The quality of fishing continues to increase as warm sunny skies and light breezes surround Anna Maria Island.
Backwater species — snook, trout and redfish — are gradually making their way back to the grass flats in the bays, rivers and the Intracoastal Waterway. Live shiners as bait are eagerly being taken by all three species. Also present inshore are ladyfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel, which add a welcome variety to the list of species to be caught.
Fishing near the beaches and passes is providing good action. Pompano, permit, whiting, black drum and sheepshead are present in these areas and can’t help but eat a fresh-cut piece of shrimp strategically placed on a hook.
Venturing offshore is yet another option — and a good one at that. Cobia, tripletail, amberjack and big permit can be found around the wrecks and reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Hogfish, Key West grunts and numerous varieties of snapper are being found around ledges and hard bottom.
On my Southernaire charters, I’m patrolling the beaches and passes for pompano and permit. These are two of my favorite species to target and catch. So it’s hard not to go hunting for them when they are around. Casting small jigs tipped with fresh-cut shrimp is working well.
Sheepshead are present along the beaches, as well as around structure in Tampa Bay. Not only do these zebra-striped fish put up a relentless fight, they’re great eating, too. I guess any fish that grazes on crabs and shrimp all day should taste pretty good, right? When beach fishing the sheepies, I’m finding whiting, redfish and black drum mixed in. When targeting them on the reefs, numerous mangrove snapper and Key West grunts are coming to the hook.
Lastly, casting jigs over the deep, lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay is producing some great spotted seatrout action. A 1/4-ounce jig head combined with a MirrOlure Lil John soft plastic is working great. Top-water plugs are working well on the shallower flats for large, over-slot trout.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier on Tampa Bay is seeing a good number of sheepshead taking up residence around the pilings of the pier. As these fish gather to nibble on barnacles and whatever other crustaceans cross their path, they make excellent targets for eager fishers. Casting live shrimp under the pier on a weighted rig is working on most days, especially when the sheepies are on the feed. When they are less motivated to eat a shrimp, try a fiddler crab or sand flea as bait. Flounder also are coming to the deck at the R&R. Most are being taken by anglers targeting sheepshead and using shrimp as bait.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout on the deeper grass flats from Terra Ceia Bay south to Sarasota Bay. Live shiners placed under a popping cork are working well to attract a bite. Catch-and-release snook are being caught in the bays, although in much shallower water. Free-lining live shiners to these hungry snook is resulting in numerous hookups. On the nearshore reefs of the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is finding a few hogfish, as well as mangrove snapper, porgies, sheepshead and tripletail.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business is flats fishing for catch-and-release snook. According to Gross, the bite is “as good as it gets.” Snook 22-26 inches are in abundance and being readily caught. Keeper-sizes of snook are also in the mix, but not as gullible as the smaller fish. Also on the flats are redfish and spotted seatrout. The trout are being caught over deep grass during afternoon tides. As for the redfish, finding them mixed in with the snook bite is not uncommon. Moving out to deeper water, most structure in Tampa Bay is host to Spanish mackerel. To catch these high-speed fish, Gross is having clients free-line live shiners on Aberdeen hooks.
Capt. Warren Girle is running charters offshore for mangrove snapper. Ledges, reefs or rock piles are excellent places to find these tasty fish — and Girle has found them. Mixed in with the snapper are an array of other species, including porgies, hogfish, Key West grunts and flounder. Fishing with either live shrimp or shiners is producing good action. On the inshore bite, Girle is targeting pompano on the flats, where he’s coming across numerous trout, as well as ladyfish and bluefish.
Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore for a variety of species. Cobia and other sought-after species — permit and amberjack — are being found around offshore wrecks and reefs. When using lighter tackle than required for the cobia and AJs, Stock is reeling up flounder from the sandy bottom surrounding the reef. On windier days, Stock is enjoying the sanctuary of inshore fishing throughout the bays and Intracoastal Waterway, where snook, trout and redfish are rounding out the bite for his anglers.
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