Mild winter temps produce stellar fishing action

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Mary Allen Murray of Bradenton and Alan Brown, visiting Anna Maria Island from Maryland, show off a pair of pompano they caught using live shrimp on a Dec. 27 charter with Capt. Danny Stasny.
Tom Young of Pennsylvania shows off a 15-pound kingfish caught Dec. 22 on a guided fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Young had a live blue runner for bait. Lowman said Young and his group also caught a mess of hogfish, mangrove snappers and red grouper.
Matt, Morgan, Connie, Stacy and Ken Perkinson, all visiting Anna Maria Island from Atlanta, show off some of their catch from a day of fishing Dec. 26 in Sarasota Bay. They relied on Capt. Warren Girle to guide them to the redfish and bluefish.

For yet another week, mild temperatures and stellar fishing conditions make the little paradise we call Anna Maria Island attractive to visiting and local anglers alike.

Fishing nearshore and offshore is producing a variety of species, ranging from bottom dwellers — grouper, snapper and hogfish — to migratory fish — cobia, amberjack, kings and tuna.

Things are sure to change soon when old man winter blows the cold weather down from the north. But until they do, it’s time to celebrate where we live and our easy access to the beautiful emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m cashing in on the light winds and calm seas. Venturing out to the 40-50 foot depths is resulting in numerous catches fit for a fish fry. Key West grunts — the most abundant — are taking shrimp. Mangrove and lane snapper, gag grouper and hogfish are being reeled up with frequency. And, when we get tired of bottom fishing, there is an abundance of kingfish on the surface to keep us occupied. There’s great action for wintertime fishing in west-central Florida.

Moving inshore, I’m finding pompano and permit along channel edges and deeper grass flats and fresh-cut shrimp added to a pink jig is like candy for both species. The hardest part is finding these fish but, once you do, it’s game on.

Have a happy new year and keep your lines tight!

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says determined anglers are finding a few sheepshead and some black drum with shrimp on their hooks. With water temps in the 60-70 degree range, there are mangrove snapper to be caught. Fishing early morning, when the bait schools are present at the pier, is producing Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is heading offshore for a variety of fish. Fishing ledges and hard bottom is leading to bent rods with Key West grunts, hogfish, gag grouper and snapper at the end of the line. In the same areas are king mackerel and a few bonito. Porgies and flounder are being taken by some lucky anglers. Moving inshore, Lowman is targeting sheepshead, black drum and redfish around residential docks and canals.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking his anglers offshore with good results. Using live shrimp as bait is producing good-eating species — the most predominant bites from Key West grunts, mangrove and lane snapper. Hogfish and big gag grouper are rounding out the bite. Kingfish are present offshore for anglers looking for drag-screaming action.

Moving inshore, Girle is hooking numerous redfish on fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish. He also said catch-and-release snook fishing is productive. Lastly spotted seatrout and bluefish are being caught on the deeper flats.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore when the seas are calm and the winds are down. While fishing reefs and wrecks, Stock is encountering a variety of fish, including red and gag grouper, amberjack, permit and kingfish. Goliath grouper are present in these areas for anglers who think they have the strength to pull one up from the depths.

While in transit from spot to spot, Stock is spotting tripletail around floating debris. Casting live shrimp to these fish can result in an instant hookup.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is on beach patrol in search of kingfish. Cruising along within a mile of shore, White is finding numerous kings in the 25-pound class. Slow-trolling threadfin herring or anchoring and chumming with live shiners is attracting a bite.

On the flats of Sarasota and Tampa bays, White is finding over-slot redfish, catch-and-release snook and plenty of keeper-size trout. Structure in the bay is holding sheepies, according to White, which are readily taking shrimp. Lastly, pompano are being caught on shrimp-tipped jigs along the edges of the flats and along sandbars.

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