Audrey Wallace, left, with a red grouper and Leslie Wallace with a mangrove snapper that they caught about 17 miles off of Anna Maria Island with Capt. Larry McGuire.
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Cold fronts + cold water = lots of sheepshead
Sheepshead season has arrived with the cold fronts, and the good-tasting striped fish are thick around all the structures, docks, piers and bridges in the area. Other backwater action includes redfish and catch-and-release trout, but snook are few and far between casts right now.
Offshore fishing for snapper and grouper are still good on the calmer days, and reports indicate that grouper have moved closer to shore - to the 40-foot depths.
Here's a sheepshead recipe I just heard that sounds good. Gut the fish, scale it, then throw it whole on the grill. Flip it a couple times until it's done, then peel the skin off and the bones should come out easily. Perhaps a little lemon and butter? Let me know what you think.
Capt. Ray Markham said he's been fishing the waters of the Manatee River for some nice catch-and-release snook and reds. He's finding flounder and trout as well, with the canals near Tampa Bay working well for him.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said snook are all but gone right now, but redfish action is picking up the linesider slack. Sheepshead fishing is great, as is catch-and-release trout, with that season scheduled to reopen Jan. 1. Offshore action for grouper is good and close, with good catches being reported in less than 40 feet offshore, and snapper fishing remains good by the artificial reefs.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said that after last week's cold front, gag grouper have really turned on. He has been putting his clients on limit catches of gag grouper up to 15 pounds, plus cobia to 30 pounds, mangroves to 4 pounds as well as some lane snapper and triggerfish. Capt. Larry has been fishing in 70-foot water using live pinfish and frozen sardines.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead have really been turned on by the cold weather and are hitting well. There are also good reports of black drum, redfish, flounder and a few snapper, but snook action has pretty much halted.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he put his charters onto redfish to 25 inches in length last week, plus lots of catch-and-release trout. Capt. Thom advises that you should move your artificial bait much slower than usual during the cool-water times to get the best results.
Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepshead are the No. 1 catch right now for anglers at the pier, but there are also a few small catch-and-release grouper under the deck and a few flounder being reeled in.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said black drum are up in the Manatee River by the bridges, sheepshead are near all the docks in the river, with one 6-pound sheepie caught last week. Snapper fishing off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is also good.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said redfish and sheepshead around the docks are a good bet for the best action, plus a few redfish on the seagrass flats on the warmer days.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports are good for "sheepshead, sheepshead and more sheepshead" from all the piers, docks and bridges around the bay and Gulf. There were also some good catches of big reds caught near the docks last week.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said his charters are reeling in a lot of catch-and-release trout, plus redfish, sheepshead and a few snook that were caught and released.
Capt. Matt Denham out of Catchers said grouper is good when he can get offshore, with some up to 20 pounds, as well as amberjack to 30 pounds and snapper to 5 pounds.
On my boat Magic, we're catching lots of redfish right now, plus sheepshead up to 4 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.