|Plate, please ... or maybe a doormat
Dan Wallace caught this 24-inch-long "doormat flounder" while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire on Show Me The Fish Charters. Dan was visiting from Colorado and stayed on Jewfish Key for his Florida vacation and, in addition to the flattie, caught a bunch of grouper and snapper with Capt. Larry.
All sheepies all the time right now, plus some redfish
It's that time of year: We're somewhat between seasons for trout and snook, redfish seem to be somewhat elusive, but sheepshead are literally swarming near any kind of piling, dock, structure or any other bit of rock around. Please check out Capt. Zack's recipe this week for a good dining experience.
Offshore action is also fine for grouper and snapper as long as the wind is calm.
And for the commercial fishers, and restaurant patrons, red grouper season has re-opened. Talk about good eating.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said it's "sheepshead and more sheepshead, along with a few trout, pompano and redfish. Live shrimp has been producing record catches of the bucktooth porgys. It's winter and the zebra-striped brawlers are the main event. They are running up to 6 pounds and very numerous. Capt. Zach even offered a recipe for sheepshead: "Had a mess baked, stuffed with a shrimp and crab dressing and topped with hollandaise the other day. Pretty good groceries in my book." Rightfully so.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said offshore grouper and snapper action is terrific right now, with yellowtails and mangroves tipping the scales at better than 5 pounds. Good catches are coming in from about 100 feet of water. Inshore action includes "tons" of sheepshead by any piling, and redfish are biting in Sarasota Bay.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's been catching small -but not legal-size - redfish around the docks in Terra Ceia Bay. Sheepshead were his best bet, plus some catch-and-release trout that were still prohibited until the beginning of this week.
Capt. Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters said he's been putting his charters onto big grouper in shallow water - maybe 40 feet or so - out in the Gulf near the Tampa ship channels. He's also catching gags to 12 pounds. Bluefish and big sheesphead are being reeled in on the nearshore artificial reefs by his clients. He's also seeing some good catches of mangrove and lane snapper, plus Key West grunts caught on half-cut thread herring and live shrimp on offshore trips. "This week," he said, "expect the inside and pass fishing at New Pass, Big Pass and Longboat Pass to pick up as the Gulf water clears and warms a bit. The offshore bite will remain active from 30 feet on out."
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said it's all sheepshead all the time off his deck. Action has really picked up, but it's only the black-and-white fish that are biting there right now.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said pier anglers are getting into lots of 4-pound-plus sheepshead from the pilings under the pier, with sand fleas and live shrimp working best. There are also a few black drum and small snapper being caught, he added.
Capt. Mark Johnston out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's been finding some excellent redfish action on almost every trip, with up to 20 fish caught on some of his excursions.
At Skyway Bait & Tackle, reports include sheepshead from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, some pompano and lots of small grouper and a few huge jacks.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said there are good reports of black drum coming from the Manatee River and sheepshead in the Sunshine Skyway Bridge area. Small snook are also being caught and released from Terra Ceia Bay, he added.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include lots of big sheepshead from the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Here's a tip for the sheepies-wannabes: Tip your hook with a shrimp, then dangle it close to a piling and get ready for a fight. Other action included redfish catches from the docks on the bayside of Anna Maria Island.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's been concentrating on large gag grouper, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release red grouper. "We are still catching big gag grouper to 20 pounds, as well as mangrove snapper to 7 pounds and yellowtail snapper to 3 pounds. Our clients hooked into some Goliath grouper this week. I predict that this action will continue throughout the cooler months." He's been fishing deep in the Gulf - 95 feet deep or so - using live grunts, pinfish and tomtates as bait, plus some frozen Spanish sardines and shrimp.
On my boat Magic, we've been averaging up to 25 sheepshead per trip, plus a few redfish. On an offshore run, we caught grouper, yellowtail and mangrove snapper.
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.