Unseasonable chill cools off fishing action for area anglers

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Jack Reibel, visiting Anna Maria Island from Charlotte, North Carolina, shows off a 32-inch snook he caught on a live shiner Dec. 29, 2017, while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. David White.
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.

Due to the recent arctic blast we experienced to start off 2018, there’s really not a lot of fishing going on.

With temperatures and the chill factor ranging from the 30s to the 50s, most anglers in our area were staying indoors. Not many folks were venturing out on the water looking for a bite.

I did manage to see quite a few mullet fishermen braving the harsh cold and windy conditions, casting their nets around a big pay check.

As for the recreational anglers, this was a good week to take a break and get the gear fine tuned.

I pulled my boat out of the water and trailered it home for some needed TLC and maintenance.

But, I’ll tell you, staying away from the water for too long never sits well with me.

The cold weather sent me off to walk some of the local piers, checking out the action. On one occasion, I ran into a buddy of mine, Jesse Ferguson. He had the week off from work and was determined to fish no matter what the weather predictors had in store. And, sure enough, it paid off for him.

As I said “Hi” to him, I glanced over the edge of the pier to see his stringer filled with sheepshead and a hefty redfish. Just goes to show what a little local knowledge and determination can do for you. Good job, Jesse.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says despite the weather and 25-knot winds, some anglers were willing to venture out on the pier to find a bite. Those using live shrimp as bait were catching an occasional sheepshead or black drum. A few flounder also were in the mix for the hearty fishers at the north end.

Capt. Aaron Lowman, prior to the cold snap, was fishing nearshore reefs and rock piles with good results. By using live shrimp as bait, Lowman was managing to attract a variety of fish to the hook — sheepshead, mangrove snapper, flounder and Key West grunts. Moving out to offshore structure such as ledges and wrecks, Lowman was putting his clients on hogfish, lane snapper and kingfish.

Capt. Warren Girle was working offshore with good results for his clients prior to the cold front. Catch-and-release gag grouper were quick to find the bait when fishing in depths of 40-50 feet of water. Also in these areas, Girle’s anglers had hookups on mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and a couple of hogfish.

On the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle was able to muster up a decent spotted seatrout bite by baiting up some live shrimp under a popping cork. On a couple of morning charters, Girle counted as many as 50 trout reeled to the boat. Mixed in with the trout were numerous bluefish and a few pompano.

Capt. Jason Stock, prior to the Florida blizzard, was running some great fishing sessions offshore. Amberjack, kingfish and permit were being found around offshore wrecks. Fishing reefs and hard bottom offshore was resulting in catch-and-release gag grouper, mangrove snapper and goliath grouper.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters was doing well both offshore and on the flats before the cold weather arrived. While offshore, red grouper, mangrove and lane snapper, barracuda and amberjack were in abundance. On the flats, big catch-and-release snook seemed to dominate the bite for White’s clients. While targeting the catch-and-release snook, White’s anglers also managed to put a few nice redfish in the cooler.

Lastly, pompano and permit were being found on deep grass flats while using shrimp-tipped jigs for bait.

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

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