Fog might put a damper on pleasure boating, but not fishing

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Spencer Ash, 11, of Newfoundland, Canada, shows off the beautiful male hogfish he caught Feb. 7 on a charter trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Spencer and his family caught more hogfish, as well as countless porgies, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, grunts juvenile groupers and more — all caught on light spinning gear using live shrimp as bait. Lowman took them up to 9 miles out in Gulf of Mexico to “live bottom areas.”
Sam and Sophie Schmid, left, Ed Wetherill, Mike and Leah Schmid and Chris Wibe, all from Minnesota, loved fishing and our weather, according to Capt. Warren Girle. The group is showing off the trout and pompano they caught Feb. 6 on an inshore fishing trip guided by Girle.

Well, how about that fog? Yes, I was fortunate to have charters numerous days and go fishing in near-zero visibility. It’s not that the fog affects the fishing one way or the other, but it sure makes it hard to get around. Safety is the most important factor on any trip on the water. So remember, go slow in the fog because you never know what you’ll encounter.

I’m really glad it hasn’t been cold this past week. Aside from the fog, fishing around Anna Maria Island is steadily improving as we approach spring. On my Southernaire excursions, I’m doing a variety of fishing depending on what the weather provides. On calm days, I’m venturing offshore to ledges, reefs and wrecks, which is resulting in a variety of species. Hogfish, Key West grunts and snapper are being caught around the ledges. Reefs and wrecks are producing two predominant species — sheepshead and flounder. On calm days, fishing the beaches and passes is proving to be good for pompano and whiting. Lastly, fishing the bays and Intracoastal Waterway is producing decent action on spotted seatrout and an occasional bluefish. Skinny water redfish and trout that are taking residence on shallow grass areas also are taking our bait.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is starting to see the sheepshead bite take hold. In the days to come, these convict-colored fish will be gathering by the hundreds to munch on the tasty barnacles on the pilings at the R&R Pier. They’ll also be there for another reason — to spawn. If you time it right, these fish will eagerly take shrimp, crabs or sand fleas in their pre-spawn mode. This is when they’re trying to store up energy for you know what. If you’re into catching and frying up sheepies, the R&R should be on your list of places to watch so you’re there at the peak time.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing offshore with good results. Combining live shrimp with a 1-ounce knocker rig and dropping the combination around ledges and reefs is providing good action for his clients. Hogfish, porgies, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release gag grouper round out the bite for Lowman’s anglers this week. Moving inshore, Lowman is putting fishers on sheepshead, black drum and redfish around residential docks and canals. Lastly, lucky anglers are hooking into pompano while working the passes and ledges.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is patrolling nearshore reefs for a variety of species. Using live shrimp as bait is resulting in numerous sheepshead, as well as mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and hogfish. Moving inshore, Gross is targeting spotted seatrout in Sarasota Bay. Working a measles-colored DOA shrimp in 3-5 feet of water over the flats is working well. Gross says pompano are being caught on the flats with a 1/4-ounce jig head combined with a green grub tail.

Capt. Warren Girle is working offshore for a variety of species. Fishing ledges, reefs and wrecks in 40-50 feet of water is resulting in hogfish, mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and porgies. All of these species are being caught on bottom rigs baited with live shrimp. Moving inshore to the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is enjoying watching his clients reel up spotted seatrout and pompano. Shrimp-tipped jigs are working for both.

Capt. Jason Stock is finding good action while fishing “skinny” water grass flats. In depths of 2-3 feet of water, Stock is instructing his clients to cast an array of artificials, including top-water and sub-surface plugs. While doing this, hungry “gator” trout are “taking the bait,” which is resulting in some trophy-size catches. Trout in the 26-inch range are common. Moving to slightly deeper water on runs offshore to the wrecks, reefs and ledges, Stock is putting clients on sheepshead, flounder, hogfish and tripletail.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is catching his share of red grouper in 100 feet of water. For bait, frozen sardines or live pinfish are luring these “fire trucks” to the hook. Moving inshore, White is casting soft plastic jigs over deeper flats to hook up with some spotted seatrout. White says his clients also are casting shrimp around the bayside docks, where they’re finding action on sheepshead and black drum.

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