Spring-like weather early in 2019 displaces winter fishing

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Zolly Fried, left, and brother-in-law Peter Brandon, both from Canada, along with Jason and Henry Havflik of Minnesota show off their rich reward of mangrove snapper tripletail and sheepshead, caught Dec. 29 with shrimp for bait. The men were guided offshore by Capt. Warren Girle.
Jeff Tomaloff, left, and his brother, visiting Anna Maria Island from Wisconsin, show off a giant amberjack — pushing 80 pounds — that exploded on a Halco popper Jan. 2. The pair also had many others up to 50 pounds. They spent two days fishing, Jan. 1-2, with Capt. Jason Stock, who put the anglers on a big school of amberjack were blasting the surface. Stock said 2019 launched with “beautiful weather and great fishing!”
Capt. Jason Stock led a charter fishing trip Jan. 3 to a hot mangrove snapper bite. Ray Feeney of Illinois shows off just one of the 35 snappers that the anglers kept while on a holiday break on Anna Maria Island with family.

Fishing is exceptional thanks to the spring-like conditions on Anna Maria Island in January.

Whether inshore, nearshore or offshore, there are fish to be caught and there is beautiful weather to enjoy.

And there was no hint of red tide.

The inshore bite for spotted seatrout is quite good when using artificials like soft plastics combined with a jig head. When targeting trout, you will encounter ladyfish and possibly a few pompano.

Fishing structure — inshore and offshore — is yielding a variety of species, with the most prominent being sheepshead. Live shrimp is working well for these convict-striped fish, as well as mangrove snapper, porgies, Key West grunts and hogfish.

Fishing along the beaches, especially for whiting and black drum, is proving to be good when baiting with live shrimp.

Moving offshore, fishing wrecks, reefs and ledges is producing a variety of fish, including amberjack, bonito, hogfish, snappers and goliath grouper.

So no matter what type of fisher you are, Anna Maria Island is hosting some great fishing experiences in January.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m working inshore and nearshore for a variety of species. Sheepshead by far are the most abundant. I’m finding them around structure in Tampa Bay and along the beaches. Casting live shrimp on a knocker rig is luring these nibblers to the hook. Most are 14 inches, although fish up to 18 inches are common.

Fishing around wrecks and reefs is yielding mangrove snapper and Key West grunts. Again, live shrimp on a knocker rig is working well, as my clients are reeling up snapper — in the 18-inch range — and an abundance of grunts.

Black drum for the cooler and catch-and-release redfish are being caught along beaches and grassy areas. Most of the black drum are in the slot of 14-24 inches. As for the catch-and-release redfish, most are 20-26 inches.

So if the weather holds, don’t miss the opportunity to get out and do some January fishing. Whether for sport or for dinner, you’re sure to find it rewarding.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is ringing in the new year with good catches of sheepshead and mangrove snapper. Both are being caught by pier anglers on live shrimp as bait. Other species, such as black drum and catch-and-release redfish also are taking live shrimp offerings. Malfese also says that casting shrimp-tipped jigs is producing some action on pompano, although the bite is sporadic.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working nearshore structure with good results. Fishing around ledges and hard bottom is resulting in mangrove snapper, porgies and Key West grunts for his clients. All three species are taking live shrimp on a knocker rig.

Moving inshore, Lowman is finding action around residential docks on sheepshead and catch-and-release redfish. Again, live shrimp works well as bait.

Lastly, casting soft plastics over grass flats in Tampa Bay is luring spotted seatrout to the hook — and the fry pan.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is running nearshore along the Gulf beaches for a variety of species. Finding ledges or other structure is yielding mangrove snapper, sheepshead, porgies and white grunts. This bite is occurring in depths of 30-50 feet of water. Live shrimp are Gross’ bait of choice.

Moving into depths of 10-20 feet of water is producing action on spotted seatrout and black drum.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking charters in the Gulf of Mexico for a variety of species, including tripletail, which are being found around floating debris and are taking live shrimp offerings.

While at anchor in depths of 40-50 feet of water, Girle is finding numerous snapper, grunts, sheepshead and groupers. Again, live shrimp is the bait of choice.

While fishing inshore, Girle is putting anglers on black drum and sheepshead, as well as catch-and-release redfish around structure in Tampa Bay.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting sheepshead around structure in Tampa Bay. Using live shrimp as bait around bridges, docks and rock piles is yielding good numbers of the tasty fish. While targeting sheepies, White is picking up black drum and catch-and-release redfish.

Casting jigs around the passes is yielding pompano for White’s anglers. These fish are being caught on deeper grass flats.

Fly fishing with White is going well, especially at night for catch-and-release snook. Casting flies around green underwater dock lights is resulting in good action on the linesiders.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with great results. With any string of calm days, Stock is venturing out to wrecks and other structure offshore for a variety of species. Mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper and hogfish are being caught frequently by Stock’s clients. For fish that pull hard, Stock is putting anglers on amberjack, bonito and goliath grouper.

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

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