional slot fish is being reeled to the boat for a celebratory dinner.

On deeper flats in the sound, Lowman is keeping his clients rods bent by targeting spotted seatrout. Again, free-lined live shiners are producing the bite. Casting baits on deep grass flats where sandy potholes or channels exist is resulting in many slot fish, as well as fish reaching 22 inches.

Lastly, nearshore structure in Tampa Bay is providing a good snapper bite for Lowman. Mangrove snapper up to 20 inches are being caught on a live shiner sent to the bottom on a knocker rig.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says he’s noticing anglers reeling up pompano. Small jigs tipped with shrimp are hooking up the pomps. “Fese” said the pier’s been busy with fishers catching more than their limit and are having to release fish.

Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are still catching sheepshead. Casting whole or fresh-cut shrimp under the pier on a bottom rig is resulting in keeper-size fish. Mixed in with the sheepies bite: flounder and the occasional black drum.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing the flats of southern Tampa Bay with good results. He’s finding spotted seatrout are making a strong showing on deep grass flats from Terra Ceia to Miguel Bay. Live shrimp or shiners under a popping cork are luring slot and over-slot trout to the hook. Gross reports hooking into an occasional tarpon, although most tarpon battles are short lived. Trout tackle is hardly durable enough to handle the ferocity of a 50-75 pound tarpon.

On afternoon tides, Gross is targeting snook along mangrove edges and on shallow flats where good tidal flow is present. Free-lining live shiners is resulting in many catches of 22-26 inches. Keeper or slot-size fish, are being caught, but not with the consistence of the smaller schooley fish.

Finally, Gross is fishing offshore structure with great results on mangrove snapper. In some areas, Gross is chumming and bringing the snapper from the bottom to the surface waters. These rising fish are inhaling free-lined live shiners or fresh-cut halves of shiners.

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

 

FWC drums up feedback

A new red drum stock assessment is complete and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking input from anglers about their experiences with the red drum fishery.

The state wants to know how anglers think the fishery is doing and what they think of current bag limits.

To take a survey and read about red drum, go online to myfwc.com/reddrum2016.

A page also exists on Facebook. Go to RedDrum2016.

Fishing – 03-16-2016

Reel ’em in, spring fishing is already here

 

Despite numerous windy days, fishing around Anna Maria Island is producing a variety of catches.

Those fishing from the local piers are cashing in on the abundance of sheepshead. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs or sand fleas as bait are allowing even the most novice anglers to bend a rod.

Those fishers choosing to wade the flats are finding spotted seatrout are making their way back to the shallows. Live shrimp under a popping cork or artificials, such as the DOA Cal jig, are resulting in slot-size trout, as well as fish over 20 inches.

As for those of us in a boat, strong winds are truly a challenge. You better have a wide variety of spots where you can work because, chances are, half of them will be blown out. This doesn’t mean the fishing is not good. In fact, both flats and nearshore fishing is providing a good bite. It’s traveling from spot to spot to find fish that makes it a little interesting.

Still, it’s warming up nicely and it appears spring is here early — and summer temps aren’t far off.

On my own excursions on Southernaire Fishing Charters, we’re managing to end our days with success. Sheepshead are still abundant around nearshore structure, so I’m starting my days targeting the convicts before the winds kick up. Sheepshead up to 8 pounds are being reeled up after taking our offerings of live shrimp. I’m also seeing some hefty black drum.

Once the winds pick up and I’ve got respectable amounts of sheepies in the box, I’m taking my anglers to the backcountry.

We’re finding spotted seatrout in the backwater depths of 3-6 feet of water, where casting live shrimp, either free-lined or under a popping cork, is producing action from slot and over-slot trout with some consistency. In some areas, the pinfish are pretty bad so you may need to switch to live shiners as bait.

