Island-area anglers find fishing hot prior to cold front

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Vince and Neda Uliano of Pennsylvania show off a redfish, caught Dec. 6 in Sarasota Bay. They caught several nice redfish using shiners as bait, but kept only one fish for dinner to promote conservation. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing prior to the cold front that blew through the area Dec. 10-11 was producing excellent action for Anna Maria Island anglers.

Fishing the flats has been good for redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Snook season ended Dec. 1.

Inshore fishing around docks and shallow water structure is providing action on sheepshead, snapper and gag grouper.

Those willing to venture into the Gulf of Mexico are being rewarded with variety, including migratory species — blackfin tuna, kingfish, amberjack and bonito. Bottom-fishing while offshore is producing red grouper, mangrove snapper, hogfish, flounder and Key West grunts.

On my own charters for Southernaire, I’m finding great action within 9 miles of shore. During the calmer days, when the seas are smooth, I’m fishing ledges and hard-bottom areas. By baiting with live shrimp, my clients are reeling up gag and red grouper, hogfish, lane and mangrove snapper, as well as triggerfish and Key West grunts.

While working the flats with live shiners for bait, I’m finding the catch-and-release snook fishing exhilarating for my clients. Snook up to 30 inches are taking the hook, although most are 22-26 inches. Spotted seatrout and bluefish also are being caught on the flats — in abundance.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp for bait are catching black drum, sheepshead, flounder and an occasional redfish. As happens every year, Malfese says that since snook season closed, linesiders have shown up in great numbers. Live shiners, pinfish and ladyfish are working for the catch-and release snook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing the Gulf of Mexico for a variety of species. On calm days, bottom-fishing around ledges is producing hogfish, snappers and gag grouper. For these fish, Lowman is using either live shrimp or pinfish. Also present are kingfish and bonito. Live shiners are the bait of choice for these guys. While en route to his offshore spots, Lowman is putting clients on numerous triple tail. Casting live shrimp to these fish is resulting in a bite.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is working nearshore and on the flats. Kingfish and bonito are providing good action for Gross’ clients in 40 feet of water around the artificial reefs. Most kings are in the 10-pound range, while fish up to 30 pounds are mixed in. On the flats, catch-and-release snook are in abundance, as well as spotted seatrout, bluefish and a few redfish.

Capt. Warren Girle is targeting the flats of Sarasota Bay for redfish. Girle is locating schooling reds, which provide an excellent bite for his clients. Redfish 20-30 inches are being caught on live free-lined shiners and fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish. Also present around the redfish schools are catch-and-release snook. On the deeper grass flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is hooking up clients with numerous spotted seatrout, as well as bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Fishing offshore is resulting in keeper-size gag grouper and mangrove snapper for Girle. Both are being taken by combining live shiners with a bottom rig. Fishing ledges and artificial reefs is a good place to start.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore for a variety of species. While patrolling offshore reefs and wrecks, Stock is putting clients on numerous kingfish and amberjack. Using artificials, such as surface poppers, is providing excellent action. Bottom-fishing with live bait, such as shiners and pinfish, is attracting attention from flounder up to 22 inches, as well as snapper and grouper. Dropping live baits — such as jack crevalle — to the bottom is resulting in a monster hookup — goliath grouper — a catch-and-release photo trophy.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters was taking advantage of the nice weather ahead of the cold front. On these calm days, White is venturing offshore in search of a variety of species, including blackfin tuna, amberjack, gag grouper, hogfish and red grouper.

Moving inshore, he’s using shrimp as bait to put clients on sheepshead and black drum. Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook also are being caught using live shiners as bait.

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