It’s no trick — fall fishing is a treat for AMI-area anglers

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Mike Hughes, Damon Lewis, Doug Cope, Herley Hatfield and Paul Oliver, all visiting from the United Kingdom, show off their dinner Oct. 25 — mangrove snapper caught offshore on shiners. Hatfield also hooked and released a snook on the same trip. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.
Chris Shaver of Kansas City shows off a nice snook caught Oct. 23 on a live shiner with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters.

As of writing this report, red tide levels around Anna Maria Island seem to be lessening. Proof was found during the week along the beaches, where vast schools of bait fish were gathering and attracting predatory species like Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

The concentration of red tide increased over the Oct. 27-28 weekend, but hope runs high it will again disperse.

Water temperatures have dropped slightly, which has triggered the backwater species — snook and redfish — to really turn on. You can bet on seeing an enhanced trout bite over the next few weeks as they begin to feed and pack on weight for winter.

Mangrove snapper are abundant around structure in Tampa Bay and starting to make a showing on the nearshore reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s another good indicator that red tide was thinning out.

On my trips with Southernaire, I’m seeing some of the best catch-and-release snook fishing since spring. Reeling up 50 snook on a four-hour charter is attainable for those addicts who just can’t get enough of the sport. While catching catch-and-release snook, I’m seeing some slot-sized redfish — also catch-and-release — in the mix.

Fishing structure in Tampa Bay for mangrove snapper is excellent. By chumming with dead baits, I’m triggering schools of mangrove snapper to rise to the surface in a feeding frenzy. Limits of the feisty little fish are being released in the fish box. Remember to carry some light fluorocarbon leader and small hooks, as the water is clear and the fish are leader-shy.

In areas where snapper are present, I’m also catching gag grouper and Spanish mackerel. Keeper-size gags are a little sporadic, but fish 20-22 inches are being caught with some regularity.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing there is returning to normal. In fact, the fall bite is in full swing. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are having success with a multitude of species, including mangrove snapper, flounder, black drum and redfish.

Shiners are attracting a bite, especially when it comes to snook, while macks and ladyfish also are making a showing at the pier. To catch the speedy fish, anglers are casting artificials — jigs and spoons.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting catch-and-release snook throughout the Tampa Bay waters north of Anna Maria Island. Free-lining shiners in areas where mangrove edges meet with lush grass flats is proving to be the best bite, although fishing oyster bars and around docks is producing action. Most catches are 20-26 inches, with an occasional slot-size fish is in the mix. Spotted seatrout are being caught by Lowman’s anglers, with deeper grass flats on incoming tides yielding a steady bite. Most trout are 12-16 inches.

Lastly, Lowman says trolling for gag grouper is producing keeper fish here and there.

Capt. Rick Gross also is targeting catch-and-release snook on the flats of Tampa Bay, where free-lining shiners around oyster bars and mangrove islands is producing exceptional numbers of fish. Catches of 30-50 fish a day are average for clients on the Fishy Business during the fall bite. Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Gross is putting his charter clients on many Spanish mackerel by using live shiners and artificials — silver spoons or small jigs. In the near future, as the mackerel schools on the beaches intensify, Gross anticipates the addition of kingfish to the menu.

Capt. Warren Girle is targeting mangrove snapper and gag grouper around structure in Tampa Bay and at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Bottom fishing with live pinfish is attracting grouper, while free-lining live shiners is working well for snapper.

While fishing structure, Girle also is attracting numerous mackerel and some bluefish to the boat.

Moving to the flats, Girle is finding an abundance of spotted seatrout. Live shiners free-lined or under a cork are attracting a bite for his clients.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters says he’s experiencing some of the best catch-and-release snook fishing of the year. Days of clients bringing 50 snook to the boat are not unheard of, and most catches are 20-26 inches, although linesiders up to 37 inches are being hooked. Redfish of 20-30 inches are in the mix for the snook fishers. Bottom fishing in sandy potholes and around structure is producing mangrove snapper and flounder.

Capt. Jason Stock is working inshore with good results for clients on catch-and-release snook and redfish. Linesiders are dominating the bite, although redfish are present. Trout fishing for keepers is more productive and free-lining shiners over deep grass areas is producing the best action.

Lastly, fishing structure in Tampa Bay for mangrove snapper and gag grouper is resulting in some meat in the fish box for Stock’s anglers.

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

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