With yet another blast of cold air upon them, Anna Maria fishers braced themselves for more wind and falling water temperatures.
But, don’t be discouraged, there is still plenty of fishing action as long as you target the right species.
You may have to give the snook fishing a break for a few days until water temperatures return to normal. But sheepshead, black drum and redfish offer great alternatives. Using live shrimp or crabs for any of these species is a great way to get started.
Next, you’ll have to find the bite. For the sheepies, any dock, pier or bridge piling will suffice. If you’re in the boat, fishing wrecks and artificial reefs are options. For the redfish and black drum, try fishing docks around the passes or residential docks in canals, as well the Intracoastal Waterway.
On calmer, less windy days, venturing into the Gulf of Mexico is worthwhile. Fishing ledges is yielding a variety of species — mangrove snapper, porgies, Key West grunts and hogfish. You may also encounter kingfish and Spanish mackerel if you cast out shiners as bait.
On my excursions with Southernaire, I am still cashing in on the sheepshead bite. Not only do these fish put up a fight to the end, they make great table fare, too. Most of the sheepies I’m catching are over wrecks, reefs and rock piles, although docks are producing, too. While targeting sheepies, I’m also seeing redfish, black drum and flounder on the hook.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is being surrounded by sheepshead and, of course, it’s the primary target for those fishing from the pier. Dropping live shrimp around the pilings is working well as bait, as are live fiddler crabs and sand fleas. Most catches are 1-2 pounds, although fish up to 4 pounds are common. Another welcome species to the pier is Spanish mackerel. Casting small white jigs or silver spoons is triggering a strike from these high-speed, toothy fish.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing Tampa Bay for a variety of species. Sheepshead are the most predominant, especially with the arrival of recent cold fronts and the accompanying drops in water temperature. Black drum and redfish are being caught during the cooler days of March. Venturing offshore on calm days is yielding a good bite, especially for mangrove snapper. Mixed in with the snapper are porgies, grunts and a few hogfish.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters was targeting sheepshead at the end of the week as another cold front settled into our region. On windy mornings, Gross is staying within the sheltered waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Fishing around docks with live shrimp is working well on the convict fish roundup.
When winds are lighter, venturing into Tampa Bay to fish reefs and wrecks is producing a bite. Gross says these sheepies are averaging 2-3 pounds with some coming in at 5 pounds.
After his clients get their work out on sheepshead, Gross is targeting trout on flats where the water depth is 5-6 feet. Casting DOA shrimp combined with a Cajun Thunder cork is attracting trout in the slot range of 15-20 inches.
Lastly, during afternoon tides when the water is slightly warmer, Gross is putting clients on a handful of snook.
Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay for spotted seatrout. Fishing deeper grass flats with soft plastics or shiners is producing trout in the slot range of 15-20 inches. Fishing shallower grass flats where mangroves and oyster bars are present is resulting in numerous redfish for Girle’s clients.
Moving offshore, Girle is experiencing frenzies of kingfish. Free-lining live shiners or a wire rig is attracting kings in the 15- to 20-pound range. Other offshore catches include mangrove snapper, triggerfish and a plethora of juvenile gag and red grouper.
Capt. Jason Stock is finding excellent fishing action offshore when the seas are calm. While patrolling wrecks and reefs, Stock is hooking into big permit, as well as king mackerel. Bottom fishing in these areas is resulting in action from flounder, sheepshead and gag grouper. Moving inshore, Stock is hunting big snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. The higher tides are yielding the best bite on the flats, according to Stock, especially for large gator trout.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting redfish along mangrove shorelines during the higher stages of the tide. To put clients on these fish, White is employing a variety of baits, including live shiners, shrimp and artificials. Snook are present in these same areas and are taking baits on warmer days. During the cold fronts, White is targeting sheepshead and black drum around rocks and docks.
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