Fishing – 07-06-2011

High temps set inshore, offshore fishing on fire

Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is heating up along with the 90-plus degree days we’re having. As it gets hotter, start focusing on fishing the early morning and late evenings for best results. Spotted sea trout and redfish will be lurking on the edges of flats that empty into deeper water on the out-going tides. Live bait and artificials work well in these situations.

Pier fishing also is beginning to pick up due to the flux of new bait that is gathering around the piers. The bait is small, so if you are using spoons or jigs, scale down the size. Spanish mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish are the usual suspects this time of year.

Offshore fishing for all the snapper species is in its beginning stages. Reports are good of mangrove, red, mutton, vermillion, yellowtails and lane snapper are cruising in from depths starting around depths of 50 feet and out. Catch-and-release gag grouper action is still hot at depths of 100 feet or more.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says the shiners are all around the pier, which in turn has brought in the migratory species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle. “They’re catching most of the Spanish mackerel on live shiners,” says Kilb. “But you can catch the macks on Gotcha plugs and crappie jigs, too.”

If you noticed, king mackerel is mentioned in this report. A kingfish that measured in at 48 inches was caught off the pier earlier last week. Also, around the pier, mangrove snapper are starting to show, but not in large numbers.

Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says the offshore bite seems to be getting better and better, offering more variety of species. Reports of mangrove, yellowtail and vermillion snapper are being caught in 80 feet of water fishing hard-bottom and ledges. While fishing these depths, Keyes suggests throwing out a flat line baited with a live shiner or threadfin herring. Kingfish, barracuda and cobia are being seen and caught using this method. Moving out to depths of 120 feet or deeper, offshore fishers are limiting out on red snapper.

Tarpon are still the main focus for inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island although the numbers of fish we’ve been seeing the past couple of weeks have thinned out considerably. Spanish mackerel are being caught on the nearshore reefs, as well as the deeper grass flats. Reports of catch-and-release snook are starting to come in from beach fishers. If you can find some structure along the beach, you could stand a chance of catching some flounder, too.

Lastly, shark fishing off the beaches is proving prosperous for a variety of species of shark. Bonnethead, black tip, bull and sandbar sharks all are being caught using cut-bait fished on the bottom. Mackerel, ladyfish, bonito and mullet are the top choices for bait.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting mangrove snapper around the nearshore reefs and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Gross is using smaller size shiners, “hatch bait” to entice these way little snappers into biting his hook. “At times you have to scale down your leader size, especially when fishing clear water, to get a good bite going,” says Gross. Average size of the mangrove snapper being caught is between 12-18 inches.

On the deeper flats of southern Tampa bay, Gross is catching spotted sea trout using shiners under a popping cork. Also along the edges of the deeper flats Gross is catching silver trout. “They’re really tasty,” says Gross. “But you have to catch a bunch of them to make a meal.” Remember there is no size or bag limit for silver trout so just take what you need. They are best eaten fresh because they don’t freeze well.

Richard Leitz at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says a lot of bait is beginning to show around the pier. “Schools of greenbacks are moving in and out with the tides bringing Spanish mackerel, bonito, ladyfish and jack crevalle along with them,” Leitz says.

Gotcha plugs, silver spoons and crappie jigs are working great for artificials but you still can’t beat a live greenback on a long-shank hook for instant success. If you’re in hunt of tastier fare, try fishing a greenback under the pier for mangrove snapper. Increasing numbers are being caught day-by-day.         Catch-and-release gag grouper are also lurking under the pier, although most are in the 12-15 inch range. In conclusion, Leitz mentioned that the fishing seems to get better after the big rainstorms. He feels that after the storms, the water temp drops a little, which triggers a better bite.

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