Finally, on the occasions when the seas are calm, I’m heading out to patrol the bays for tripletail. Smaller fish are fairly common, with larger ones occurring every so often. Live shrimp and shiners will attract attention from these prehistoric-looking fish. A popping cork is effective for presenting the bait to the fish. I set the cork about 12 inches from the hook to keep the bait in the tripletails face. Persistence is key — they’ll eventually eat the bait — so just keep trying.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is running clients out for flats fishing in Anna Maria Sound, Light breezes and strong incoming tides are bringing numbers of snook out on the flats to feed. To target these eager springtime snook, Lowman is free lining live shiners. By either chumming or simply sight casting, Lowman is attracting the attention of snook 22-26 inches. Mixed in with the snook bite is the occasional redfish.

When the nearshore reefs are accessible, Lowman is venturing out to depths of 30-60 feet of water in search of mangrove snapper and grouper. Live shiners or live select shrimp dropped to the bottom on a knocker rig are hooking up both snapper and grouper. When using live shrimp as bait, hogfish also are taking an interest in getting hooked. Finally, the sheepies are taking shrimp.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore and offshore structure on days when the winds are minimal. Mangrove snapper and grouper are taking live bait such as shrimp and shiners. Limits of snapper are being caught and, as for the grouper, keeper gags are gently being returned to the water. Red grouper are in the mix, with keeper-size fish gently being placed in the fish box.

Moving inshore, Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results. By drifting and jigging with small jigs tipped with shrimp, Girle is finding action on bluefish, mackerel, ladyfish and, most importantly, pompano. Who doesn’t savor a pompano dinner? Spotted seatrout — another good saute choice — are mixed in with the bite.

On windy days, Girle is still catching redfish, black drum and sheepshead in residential canals where docks are present. The protected waters can provide a great bite plus a little comfort for the fishers when open waters are rough.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working his trade over structures in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, which is proving to be advantageous for anglers looking to bring home dinner. Sheepshead, mangrove snapper and hogfish are all on the menu after structure fishing with Gross. Live shrimp dropped to the rocky bottom are the bait of choice. Expect to encounter some nice-sized flounder and the makings for “imperial snapper,” too.

On the flats, Gross is casting live, free-lined shiners to the snook that are out enjoying the rising water temperatures. By anchoring and chumming, Gross is luring snook within casting distance to his clients ready for the target. Most catches are 20-26 inches, with a few keepers mixed in.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing sheepshead reaching their size capacity under the pier. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are filling their stringers with these tasty zebra-striped fish. Most catches are 12-15 inches, with bigger fish on occasion. While targeting sheepshead, pier fishers are hooking up with flounder, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.

Casting speck rigs from the pier is resulting in Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Jigs tipped with shrimp are also working — especially for those targeting pompano.

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

Fishing – 03-09-2016

1 in a million: Small fry hooks big drum catch

 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of my 5-year-old daughter, Isabel, is priceless to me.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a thousand words, but I am going to do a little bragging — what proud father wouldn’t? Heck, I know grown men who fish on a regular basis without landing such a big drum.

Our family outing started with a plan. With the sheepshead bite in full swing, I figured I’d take wife Bekka and Izzy for a little action on the nearshore reefs. Although the conditions were a little breezy, I knew if we couldn’t get out in the Gulf, we could always find a calmer spot to fish in Tampa Bay. It was no surprise that, as we headed into the Gulf, the winds picked up and so did the chop. We turned around and headed for one of my select sheepshead spots in the bay.

Upon arrival, we set anchor over a good mark and started dropping down shrimp on a knocker rig. Bekka immediately hooked into a nice 3-pound convict fish on her first bait drop. As for my daughter, she was reeling up pinfish and little snapper like a pro. Of course, her tackle, a Penn Sargus 2000 paired with a Berkeley light action 5-foot, 6-inch spinning rod, was perfect for catching small fry, which also were just enough for her to handle.

After Bekka and I landed a few more nice sheepies, I could tell Isabel was getting frustrated — she wanted to catch something bigger. Well, let me tell you, she did.

Upon dropping her shrimp to the bottom, waiting as patiently as a 5-year old can wait, she got her wish. She got a bite. As she tightened up her line, the rod slammed down on the gunwale and the drag started screaming out.

