Goodbye red tide — hello red hot fall fishing

thumb image
Liberty Cole of Atlanta shows off his catch, a nice lane snapper hooked on a sardine Sept. 20 in about 65 feet of water while on his first offshore fishing trip with Capt. Larry McGuire.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is looking better and better now that we are slipping into a fall pattern,

With lower temps at night, water temps are slowly dropping. Plus, locals are saying the red tide has been dispersing.

Spanish mackerel and kingfish are beginning their migration along our coast — always a welcome sight for fishers. In tow of the mackerel schools will be numerous blacktip and spinner sharks, which add a thrill factor to any fishing adventure.

On the flats, we should start seeing an abundance of snook, redfish and trout, although I believe recent weeks of red tide have delayed this migration. Still, keep an eye on your favorite backwater spots as these fish soon should arrive and in great numbers.

On my recent charters on the water with Southernaire fishing, I’ve been trying to avoid the red tide by working around the mouth of the Manatee River and north toward Terra Ceia and Miguel bays. Spotted seatrout and snook seem to be the most accommodating bite, although I’m seeing a variety of other fish.

Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are in abundance in these areas on deeper grass flats and in channels. Also, I am finding plenty of mangrove snapper on the flats and around residential docks. Finally, I’m still seeing an occasional flounder being reeled up, although the bite from the flat fish is random.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working in the backcountry of southern Tampa Bay with good results despite having to dodge areas of red tide. He’s finding respectable numbers of schooley snook are being found around mangrove islands, edges of flats and even in canals. For bait, live shiners or buck-tail jigs are producing a bite.

Fishing along the beaches is proving to be good for Lowman’s clients. Again, running to areas where no red tide exists is key to finding a bite. In these areas, Lowman is finding Spanish mackerel, shark and even a few kingfish willing to take offerings of live shiners as bait from his anglers.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing within a mile of the beaches of Anna Maria Island for Spanish mackerel. Rallies of these high-speed fish are being caught by anchoring and chumming live shiners. During the mack rallies, Stock also is seeing the arrival of kingfish and blacktip sharks.

Moving out farther to the artificial reefs and ledges, Stock is finding mangrove snapper and flounder to be accommodating. In between snapper and flounder bites, Stock’s clients are hooking into large snook that have moved from the bays to seek refuge in deeper waters around the reef. All species are being caught on a bottom rig paired with a live shiner as bait.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key for macks and bonito. Both species are being caught with regularity by using free-lined live shiners as bait. Once the bite is really on, it is attracting the attention of blacktip sharks. The sharks add the thrill factor for visiting anglers.

On the flats, Girle is catching spotted seatrout, as well as ladyfish, jack crevalle and macks. All are being taken on free-lined live shiners. Fishing shallow flats also is producing some redfish rallies, with most fish measuring around 18 inches.

Capt. Rick Gross is working the flats of southern Tampa Bay and the Manatee River in hopes of avoiding the red tide. Gross is finding an abundance of spotted seatrout by baiting live shiners combined with a popping cork. Slot-size trout are quickly reacting to these baits on the out-going tides. Mixed in are macks, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Snook fishing is producing good action for Gross’ charters. Shallow flats around mangrove islands and/or oyster bars are producing plenty of fish 18-24 inches. Live free-lined shiners are producing the best bite. Redfish are being caught in these same areas, although the snook bite is more prevalent.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species being caught. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are catching numerous mangrove snapper. Most catches are keeper-size fish 11-12 inches. Along with snapper, shrimp on the hook are producing black drum, redfish and flounder.

Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and bluefish are making a showing at the pier. Live shiners as bait are working well, although most anglers targeting these fish prefer to use artificials such as Gotcha plugs, silver spoons or jigs.

Lastly, snook fishing is producing a bite at the R&R, although most catches are falling under the minimum-size of 28 inches. Live shiners and pinfish are top producers as bait for the famous linesiders.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *