Fast-action species keep island anglers busy

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Phil Hardwick and Gene Clements of Illinois went offshore Oct. 11 look- ing for gag grouper and yellow tail snapper and found the sh coopera- tive and willing to take their bait, live shiners. They were guided by Capt Warren Girle.

Fall fishing around Anna Maria Island is host to some fast-action species that are sure to keep local and visiting anglers occupied.

While patrolling the beaches, I’m seeing schools of Spanish mackerel as close as 100 yards from the shore to about a mile of the beach. Looking for the feeding shorebirds — seagulls and terns — is key to locating these fish.

Mixed in with the macks are king mackerel — the Spanish mackerel’s larger cousin. And, of course, whenever large quantities of mackerel are around, you’re bound to see sharks.

Blacktip and spinner sharks are the most apparent species, but don’t be surprised to see an occasional bull shark or even the elusive hammerhead cruise by the boat.

Flats fishing also is heating up with the cooler weather. The recent drop in water temps triggered the snook to start moving from the beaches and passes to the grass flats in the bays. And you know when the snook are on the grass flats, they are there for one reason — to feed. High tides are favorable to target these linesiders on the flats and especially around mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. Casting live shiners right up against the edge of the bushes — or if you’re good, under the bushes —is a sure-fire way to catch numerous schooley-sized snook.

You also may hook into some redfish while doing this, which is always a welcome sight.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m starting the morning by fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous Spanish mackerel and shark catches are a great way to start off the day. Throw in a couple late-season tarpon and you’re golden. This bite seems to be working during the morning incoming tide. Plus, with the low tide in the morning, it’s tough to get on the flats to target snook and redfish. So after you get in some beach action, the tide will have had a chance to rise. Then it’s time to hit the flats, where snook 20-26 inches are abundant. These hungry fish are quickly devouring free-lined shiners. And to add to the fun, I’m seeing redfish mixed in with the snook bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is patrolling the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key for kingfish, Spanish mackerel and shark.

For the macks and kings, Girle is anchoring and chumming over structure. Artificial reefs and ledges are proving to be a good area to start. Kingfish up to 30 pounds are being taken with most catches falling in the 15-pound range. As for the macks, fish up to 24 inches to the fork are the norm.

Moving inshore, Girle is finding a good bite on redfish and trout. For the redfish, shallow grass flats where sandy potholes exist are producing the best action. As for the trout, slightly deeper grass flats with the same environment or sandy potholes are resulting in slot-size fish.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters also is targeting kings and macks in the Gulf of Mexico. To catch bait for the kingfish, White is using a Sabiki rig to snag up threadfin herring. These larger baits are ideal for slow trolling or casting. Plus, they are like candy for hungry kings. As for the macks, medium-size white bait free-lined over structure is doing the trick.

Despite numerous windy days, White is still managing to run some fly-fishing trips. The highlight this past week came from large jack crevalle. A jack in the 10-pound range caught on an 8-weight fly rod can be challenging to get to the boat, which adds some extra excitement for visiting anglers looking for action on fly.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing redfish, snook, flounder and mackerel being caught. For the reds and the flounder, pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are finding success. For the snook, a tasty shiner or frisky little pinfish doesn’t last long when cast under the pier. Lastly, the mackerel are being taken on artificials, such as jigs and silver spoons.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting “transitional” snook throughout the flats of southern Tampa Bay and beyond. These fish are post-spawn, meaning they are moving from the beaches to the back bays and grass flats to feed in preparation for winter. This being said, these fish are ready to eat. Casting live free-lined shiners over the shallow flats where mangrove shorelines exist is resulting in multiple hookups for Lowman’s anglers.

Redfish and trout also are being caught on the flats. Trout numbers are high around deep grass flats where good tidal flow exists. As for the redfish, dock fishing is proving to be a consistent location to hook up the reds.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore for a variety of species. Fishing over wrecks and reefs is proving good for Stock’s clients, who are reeling up kingfish, permit, Spanish mackerel, goliath grouper and cobia — all being taken on live bait. Stock likes to carry an assortment of baits ranging from scaled sardines and threadfin to pinfish, blue runners and even crabs for the occasional permit.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

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