Nick Ladue went on a fishing trip with Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business and caught a 4-pound sheepshead, top, and a 21 1/2 inch trout.
Fishing slow, but grouper, reds, sheepies still good bets
The fishing front is slow right now, with back-to-back cold fronts apparently keeping the fish hunkered down and not too hungry.
Backwater action is pretty much limited to sheepshead, a few redfish and an occasional trout or snook.
Offshore action is better, with good catches of grouper or snapper coming in when the water is calm enough to let the boats get out in the Gulf of Mexico.
At Cortez Fishing Center, Capt. Jack Parker on the Skinny M said he's continuing to get his limit on catches of black drum along with a few keeper reds, including one 27-inch-long catch-and-release snook last week. Capt. Randall A. Fowler of Uncle Mudfish has found fishing between the cold fronts to be excellent for sheepshead, many in the 5-pound range, along with several keeper redfish. Capt. Scott Greer of Stray Dog Charters has been bringing in great catches of good-size gag groupers, some "monster mangrove snapper along with an occasional cobia and hog fish," he said, plus some nice-sized catch-and-release red snapper. Capt. Brandon Kelly of Findango Charters has been also catching some great hauls of gag grouper along with snapper.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's finding trout fishing to be fair to good right now, plus he's putting his charters onto some redfish and a few mangrove snapper.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said fishing was "on fire last week before the cold front came through. The full moon caused the snapper fishing to be absolute insanity, and we left them biting for another day's 'workout.' We were catching gag grouper to 12 pounds, lots of big mangrove snapper to 7 pounds, plus yellowtail snapper, lane snapper and triggerfish." His best catches came from in water of about 110 feet in the Gulf, with live pinfish or Key West grunts working the best as bait, as well as frozen Spanish sardines for the grouper. "Fishing has been very good this winter right before and after each front," Capt. Larry said. "We tell our clients they just have to be flexible and ready to go when the weather is good."
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said offshore grouper and snapper fishing couldn't be better, with most of the best catches moving closer to shore than usual - well within less than 100 feet of water out in the Gulf. For backwater fishers, reds and sheepshead are the best bets right now, Bill said.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he's seeing some black drum coming from the Manatee River, plus snapper catches around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and lots of small snook around Terra Ceia Bay.
At Skyway Bait & Tackle, reports include sheepshead from the Skyway Bridge, redfish from Miguel Bay near the oyster beds on higher tides, with shrimp working the best to get the bigger reds.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include catches of trout from the seagrass flats, redfish from the docks in the bays, and sheepshead from either the piers, bridges or near any structures anywhere.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said he took Richard Fluke, Bob Freeman and Bob Evans to a "respectable catch of sheepshead and a few reds last Tuesday despite south winds around 30 mph. All of the action was on live shrimp fished around docks and seawalls in Sarasota Bay and Palma Sola. High winds have kept me off the Gulf, but when things settle down I'll be fishing along the beaches more often for winter trout and hopefully snapper."
On my boat Magic, I took Lewis Christman and Gwen Matthews of Terra Ceia out last week to a good run of gag grouper to 10 pounds and mangrove snapper to 4 pounds, plus a few triggerfish and some sheepshead.
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.