Seeing this occur, I knew she had something big, but it wasn’t just a big sheepie. Well, she hung on to the cork handle of that rod and tried to reel with all her might, but couldn’t gain any line on the fish. Finally, her little arms started shaking and she handed the rod to me. Remember now, this is an ulta-light rod and reel with 6-pound braid and a 20-pound leader — a set up designed to catch pinfish and grunts.

After fighting the fish for about 10 minutes, we got a glimpse, although I couldn’t believe we still had the fish on. This big black drum, every bit of 35 inches long, saw the boat and immediately dove back down to the reef. I could feel the leader rubbing the structure as I tried to be ever so delicate on the rod to prevent being cut off.

Finally, the fish started coming up again and I knew it was now or never. I put just enough heat on him by cupping the spool. The rod was bent in a complete U shape with the tip of the rod lower than the butt. I have to give credit to Berkeley for that one.

Anyway, we now could see the brut fish. He was on the surface as I guided him toward the boat. Bekka was quick with the landing net — positioning it perfectly as I guided the fish. We had him.

Isabel’s eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning when she saw the likes of that big black drum. After quickly weighing it, getting some photos and celebrating the moment, we released the fish back into the water. Sharing an experience like this with your family is what it’s all about. And from the looks of it, I can count on sharing many more.

Izzy is gonna be a top contender on the water.

On a final note, my advice to you is to take a kid fishing. It’s quite entertaining and unforgettable for you and the kid. If you’re a local, then the bay waters are your backyard. Do this enough and it will grow into a true love for the water. And maybe then, your kids will pass the love on to the next generation.

Capt. Aaron Lowman — who learned the art of fishing from his dad Bill, former owner of Island Discount Tackle — is fishing nearshore and offshore structure on days when winds are light and the seas are calm.

By anchoring over artificial reefs, rock piles and hard bottom, Lowman is catching a variety of species. Live shrimp on a knocker rig is attracting attention from likely suspects — sheepshead, hogfish and mangrove snapper. Others interested in the live shrimp offerings include porgies, gag and red grouper and an occasional flounder.

Moving inshore, Lowman is working over deep grass flats in search of spotted seatrout. Live shrimp under a popping cork is being taken when cast among sandy potholes surrounded by grass. Most trout are 12-18 inches. Mixed in with the trout bite are ladyfish, mackerel, jack crevalle and, here and there, a pompano.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working structure in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico with his clients. Putting live shrimp on the hook is resulting in mangrove snapper, hogfish and sheepshead. Keeper-sizes of all three species are being caught and limits of the mangrove snapper are attainable. Other species being reeled up are gag and red grouper, flounder and porgies.

On the flats, Gross is drifting and jigging with soft plastics. Spotted seatrout — the targeted species — are readily taking the soft plastics as well as topwater plugs. Trout 15-18 inches are the norm. Other fish being caught on the jig include bluefish, mackerel and ladyfish. And, although a little random, Gross is catching pompano throughout the flats.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore when weather permits. While bottom fishing in depths of 30-50 feet, Girle is hooking up his clients with a variety of species. Keeper-size catch-and-release gag grouper, as well as keeper-size red grouper are being caught with some consistency. Mangrove snapper are in great abundance as are sheepshead. Offerings of live shrimp are tantalizing all of these species to take the hook.

Moving inshore, Girle is drifting and jigging over the flats of Sarasota Bay. By tipping small bucktail jigs with shrimp, Girle is finding success with pompano, bluefish, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel. Spotted seatrout are present among the flats and are taking the same jigs as the other species.

Finally, on windy days, Girle is taking clients dock fishing in the protected waters of residential canals. Redfish and snook are being caught in these areas on free-lined live shrimp offered by the anglers.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers baiting live shrimp are catching black drum, flounder and, of course, sheepshead. The number of sheepies around the R&R is ever increasing — limits of sheepies are now attainable — as these fish prepare to spawn. Most fish being reeled up are 12-15 inches.

