Beat the crowds — fish early, fish late for best results

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Payton Knoebel, Colby Kurts and Callen Knoebel, visiting from Colorado, fished the inshore waters of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island June 22 and their determination paid off with a nice catch of spotted sea trout. They were fuided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.

Despite the exaggerated volume of boats on the water for the holiday week, fishing around Anna Maria Island remained consistently good.

Now the key to fishing these crowded weekends or around the holiday is to fish early morning or late evening. Those fishing morning tides are reporting good action on Spanish mackerel and snapper around the artificial reefs and wrecks. There are a few cobia being caught in these areas, so it’s good to have handy a heavy-action rod — just in case.

On the flats, pursuit of spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook is proving to be worthwhile. Remember, fish early — especially if you’re going to target snook. As morning wears on, the sun rises, boat traffic gets hectic and these fish will turn off and wait for a cooler, more tranquil atmosphere. As for the trout, working the deep grass flats where boat traffic is light is yielding good numbers of fish.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m targeting mangrove snapper. Fishing around the artificial reefs is providing decent action, although the large numbers of fish have not arrived. I’m having to chum heavily to get a bite going. Once the chumming starts, I’m seeing numerous Spanish mackerel show up behind the boat. These are a welcome sight, as they add a variety to the snapper bite. Plus, they are great fish to catch on light tackle due to their drag-screaming runs and hard strikes.

After putting some snapper in the cooler and tiring on the mackerel strikes, I’m moving inshore to some of the deep grass areas in Tampa Bay to target spotted seatrout. Some spots are loaded with trout, although many are running short of keeper-size. It might take 10 trout before you catch a keeper. But hey, when they bite on every cast, it goes by quickly. Mixed in with the trout bite are macks, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Brett Lance at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous oversize snook being caught and released at Anna Maria Island’s northern-most pier. Using large baits — pinfish, ladyfish and grunts — pier fishers are hooking into snook 30-40 inches.

Macks also are biting at the R&R. Casting silver spoons or small jigs around bait schools is resulting in keeper-size macks. Mixed in are jack crevalle and skip jacks.

Also, anglers using live shrimp as bait are hooking up flounder and mangrove snapper for the cooler.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting catch-and-release snook along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and inside the passes of Bean Point and Longboat Key. Sight casting to these linesiders with live free-lined shiners is resulting in some great action for Lowman’s clients. To target larger snook in the passes, Lowman is baiting with pinfish and grunts.

Lowman also is finding success with trout on the deeper grass flats of Terra Ceia and Sarasota Bay. Slot-size trout are being caught with some regularity, with an abundance of smaller fish in the mix. Also, Lowman says results on mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel around the reefs in the Gulf of Mexico remain steady.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking clients to offshore ledges for mangrove snapper. Using live shiners combined with a 1/2-ounce knocker rig is resulting in 12- to 18-inch mangoes for Girle’s anglers.

While targeting snapper, Girle is encountering red and gag grouper. Macks and bonito are present in these areas too, by free-lining baits on the surface. Moving inshore, Girle is putting clients on spotted seatrout. Casting live shiners over the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay is keeping his anglers busy on trout 14-18 inches.

Capt. Jason Stock is working inshore for big catch-and-release snook. Casting live shiners to fish along the beach is resulting in linesiders up to 36 inches. The same applies in the passes. In these areas, Stock is using larger baits — grunts and pinfish. Moving offshore, permit are being caught using live crabs and jigs as bait. On evening tides, Stock is targeting shark and tarpon along the island beaches with his clients.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore for spotted seatrout. Deep grass flats are producing good numbers of fish while baiting with live shiners.

Targeting catch-and-release snook is keeping White and his clients busy. These fish are found along mangrove shorelines and along the beaches. While targeting snook on his trips along the mangroves, White is hooking into a few redfish.

Moving offshore, White is setting his clients on American red snapper before the season nears its end.

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