As we move into May, fishing around Anna Maria Island presents endless possibilities.
With water temps still hovering in the mid-70s, inshore fishing is proving to be excellent. Spotted seatrout seem to be dominating the bite. Fishing the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay is proving to be most productive for these ever famous flats species. Limits of slot size trout are attainable on most days with numerous fish 18-20 inches.
Larger trout of 20-inches and up are in abundance.
Snook fishing —although catch-and release as of May 1 — is providing great backwater action. Many slot-size snook are being caught as they stage up on the grass flats, heavily feeding before migrating to the beaches to spawn.
Redfish are in the mix, although the real abundance of fish are still a month or two away.
Fishing offshore also is offering up some of the best fishing of the year. Fishing wrecks and reefs is resulting in a plethora of species, including permit, grouper, snappers, black fin tuna, kingfish, cobia and African pompano. Venturing into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico is rewarding for anglers looking for both good table fare and some exceptional fish stories.
May brings the opening of greater amberjack in Gulf state waters. The season remains open through May 31 and will reopen again Aug. 1 and continue through Oct. 31. Minimum size limit for greater amberjack is 34 inches to the fork with a daily bag limit of one fish per person.
Lastly, don’t forget that May is typically the month that marks the arrival of tarpon. That’s right — it’s that time of year again. A few catches already are being reported, which means it’s time to dust off the tarpon gear and start cruising the beaches and bays in search of the elusive “silver king.”
On my own Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m concentrating on the back country. Targeting snook and spotted seatrout is keeping the rods bent — and fish in the cooler for my clients, depending on the target.
Although snook are catch-and-release again, it is still fun to target these back-country bruisers. Their explosive strikes and drag-screaming runs have anglers coming back for more, time and time again. As for the trout fishing, slot-size trout are in abundance, a convenience for those anglers who want a good fight and a fish dinner.
On a final note, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted new regulations for tripletail and sheepshead, which will go into effect July 1. For the tripletail, bag limits will remain the same, although the minimum size is increasing from 15 inches to 18 inches total length. As for the sheepies, the bag limit of 15 per person is reduced to eight fish per person.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working offshore for a variety of species. When using live crabs as bait, permit are being caught by his clients. This bite is occurring around reefs and wrecks in depths of 45 feet or deeper. Switching baits to sardines or pinfish is resulting in kingfish, red grouper and African pompano for White’s anglers. Moving inshore, White is fly fishing, casting for catch-and release snook and spotted seatrout. Small clouser flies or epoxy minnow are working best, he says.
Lastly, White is seeing an occasional tarpon as they begin to make a showing on the flats.
Capt. Jason Stock is catching his share of blackfin tuna while working offshore. Free-lined shiners or cigar minnows are luring these high-speed footballs to the hook for his clients. Other catches occurring offshore are mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, amberjack and goliath grouper.
For the inshore bite, Stock also is targeting spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Both are being taken on live shiners, plugs or soft plastics.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species brought to the deck — including catch-and-release over-slot snook and over-slot redfish. Snook in the 40-inch range are taking the hook of anglers using large baits — pinfish and large shiners.
As for the reds, fish in the 36-inch range are taking large live shrimp and pinfish. Other catches on the R&R include flounder, mackerel and pompano.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results for his clients. Spotted seatrout are dominating the bite with numerous slot-size fish being reeled to the boat. Free-lining live shiners in depths of 5-6 feet of water is resulting in limits of trout.
Targeting catch-and-release snook is proving to be good action for Girle’s anglers. Shallower flats of 2-3 feet are holding these most-famous flats fi sh. Finally, redfish are finding their way to Girle’s hook while fishing around oyster bars.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is hooking up with numerous catch-and-release snook along mangrove shorelines during strong out going tides. Fishing around passes and cuts where good tidal flow exists is key to this bite, according to Lowman.
Fishing deeper grass flats is resulting in spotted seatrout as well as jack crevalle, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel for Lowman’s anglers.
On calmer days, Lowman is venturing out to the artificial reefs for mangrove snapper, Spanish and king mackerel and an occasional permit.
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