Other fish being caught at the R&R include Spanish mackerel, pompano and jack crevalle. All three are being taken on speck rig jigs. It also helps to add a little taste of some fresh-cut live shrimp to sweeten the deal — especially for the pompano.

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

Fishing – 03-02-2016

Unfavorable to anglers, weather creates rough conditions

 

It’s fish or miss for local anglers.

Windy conditions and numerous cold fronts are passing through the Tampa Bay-Sarasota Bay area creating iffy conditions for fishing.

On calm days between fronts, fishing offshore around the artificial reefs is proving to be quite productive. Fishing in Tampa Bay and the rock piles and reefs can add up to a good day. However, on days when winds exceed 20 mph, fishing is challenging.

Dock fishing around the Intracoastal Waterway and on local bays is producing some action, but it’s not “on fire.” The same applies to fishing the flats. Spotted seatrout are making a showing but they are not abundant. And the trout that are taking the bait are on the small side.

On calm days when I can take my clients to offshore destinations, the fishing is quite good. Mangrove snapper and sheepshead are readily taking live shrimp offered up on a knocker rig. Sheepies up to 7 pounds are being caught with most in the 2-pound range. As for the snapper, most are 12-16 inches.

Also, on calm days, I’m doing some drifting over deep grass flats in search of pompano. Tipping small jigs with fresh-cut pieces of live shrimp is attracting attention from pompano, as well as permit, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

This can be a great time for fishers with light tackle. On just about every cast, we’re hooking up with one of the species mentioned. If you’re looking for sheer numbers of fish, plus a couple to throw in the cooler for dinner, this is a great opportunity.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking clients offshore as wind and weather permit. In depths of 30-40 feet, Girle is finding an abundance of mangrove snapper. In fact, limits of these fish are being caught with consistency. Mixed in with the mangrove snapper bite are Key West grunts, sheepshead and many throw back gag grouper.

At these same depths, Girle is seeing an occasional tripletail floating by the boat. Casting live free-lined shrimp can result in a bite and Girle reports catches of tripletail up to 8 pounds. Moving inshore, Girle is finding dock fishing effective. Live shrimp cast under a dock on a knocker rig is resulting in redfish, black drum and sheepshead.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing offshore with good results on live shrimp on a fish finder rig dropped to the bottom. His clients are getting attention from mangrove snapper, sheepshead and hogfish. Also in the mix are catch-and-release gag grouper, red grouper and porgies. To find this bite, Gross is working ledges, hard bottom and artificial reefs.

Moving inshore, Gross is putting clients on sheepshead around rock piles and reefs in Tampa Bay. Live shrimp remain the bait of choice. Mixed in with the sheepshead are mangrove snapper and the occasional flounder.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working on calm, windless days offshore, where hogfish, mangrove snapper and gag grouper are readily taking shrimp offerings from his anglers. A knocker rig baited with live shrimp sent to the bottom is attracting the bite.

Rock piles and reefs in Tampa Bay are producing decent numbers of sheepshead for Lowman on live shrimp. Sheepies up to 5 pounds are coming to the boat, with most catches falling in the 2-pound range.

Also, drifting and jigging over deep grass flats is producing a variety of species for Lowman, including pompano, ladyfish, bluefish and spotted seatrout. Tipping jigs with fresh-cut live shrimp is producing the most consistent bite.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says the numbers of sheepshead showing up at the pier are increasing, although they don’t appear to be reaching full capacity. Pier fishers using live shrimp are finding success by casting baits under the pier. Using a weighted rig, or bottom rig, is ideal to keep bait at the bottom where sheepshead are feeding. Sheepies are about 12-15 inches.

Pier fishers casting jigs or Gotcha plugs out from the pier are catching Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and few pompano. It’s the seasoned pier fishers who know to tip their jigs with shrimp are hooking up the pompano, according to Malfese.

Finally, bottom fishing with live shrimp is producing flounder and black drum. Keeper-sizes of both are being caught by lucky anglers.

