Fall weather, fishing heat up around Anna Maria Island

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Parker, Grady, Karla and Tim Burnham, visiting Anna Maria Island from Tennessee, show off their Oct. 15 catch. The group was guided offshore to a catch of mackerel and mangrove snapper on live shiners by Capt. Warren Girle.

With red tide all but vanished in the waters around Anna Maria Island, anglers again are venturing out on the water — and finding success.

Inshore fishing around the island and waters to the east is heating up for a traditional fall bite. Catch-and-release snook fishing is at its finest. Don’t be surprised to find some catch-and-release redfish in the mix, too.

Mangrove snapper are around just about every site with structure. Seeing schools of 30-40 fish rise up in the chum is not unheard of — especially around reefs and wrecks.

Spanish mackerel are being found in decent numbers, especially around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and, while targeting macks, you can expect to encounter jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish.

Also, spotted seatrout are abundant on the deeper grass flats. Most are just short of keeper-size, but the determined angler can scrape up a limit of four 15- to 20-inch fish.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m targeting mangrove snapper. Fishing reefs and wrecks for this tasty fish is rewarding this time of year. A little chumming goes a long way. With schools of snapper feeding in the chum, I’m casting free-lined baits into the mix to get hooked up. Limits are soon to be had when the fish are biting.

On other days, I’m finding the snapper to be a little leader shy. As a result, I’m scaling down from 20-pound leader to 15-pound fluorocarbon — and it’s game on.

Moving to the flats, catch-and-release snook fishing is at its best. Hooking up with 30-40 snook in a morning is possible. Most are 20-26 inches, although lucky sport anglers are hooking into larger, harder fighting fish.

I’m also finding an occasional redfish — also catch-and-release in the wake of red tide — mixed in with the snook bite, which is a welcome sight.

Lastly, spotted seatrout are abundant on certain grass flats. Most are undersized, but with a little persistence, I’m putting a few slot-size fish in the cooler for my clients.

Capt. Warren Girle is doing well targeting mangrove snapper around shallow water structure in Tampa Bay. Schools of snapper are gathering in these areas, providing some great light-tackle action to Girle’s clients. Free-lining small shiners combined with a small hook and a light leader is getting the snapper in the mood. Mixed in with the bite are juvenile gag grouper, macks and jacks.

Moving elsewhere, fishing deep grass flats is producing great action on spotted seatrout for Girle’s clients. Again, free-lined shiners are the ticket. Numerous trout just under the slot of 15-24 inches are being caught, while persistent anglers are catching their limit.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is hooking up with numerous catch-and-release snook from the Manatee Bridge north to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, finding most of the action occurring around mangrove edges, oyster bars and docks. Snook sizes are 18-33 inches. While targeting snook, Lowman is putting clients on mangrove snapper. Near limits of the tasty fish are being caught with little effort.

Lastly, casting white bait into sandy potholes during a strong outgoing tide is resulting in an occasional catch-and-release redfish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing some jumbo-size snook among the schools around the pilings. Pier fishers using large baits — ladyfish, pinfish or mojarras — stand a chance of hooking one of the larger snook. Keeping it on the hook is another story. The smaller linesiders are being hooked on live shiners and shrimp as bait.

Other catches at the R&R include over-slot redfish and mangrove snapper. Casting jigs or spoons from the pier is yielding a few mackerel and some jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is reporting hookups on a wide variety of species while fishing Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters to the east of AMI. Big jack crevalle are being caught while using both live bait and artificials in the deeper areas of the bay.

Juvenile tarpon are in the mix in deeper waters, especially close to dropoffs around the shallow flats.

Speaking of flats, catch-and-release snook and redfish are being caught with regularity by sport fishers.

Lastly, fishing structure in the bay is proving to be quite good for mangrove snapper and mackerel.

Capt. Jason Stock is working inshore charters, hunting for gag grouper. Catching the shallow-water grouper can be challenging and rewarding, especially when tested in the frying pan for dinner.

Free-lining live pinfish around wrecks, reefs and other structure in Tampa Bay is yielding results. Stout tackle and strong arms are a must, says Stock.

Moving to the flats, Stock is putting clients on plenty of hookups with catch-and-release snook and redfish. Free-lined shiners are coaxing these fish to the hook.

Spotted seatrout and mangrove snapper are being caught on the flats, too. Stock says these bites are occurring on deeper grass flats, where tidal flow is good.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

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