Variety in weather produces medley of catches

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Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters wrangles the estimated 180-pound tarpon caught and fought June 4 by Eric Simpson of Syracuse, New York. White said the silver king was hooked on a live threadfin herring off the north end of Anna Maria Island. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mike Neely

Anna Maria Island is host to wide-ranging conditions for fishing.

During the past couple of weeks, we experienced a full spectrum of weather, including tropical storm-like conditions from Alberto. Before that, we had exquisite weather — calm waters and light easterly breezes that make for excellent fishing across the board. These conditions can be ideal for local fishing, including inshore, nearshore and offshore.

During Alberto, we had windy days and rain. This seemed to change the bite or, more so, changed the location of the fish. But not to worry, conditions are improving.

Winds from the west are tapering off, which means we will be back on a normal summer pattern. The tarpon bite, although difficult to attain after the storm, is improving by the day. The same is true for other targets when fishing inshore and offshore.

Inshore, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are dominating the bite. As for offshore, American red snapper are the hot ticket.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m targeting catch-and-release snook. The bite is excellent, with catches of 30-40 snook being the norm in a morning.

After wearing out the snook bite, I’m scouring the deep grass flats for spotted seatrout. Post-spawn trout up to 22 inches are turning up on our hooks, although these fish are on the move. I’m having to try different areas daily. Mixed in with the trout bite are Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Also, June 11 started the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters. Before heading out, make sure you have a Gulf Reef Fish Angler on your fishing license. You can get this mandatory no-cost designation at or anywhere you can purchase a fishing license.

Capt. Warren Girle is in pursuit of tarpon along the beaches and in the passes, ranging from Egmont Key south to Longboat Key. Most hookups are occurring on live pass crabs as bait, although live threadfin herring are working for Girle’s anglers. Tarpon in the 100-pound range is normal, but fish up to 200 pounds are not unheard of this time of year.

Moving inshore, Girle is putting clients on redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook on the flats of Sarasota Bay. Offerings of live shiners as bait are resulting in catches of all three species.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is spending his days focused on catching American red snapper. Baiting with dead sardines and live pinfish is attracting the sought-after snapper to the hook.

While offshore, White is finding red grouper and amberjack, as well as some hefty mangrove snapper, attracted to his boat.

When not offshore fishing, White is chasing tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island. For White, live crabs are working well during the morning hours. As the afternoon sets in, White says he’s switching to live threadfin herring, which are yielding good results. Fish up to 175 pounds are being reeled to the boat.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a welcome sight — the arrival of Spanish mackerel. These high-speed eating machines are a pier favorite for local and visiting anglers. When using live tackle, these fish can put up an amazing battle with many drag-screaming runs and a fight to the end.

To catch these fish, pier anglers are using a variety of methods. Artificials such as silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or small jigs in assorted colors work well. Live bait such as small scaled sardines or threadfin herring work when combined with a long shank hook. Mackerel catches in the 20-inch range are being reported.

Other catches at the R&R include mangrove snapper, flounder, redfish and catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is spending his days over the artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. By chumming heavily with live shiners, Lowman is attracting a variety of fish to the boat. Mangrove snapper are attracted to chum, as well as Spanish mackerel. Both are being caught on free-lined live shiners or a free-lined chunk of shiners drifted back in the chum. Lucky anglers are hooking up with an occasional cobia while fishing in this manner.

Capt. Jason Stock is on patrol offshore with his clients for a variety of species, and finding American red snapper with some regularity, as well as gag grouper, kingfish and permit.

Moving inshore, Stock is finding his share of tarpon as the schools move up and down the Gulf shoreline of Anna Maria Island. Casting live crabs or live threadfin herring to schooling fish is resulting in a hookup and a trophy photo for Stock’s clients.

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