 

Snook season reopens in Gulf

The season for recreational snook fishing reopened March 1 in the Gulf of Mexico and will remain open through April 30.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says anglers can keep one snook — measuring 28-33 inches in length — per day. The fish, lying on the side, is measured from the most forward point of the head with the mouth closed to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed.

FWC, in its announcement, also said it is illegal for anglers to buy or sell snook.

For more information, visit myfwc.com/fishing.

Fishing – 02-24-2016

Sheepshead remain top target for anglers in local waters

 

Sheepshead fishing around Anna Maria Island is on the verge of becoming unhinged.

Increasing herds of sheepies are invading our local waters, especially around residential docks, canals and the fishing piers on the north end of the island. The rock piles, reefs and wrecks in both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are host to large numbers of these convict-striped fish.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, we are targeting, yeah, you guessed it, sheepshead. Not only do these fish put up a great fight on light tackle, they are superb table fare. That being said, be selective on the sheepies you keep for dinner. I prefer fish 2-4 pounds as opposed to 6-8 pounds. The meat of the larger sheepies tends to be a little tougher and not quite as sweet.

In addition to sheepshead, I am hooking up my clients on mangrove snapper. A lot of times, we’re catching them mixed in with the sheepshead bite. Although, I am also putting anglers in areas of structure that are solely holding snapper. Most of the mangoes coming over the gunwhale are 12-14 inches, although fish up to 18 inches are not uncommon.

Finally, to add a little variety, I’m finding pompano and permit along the beaches, especially right along the shoreline. Jigging with hot pink or chartreuse jigs tipped with shrimp is proving to be the most productive. While targeting pomps and permit, we’re also hooking into Spanish mackerel, whiting, flounder and jack crevalle. It makes for a good day of fishing.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore on days with strong winds and rough seas. By targeting the calm waters around residential canals and dock, Girle is managing to put his clients on a variety of species. Sheepshead, black drum and redfish, to name a few, are readily taking live shrimp on a weighted rig. Casting these baits under docks and along sea walls is producing the bite.

On days when waters are calm and wind is light, Girle is venturing offshore. By anchoring over hard bottom, ledges and artificial reefs, Girle is finding ample amounts of mangrove snapper. Keeper-size gags are being released — they’re out of season. As for the keeper reds, into the cooler they go.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting sheepshead — the most abundant fish in our waters during the month of February. The convict fish are being caught around docks, oyster bars, artificial reefs and rock piles. For bait, Gross is using live shrimp. Along with sheepshead, Gross is hooking up keeper-size mangrove snapper in the same areas.

Dock fishing in the Intracoastal Waterway and the surrounding bay waters is producing catches for Gross. He reports redfish and black drum are readily taking shrimp cast under docks on weighted rigs. An occasional flounder is being caught using the same method.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is following a similar pattern to last week, as are most captains this time of year. Targeting rock piles, reefs and wrecks in Tampa Bay is producing respectable catches of sheepshead and mangrove snapper for his clients. Live shrimp on a knocker rig are Lowman’s bait of choice.

To switch things up a little, Lowman is venturing out into the flats of Anna Maria Sound to do a little spotted seatrout fishing. Drifting over the flats and casting soft plastics on a jig head is attracting attention from the cold-stricken trout. Live shrimp under a popping cork also are producing a bite. Slot-size trout are the norm with under-sized fish mixed in.

Aside from dipping shrimp in the bait tank, releasing pelicans caught by amateur anglers and making sure the pier functions in an orderly fashion, Jim Malfese, dockmaster of the Rod & Reel Pier, still finds the time to keep track of what’s being caught and what’s not.

According to Malfese, the sheepshead bite is ever-increasing as more and more of these tasty convict fish congregate around the pilings to munch on the barnacles. Live shrimp is still the most productive bait, resulting in catches 12-15 inches. With numbers on the rise, anglers are catching near limits — 15 fish —within a morning of fishing.

Other hungry fish being caught on shrimp include flounder, black drum and the occasional redfish. Using weighted rigs to keep baits on or near the bottom is required to be successful.

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