Although most Anna Maria Island fishers are waiting out day after day of wind, those who persevere and duck into canals or hide behind mangroves will find a bite.
The most popular bite by far is by sheepshead. Casting live shrimp around structure — sea walls, piers, bridges and especially residential docks — is producing decent numbers of these delectable fish. They are being found around artificial reefs and on the grass flats in some areas.
When targeting sheepies, you usually stand a chance of encountering other species that like structure, including redfish, black drum, flounder and mangrove snapper. Not a bad addition to any fishing excursion, as far as I’m concerned.
On my excursions with Southernaire, I’m following suit. And that suit is striped with black and white. That’s right, we’re catching sheepshead. Casting live shrimp under docks or around other structure in Tampa Bay is yielding pretty good numbers of the feisty fighting fish.
I’m also picking up catch-and-release redfish in the process and I’m noticing quite a few jack crevalle in Tampa Bay, as well as the Intracoastal Waterway south to Longboat Pass.
Although these aren’t good eating, they sure entertain the angler with some hard-fighting antics that last until they are plucked from the water.
Fishing along the beaches is proving to be good. I’m seeing a mix of pompano and whiting while casting jigs tipped with fresh-cut pieces of live shrimp.
On a serious note, don’t forget the harvest of gag grouper closed Jan. 1. Also, keep in mind that the new bag limit of sheepshead is eight fish per person per day.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore ledges when the winds are light and the seas calm.
Fishing in depths of 25-50 feet, Lowman is finding Key West grunts, snappers, hogfish and a few gag grouper. Dropping live shrimp to the bottom is producing a bite.
Moving inshore, dock fishing is providing action on sheepshead, as well as catch-and-release redfish. Again, live shrimp is the bait of choice.
Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results. Using live shiners or pinfish as bait is yielding a variety of species for Stock.
Fishing hard bottom areas is proving to be good for red grouper and catch-and-release red snapper. Targeting ledges is producing action on snappers, such as lane and yellowtail.
Targeting grouper inshore is a good bet with Stock. In Tampa Bay, he is catching catch-and-release gag grouper with regularity. Trolling or live bait offerings are producing a bite.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing Tampa Bay with good results. Using live shrimp as bait around artificial reefs, rock piles and docks is yielding a variety of species, including sheepshead, snapper and black drum. Using a knocker rig combined with the shrimp is keeping the bait on the bottom, where it is accessible to the fish. Catch-and-release redfish are being caught using this method, especially when casting baits under docks.
Fishing deeper grass flats with free-lined shrimp is yielding spotted seatrout. The use of a popping cork is helpful to keep the shrimp mid-depth in the water column and also to keep it out of the grass, where the pinfish can get at it.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing pier fishers reeling up sheepshead, as well as a variety of other fish. Casting live shrimp on a weighted rig under the pier is attracting the buck-toothed fish to the hook. While targeting sheepshead, pier fishers are hooking into black drum, flounder and a few catch-and-release redfish.
Casting jigs tipped with shrimp is working for those hoping to catch a pompano, although the bite is sporadic.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore. Using live shrimp as bait is producing numerous species for White. The most apparent are the sheepshead, which are being caught around docks and rocks. While targeting sheepies, White is catching black drum and catch-and-release redfish. Fishing the passes with shrimp-tipped jigs is producing pompano, as well as ladyfish and jack crevalle.