The gift of fishing — the perfect present for young and old

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Patrick McGinnis of Holmes Beach, shows off a nice gag grouper he caught Dec. 18 while on a guided trip with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters.
Michael Bridges, visiting Anna Maria Island from Greenville, South Carolina, shows off a redfish catch Dec. 18. Bridges caught and released several redfish and snook and also caught sheepshead using shrimp as bait. He was guided by Capt. Warren Girle

I think Santa Claus gave us an early Christmas present.

In my travels throughout the waters of Palma Sola Bay, north to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and out to Egmont Key, I did not notice a hint of red tide. The waters looked so pristine it was hard not to be hypnotized by the clear view through to the bottom in most areas.

As far as fishing goes, I’m seeing a good variety of species come to the boat while working my Southernaire fishing charters.

Fishing along the beaches with shrimp-tipped jigs is yielding a few pompano, one of my favorite catches, as they fight hard for their size. Plus, they are great on the grill.

Sheepshead are concentrating around rocks and docks and I’m even seeing them on the flats, gorging on shrimp and other crustaceans.

Fishing for spotted seatrout is shaping up. Casting soft plastics on a jighead over deep grass flats where sandy potholes exist is yielding some good numbers.

Lastly, catch-and-release redfish are being found around docks and oyster bars. Casting live shrimp to these fish is resulting in a hook up for many anglers.

Until next week, Merry Christmas to all and keep those lines tight.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous sheepshead taking up temporary residence under the pier. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are finding success on these convict-striped fish. While targeting sheepshead, other species — flounder, catch-and-release redfish and a couple of catch-and-release snook — are coming to the hook.

Casting shrimp-tipped jigs is attracting a bite from the passing pompano and jack crevalle at the pier.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is trolling deep-diving plugs around structure in Tampa Bay at channel edges, rock piles and artificial reefs, which is proving to be good for gag grouper. Fish up to 30 inches are common.

Enroute from one spot to another, Lowman is keeping his eye out for triple tail, which is paying off. Keeper-size trips are being found around floating debris in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico.

To finish out the day, Lowman is using soft plastics on a jig head to target spotted seatrout. Casting jigs along grass edges, where channels intersect the flat, is producing good numbers of these fish for the cooler.

Capt. Warren Girle says using live shrimp as bait is yielding a good variety of species. Casting shrimp under or around docks is resulting in numerous sheepshead. Also in these areas, Girle is hooking up sport-fishing clients with catch-and-release snook and redfish.

Fishing deeper grass flats is producing spotted seatrout, as well as some jack crevalle and ladyfish. Lastly, fishing artificial reefs with live pinfish is attracting an occasional gag grouper.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore with live shrimp as bait. A wintertime pattern is upon us and White is making the transition. Targeting sheepshead with live shrimp around rocks and docks is producing good action for White and his clients.

While targeting sheepies, White is hooking into black drum, mangrove snapper and redfish.

Moving to deeper water, White is getting in on the inshore action by trolling for grouper with deep-diving lipped plugs. Live bait offerings, such as pinfish and grunts, also are triggering a response.

Capt. Jason Stock is in pursuit of gag grouper in Tampa Bay, where trolling lipped plugs around structure or hard bottom is resulting in many hookups and most catches in keeper-sizes. Stock is using live bait to entice these ferocious groupers. He says anchoring over reefs or wrecks and free-lining live pinfish to the bottom is triggering some amazing strikes for his anglers.

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