Fishing – 01-01-2014

Ringing in new year, angling for mild temps, great fishing


There is no better way to welcome in the new year than to celebrate the mild winter temperatures Florida offers.

Anna Maria residents as well as visitors to the island are flocking to our local waters to cast out a line. With superb conditions, the fishing is following suit. Whether you’re in a boat or fishing from shore, chances are in your favor for catching a fish dinner for New Years.

Beach fishing remains consistent for migratory species — Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, bluefish and pompano. All of these fish will readily take small jigs tipped with shrimp. If artificials aren’t your thing, simply cast out a live shrimp weighted with a split shot to keep your bait on the bottom. Other species you can plan on encountering include black drum, flounder and whiting.

Fishing nearshore structure is still proving prosperous for those in search of mangrove snapper. Fish 10-20 inches are readily taking live shrimp or live shiners. Structure in depths of 10-30 feet are holding fish. In these same areas, expect to see macks, bluefish, jacks and blacktip sharks.

And while welcoming the new year, don’t forget to acquaint yourself with new regulations for 2014. You can find these at tackle shops and online at There are a few subtle changes, so make sure you do your homework before heading out on the water this year.

Your options have improved in the new year with the opening of the bait shop at the Historic Bradenton Beach Pier. We hear fishing is picking up there.

Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp for bait are reeling flounder to the deck. By using a split shot or small egg sinker to get their bait to the bottom, anglers are being rewarded with flounder 12-14 inches. To target these flat fish, Sork suggests casting baits under the pier or around the pilings. While targeting flounder, expect to hook into mangrove snapper, sheepshead and juvenile grouper.

Shark fishing at the pier is proving prosperous for those anglers targeting smaller species, such as bonnethead and Atlantic sharpnose sharks. These shark rarely exceed 4 feet in length, which makes them ideal adversaries on light tackle. To catch either species, you can use a number of baits, including shrimp, squid or cut mullet. To be sure your cut mullet is effective, cut small chunks suitable for a small-mouth shark.

Capt. Warren Girle has been working nearshore structure with good results. Keeper-size mangrove snapper are being caught by his clients on both live shrimp and shiners. Along with snapper, Girle is hooking up catch-and-release gag and red grouper. Other species at the structures include mackerel, jacks, Key West grunts and blacktip sharks.

Moving inshore, Girle is targeting pompano in Sarasota Bay. To tempt these tasty golden nuggets, Girle likes to drift fish, instructing his clients to cast small yellow or chartreuse pompano jigs tipped with shrimp all around the boat. It allows his clients a hook up with pompano, as well as a variety of migratory species, including Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish.

Finally, Girle takes his charters to small rock piles along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key for black drum. By using live shrimp, they’re reeling up drum in the 15- to 30-inch range.

The guys at Island Discount Tackle are reporting good numbers of migratory fish being caught along the beaches. Beach fishers using artificials — pompano jigs or plain old bucktail jigs — are catching pompano, whiting, bluefish, macks, jack crevalle and blue runners. Not only do these fish provide good action on light tackle, but pompano and whiting make excellent table fare.

Those opting to use shrimp to bait up along the beaches are catching the migratory species mentioned, as well as black drum, flounder, sheepshead and a few redfish.

To ensure success, try rigging with a split shot placed about 12 inches above your hook to aid in keeping the shrimp where the fish are feeding — on the bottom.

Reef fishing remains consistent for mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper. Live shrimp or shiners will produce a bite for either species. Sheepshead and Key West grunts are inhabiting nearshore reefs. For these fish, a live shrimp is a tough bait to beat.

Happy new year and good fishing to you all.

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