Inconsistent weather results in consistent fishing action

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William Stonelake of Philadelphia poses with his trophy, a tarpon caught May 25 on a live threadfin herring at the north tip of Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Courtesy Christina Stonelake
Skip Tubbs, visiting Anna Maria Island from Montana, shows off his redfish, caught May 12 in Sarasota Bay using shiners for bait on an afternoon fishing trip guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

Anna Maria Island fishing — between rain drops —remains excellent.

Despite numerous afternoon rain showers, the waters remain clear and the fishing is good. Tarpon season is improving, although the large numbers of fish have yet to show. Those eager to tangle with the “silver king” are able to hook up with persistence in Tampa Bay. Patrolling the Gulf beaches, as well as the passes both north and south, also is a good bet.

On the flats, spotted seatrout are the most dominant bite. Most of the large, over-slot trout have moved out to the Gulf to spawn, leaving numerous fish in the 12- to 18-inch range on the flats to readily take the bait. Free-lining live shiners over deeper grass flats is yielding many trout, although if you’re looking for a limit of fish you’d better be determined. Some days catching 20 trout will result in on a couple of keepers. Catch-and-release snook fishing is good. Shallow flats near passes or areas of good tidal flow are holding good numbers of fish for sport anglers.

Moving offshore, permit seem to be the big highlight, although other species — cobia, kingfish, amberjack and snapper — are present. Remember to get your tackle in order, as gag grouper season opens June 1.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m targeting spotted seatrout on the flats of Tampa and Sarasota Bays. Free-lining live shiners over flats when good tidal flow exists is resulting in many catches for my clients. Keeper-size trout are present, although I’m seeing a lot of undersize fish, too. Mixed in with the trout are Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish.

Catch-and-release snook are a good bet during days of stronger tides — especially the outgoing ones. Casting free-lined live shiners is resulting in some explosive bites. In some areas, I’m finding snook in water as shallow as 2 feet. Most everything else is occurring in depths of 3-4 feet.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria on Tampa Bay is seeing a variety of species being reeled up. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are catching their share of pinfish — but that’s not all. Mangrove snapper, flounder and over-slot redfish are interested in the shrimp offerings.

Spanish mackerel and other migratory fish, such as ladyfish, jacks and blue runners, are being caught on artificials — jigs or spoons.

Lastly, catch-and-release snook fishing is improving by the day. Targeting over-slot fish with large baits such as ladyfish and pinfish, is resulting in some memorable catches.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the nearshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to slower tides occurring during the half moon phase, Lowman is fishing reefs and wrecks in hopes of finding a better bite than the flats are providing. While in the Gulf, Lowman is putting clients on Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, cobia, sharks and permit.

On days when the tides are moving well, Lowman is on the flats targeting spotted seatrout. Mixed in with the trout are bluefish, macks and ladyfish. Catch-and-release snook fishing is proving to be good as long as the tide is moving.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting tarpon in the passes of Egmont Key, Bean Point and Longboat Key. Early morning excursions are producing the best bite for Gross, especially just before sunrise. Casting either live crabs or threadfin herring as bait is resulting in hookups for his clients.

Moving to the flats, Gross is enjoying the abundance of spotted seatrout in the area. Although much of the catch is falling just short of 15 inches, Gross is managing to put his clients on limits of slot-size fish for the cooler. Catch-and-release snook fishing also is proving good for Gross’ clients, especially on outgoing tides. Casting free-lined live shiners around shallow flats and mangrove edges is resulting in numerous bites.

Lastly, redfish are cooperating on baits cast around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines — key factors to getting hooked up.

Capt. Warren Girle is working for tarpon along the Gulf beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

Casting live crabs to schooling fish is resulting in numerous hook ups for his clients. Most catches are 60-120 pounds, with larger fish mixed in. When not targeting tarpon, Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay. Spotted seatrout and redfish are rounding out the bite for his anglers. Slot trout are common, while most of the redfish are over the slot of 27 inches.

Capt. Jason Stock is catching and tagging tarpon along the Gulf beaches. As part of a species tagging program for the Tarpon and Bonefish Trust, Stock tagging his tarpon hookups so they can be tracked and studied. Moving offshore, Stock is targeting permit over reefs and wrecks with good success. Casting live crabs in these areas is resulting in permit up to 25 pounds. Other catches occurring offshore include amberjack, kingfish and cobia and some good photos of goliath grouper before being released.

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