Anglers are experiencing both ends of the spectrum of fishing while venturing into the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island.
Spring-like conditions — where temperatures in the 80s are prevalent — is providing excellent action on the flats. Snook, trout and redfish are on the feed when the sun warms the water. Fishing offshore is proving good on the warm, calm days, with kingfish, cobia, mackerel and sharks being caught.
On the other end of the spectrum are the days when air temps never rise above the low 60s. With minimal sun, the water temperature falls, creating a slightly different scenario. In these conditions, sheepshead, black drum and flounder are more apparent. Being more tolerant of the cold than snook or trout, the cold-catch species can make a cold windy day on the water enjoyable and productive.
On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m jumping on those warm sunny days when snook fishing is exceptional. Fishing the high stages of the tide around mangrove shorelines and oyster bars is providing rallies of fish with multiple hookups for my clients. Spotted seatrout can be found in these same areas, where some fish are exceeding 20 inches.
It makes for a great day of fishing.
Now with sudden cold spells, water temps drop overnight, which results in different species being targeted. On cold, windy days, sheepshead are my preferred target. Fishing around rocks and docks — especially in the canals, where we’re sheltered from the wind — is providing good action on these tasty, convict-striped porgies. Targeting sheepies is resulting in redfish, flounder and black drum in the cooler, too.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the numbers of sheepshead increase from one day to the next. Soon there will be so many sheepshead under the pier that they will appear to gnaw their way through the wooden pilings as they leisurely graze on the barnacles. Pier fishers lucky enough to get in on the sheepshead bite are reaping the benefits of large numbers of fish. Casting live shrimp under the pier is resulting in convict catches up to 2 pounds, with an occasional 4- or 5-pounder being reeled up. Mixed in with the sheep herd are black drum, flounder and redfish. And casting shrimp away from the pier is attracting a pompano or two, as well as whiting and the ever-famous ladyfish, according to Malfese.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting snook throughout the grass flats of Tampa Bay and southward throughout Anna Maria Sound. On warmer days, Lowman is finding good numbers of linesiders as they funnel out to the flats to feed. In areas where mangroves exist, Lowman is directing his anglers to cast baits to the edges of the shore, where the branches hang over the water. Live shiners are Lowman’s go-to bait. Numerous catches of 22- to 26-inch fish are being interrupted by an occasional 30-plus-inch fish.
Large spotted seatrout are present on the shallow flats close to shore. His clients are casting live shiners and catching trout exceeding 20 inches. Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is finding good action with migratory fish, such as bonito, kingfish, spinner sharks and cobia. To find these fish, Lowman is patrolling artificial reefs and wrecks.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business also is working the flats of Tampa Bay with good results. Gross boasts of the warmer days when exceptional fishing is taking place — especially for snook and redfish. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught around mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. Spotted seatrout are being caught on the flats, typically in depths of 4-6 feet. Rattling corks baited with live shiners worked over the surface of the water are attracting trout up to 18 inches.
On the not-so-warm days, Gross is using live shrimp as bait and fishing around structure in wind-protected areas for sheepshead. Keeper-sizes of these fish are in abundance.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore on days when the Gulf of Mexico is calm. While fishing ledges, Girle is finding numerous mangrove snapper. Live shiners, either free-lined or on a bottom rig, are attracting the attention of these small, tasty snappers. I use the term “little” loosely — some mangrove snapper being reeled up are in excess of 20 inches. Talk about a good fighting fish. And good eating, too.
Moving inshore to Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding spotted seatrout in good numbers. Live free-lined shiners or jig heads paired with a soft plastic are producing a bite for his clients.
On warm days, Girle is hunting snook on shallow flats where mangrove or oyster bars exist. Casting live shiners is resulting in numerous hookups.
Capt. Jason Stock is on patrol in the offshore waters west of Anna Maria Island, where fishing around wrecks and reefs is producing big amberjack. Casting poppers or swim baits is resulting in some aggressive strikes and back-breaking battles for his clients. Kingfish are present in these areas and are responding to Halco Lures, either trolled or quickly retrieved by hand. When switching to live bait, Stock is reaching in the well for a live pass crab. Casting these silver dollar-sized crustaceans around wrecks where permit lurk is leading to some large specimens on the hook.
Lastly, fishing the flats for snook is producing some fish in the 40-inch range, as well as some slot and under-slot fish.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is catching his share of snook. Live shiners cast around mangrove shorelines during the warmest part of the day is getting the job done. Many fish 20-25 inches are being caught by White’s anglers, as well as some slot fish for the lucky ones. Spotted seatrout also are being bagged, with some exceeding 20 inches and many more measuring 15-18 inches.
Moving inshore, White is excited to see the arrival of kingfish, Spanish mackerel and cobia. Live shiners are attracting all three species to the hook.
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