|Takes two to hold this one
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters, left, and Doug Spence of Bradenton caught this nice-sized gag grouper while fishing in about 75 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico off of Anna Maria Island.
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Sheepies rule in backwaters; grouper great offshore
Here's a heads-up from the state fishing gurus.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds fishers of new rules to manage red grouper rules in the Gulf of Mexico.
Daily recreational bag limit for red grouper is two fish per person within the five-fish aggregate grouper limit in Gulf state waters. The limit also applies in Gulf federal waters.
Florida state waters run 9 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf, and federal waters extend beyond state waters.
Minimum size limit for red grouper remains at 20 inches total length.
Daily recreational bag limit in Atlantic Ocean state waters is still five fish per person under the five-grouper aggregate limit.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said fishing was still good the past week with gag and red grouper to 15 pounds, mangrove snapper to 4 pounds, lane snapper, yellowtail snapper, small cobia, triggerfish, porgies and sea bass. His charters were fishing in 40- to 100-feet of water off Anna Maria Island, with live pinfish, frozen sardines and shrimp serving as the best bait.
Offshore action continues to be excellent for grouper and snapper. Inshore anglers are reporting huge sheepshead catches, plus lots of redfish and trout and some big catch-and-release snook.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said redfish and small snook were a popular catch for his charters out of Terra Ceia Bay last week, with most fish caught in the 25-inch range with artificial bait working the best to lure the fish to the hook.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said offshore action continues to be great for grouper and snapper. Inshore action for redfish seems to be pretty good as well, Bill said, and there are still plenty of sheepshead around all the structures.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said anglers there are catching a few redfish, but sheepshead are the best catch, and the sheepies are really starting to turn on with the colder weather. Other action includes a few black drum, Bob added.
Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepies are about all the action he and his fishers are getting at the pier right now, with some of the striped fish coming in at better than 5 pounds. Other catches included some small flounder, bluefish and black drum.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said there are excellent reports of legal-size grouper outside of Port Manatee, with some catches up to 10 pounds. Other action included black drum in the cut, and snook around the dock in the mornings.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said legal-size grouper are a good catch from his boat, plus plenty of keeper trout and enough sheepshead to keep his clients very, very happy.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, there are good reports of trout and redfish up in Palma Sola Bay, with shrimp and artificials working the best as bait. Bridges and piers are continuing to be a good spot to catch those big sheepshead, too.
At Sunshine Bait & Tackle, reports are coming in on sea bass, grouper, sheepshead and a few whiting, but the sheepies are the best catch by far right now.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said sheepshead and redfish were his mainstays last week, with sheepies up to 5 pounds being brought back in the coolers.
On my boat Magic, we caught seven reds up to 26 inches on one trip, plus some keeper-size snook that were released since the season is again closed. We're limiting out on sheepshead every trip, some up to 6 pounds.
Good luck and good fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year-plus fishing guide. Call him at 723-1107 to provide a fishing report. Prints and digital images of your catch are also welcome and may be dropped off at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include identification for persons in the picture along with information on the catch and a name and phone number for more information. Snapshots may be retrieved once they appear in the paper.