Summer fishing remains hot all around AMI
The August mercury isn’t the only thing soaring and searing on Anna Maria Island this week. Flats action for redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook is hot, too.
On my charters this past week, we found good number of all three species by fishing the early morning outgoing tides. Using live shiners for bait, my clients were able to catch limits of trout and redfish as well as plenty of catch-and-release snook. Most of the trout we encountered were small, averaging 14 inches, but the sheer numbers of fish provided great action. The same applied for the reds. Most were around 18 inches, although we managed to hook up a couple of fat 24-inchers for the frying pan.
If you’re looking for some high-speed artificial action, try fishing the piers in Anna Maria for Spanish mackerel. Small white crappie jigs and silver spoons combined with a quick retrieve can produce drag-screaming action for light-tackle anglers. The bite is occurring either at sunrise or just before sunset. Try also to fish the high tides to get in on this action.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel fishing charters is trout fishing in north Sarasota Bay with good results. Johnston is live-baiting for these trout with shiners, pinfish or shrimp. He seeks out lush grass flats with good water flow to lead his clients to trout up to 22 inches.
On the flats, Johnston is encountering above-average numbers of bonnethead sharks. On light tackle, these fish provide great action, although he prefers to bait with live shrimp. Average size this past week was 40 inches.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishers there are still awaiting the large bait schools that seek refuge around the pier this time of year.
“The fishing is good now,” says Malfese, “but it’ll get really good once all that bait shows up.”
Pier fishers using live shiners for bait are catching decent numbers of mangrove snapper. Most fish are undersized now, although Malfese expects keepers to take up residence soon. Remember, mangoes have keen eyesight, so make sure to use a light fluorocarbon leader and a small live bait hook to get in on this action.
Spanish macks are being caught on live shiners, although artificials such as Gotcha plugs, speck rigs and white crappie jigs will do the job. Average size of the macks is 15 inches to the fork of the tail.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says he’s hearing of good flats action for redfish and spotted seatrout occurring in Anna Maria Sound. Flats fishers using live shiners are getting the best results, especially on large fish. If it’s numbers of fish you’re looking for, Oldham suggests using artificials, such as Berkley Gulp shrimp or the Sebile Stick Shad.
“When you’re using artificials,” says Oldham, “you cover a wider range of water, which in theory, will result in more chances of hooking up.”
On the beaches, shark fishing is heating up. Beach fishers using frozen mullet are having success night fishing for hammerhead, blacktip and bull sharks around Bean Point. Average size of these sharks is 5 to 6 feet in length. Oldham recommends using a leader of at least 80-pound coated wire to target these toothy fish.
Lastly, pier fishers are rushing into the tackle shop to buy white crappie jigs and silver spoons. “When this occurs it means only one thing,” says Oldham. “Spanish mackerel.”
Sunrise pier anglers are catching respectable numbers of macks at both the Rod & Reel Pier and the Anna Maria City Pier.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says the catch is heating up just like the weather. Howard reports catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder have been frequent catches on his recent charters.
“Spotted seatrout fishing in the summer can be challenging because of the abundance of undersized fish chewing the shiners,” Howard says. “I like to use circle hooks when trout fishing, so as not to gut-hook them.” Howard also suggests using a dehooker for a quick release of the rainbow-hued beauties.
Howard reports cooperative snook and redfish along the mangrove shorelines and potholes when the tide is flowing. He says, “Use a popping cork to keep your baits out of the weeds and to help stimulate the bite.”
Chumming with shiners will fire up the bite and draw the predators to feed at the back of the boat. Look and listen for the slurp of the chummers getting chewed and place your bait in that area for a bite.
Looking forward, the upcoming the full moon Aug. 3 will provide some excellent tidal movements and help to stimulate the bite. With high tides in the first part of the day, look for the fish to be under the shade of the mangroves. When casting a live bait to the mangrove shoreline at a higher tide, try to land it in the shade of the bushes.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters says backwater fishing this past week reminded him of a buffet. “We’re catching a variety of species,” says Gross, “and all in the same areas, too.”
Gross is fishing the grass flats of southern Tampa Bay with live shiners. By anchoring and chumming, Gross’ clients are catching spotted seatrout, redfish, and catch-and-release snook. Along with this trio of the usual suspects, Gross is catching flounder, Spanish mackerel and some keeper mangrove snapper.
With such a variety of species frequenting the grass flats, Gross’ clients are returning to the dock with a smorgasbord.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the nearshore artificial reefs just west of Anna Maria Island, catching a variety of both migratory and reef species.
To start, Girle is free-lining live shiners behind the boat to catch Spanish mackerel, kingfish and bonito. Good numbers of kingfish are being caught, the biggest at 25 pounds. The same applies for the macks and bonito. Girle suggests chumming with live baits to get the fish feeding around the boat.
By dropping baits to the bottom, Girle is catching gag grouper up to 26 inches. Along with gags, Key West grunts and mangrove snapper are being reeled up. Again, Girle is using live shiners for bait.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting redfish on the flats of Sarasota Bay. Using Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head, Girle is leading his clients to redfish exceeding 27 inches in length. “Most have been slot-sized,” says Girle, “but there are some big ones mixed in there, too.”
Also on the flats, Girle is catching limits of spotted seatrout. Using either live shiners or artificials, such as Berkley Gulp shrimp, Girle is putting trout averaging 19 inches in the cooler.
Lastly, Girle is bottom fishing with live shiners to target flounder around small rock structures in the bay. The biggest came in at 16 inches.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers is seeing good numbers of cero mackerel being caught. “At first I thought I was seeing people catch kingfish,” says Medley, “but after a closer look, I realized they were cero mackerel.”
Cero mackerel are a cousin of the Spanish mackerel, but a cero has golden spots that resemble broken lines. Also, cero grow larger than Spanish macks. Pier fishers using live greenbacks or Gotcha plugs are catching cero macks averaging 30 inches.
Remember. too, when fishing for macks, sharks come into play. Generally when schools of migratory fish, such as mackerel are present, it’s a safe bet that sharks are in close proximity. Pier fishers soaking chunk baits, such as fresh-cut mackerel, mullet and other oily fish, are catching bull, blacktip and lemon sharks daily. Average size of these sharks is 5-6 feet, although there are bigger ones in the bay.
If you’re in search of fish for the dinner table, try targeting gag grouper and mangrove snapper. Medley reports limit catches of both species throughout the week. Pier fishers using live greenbacks or pinfish are catching gag grouper up to 35 inches. And, for the snapper, live greenbacks are resulting in fish in the 16-inch range. For either species, drifting bait under the pier or casting out to the artificial reefs within range, are producing the bite.
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