Plenty of rain, but no damper on fishing

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Before the deluge of rain began at the end of May, the tarpon were biting. The Oliver family — grandfather, father and son — came to Anna Maria Island from Kansas to hook up with Capt. Warren Girle on a hunt for the silver king, and they were not disappointed. They had several fish on, including this 120-pounder, caught May 26 on a pass crab. From front to back are Brett Oliver, Girle and Jerry Oliver. Jason Oliver is behind the camera.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains consistent as long as you don’t mind fishing in the rain.

Rainy days have enveloped our little island, but it doesn’t seem to bother the fish. At least most of them.

Inshore fishing is good for hooking spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Also present in the backcountry are jack crevalle, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and a few redfish.

Nearshore and offshore fishing remains good, at least on the calm days when the Gulf of Mexico is fishable. Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and cobia are being found on nearshore structure. Moving out deeper yields kingfish, permit and amberjack.

On my trips with Southernaire, I’m concentrating on the backcountry. Catching spotted seatrout is providing good action for my clients and yields a few fish to put in the cooler.

A lot of the larger trout — those exceeding 20 inches — have moved from the flats to spawn leaving many 12-to 18-inch fish to be caught. “Weeding” through the smaller ones is a factor, but my clients are putting their limits in the box.

Mixed in with the trout bite are Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle, which adds variety to the action. After trout fishing, I’m targeting catch-and-release snook. Numerous male fish, 20-26 inches, are on the shallow flats of Tampa Bay and southward to Sarasota Bay. Casting live, free-lined shiners is resulting in many hook-ups. Some snook sessions are exceeding 30 fish brought to the boat and released. In some areas, the snook are swimming over the white sandy bottom along the shoreline, which is an excellent scenario for sight casting. Being able to see the fish is yielding larger catches of fish up to 30 inches.

Capt. Warren Girle is on patrol for tarpon along the Gulf beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, as well as in the passes. Morning tides are proving best, with numerous hook-ups occurring before 9 a.m. For bait, pass crabs or threadfin herring work well.

On “non-tarpon” days, Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay. Using live shiners as bait, he is leading his clients to a variety of flats species, including redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is tackling the nearshore structure in the Gulf of Mexico, where Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper are providing consistent action. An abundance of chum is key to getting the bite started, he says. While fishing the reefs, Lowman’s clients are hooking into an occasional big bomber — a cobia.

Moving inshore, Lowman is putting his clients on a good number of catch-and-release snook. Free-lined live shiners fished over shallow grass flats with good tidal flow is key to catching these shallow-water torpedoes. Mixed in with the snook bite are spotted seatrout and the occasional flounder.

Lastly, Lowman is targeting tarpon along the beaches and passes. Casting live crabs or threadfin herring is attracting fish for his clients in the 80- to 120-pound class.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore when the weather permits. He is finding his share of permit where casting live crabs results in catches up to 20 pounds for his clients.

Also around offshore structure, cobia, kingfish and amberjack are being caught on live or artificial baits.

Moving inshore, Stock is in pursuit of tarpon. Fishing the beaches and passes is proving reliable. For bait, live crabs and threadfin herring are working well. Other baits — pinfish and large shiners — are triggering a strike when the tarpon are finicky, Stock says

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting mangrove snapper on offshore structure. To catch these tasty fish, he is chumming with fresh-cut shiners until the fish start to feed. Then he’s slipping a hook into a “livey” and free-lining it down to the structure. This method is yielding catches up to 20 inches.

Moving inshore, Capt. David White is targeting tarpon inshore along the beaches and passes. First light is when he feels the best bite occurs. Casting live threadfin herring or live crabs to schooling fish is getting the job done.

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