Stellar weather results in near perfect fishing conditions

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Mark Willis of Harbour Isles on Perico Island proves “river monsters” exist as he shows off a jack crevalle he caught with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters while fishing around Fort Hamer on the Manatee River. Send your high-res photos and fishing reports to
Brothers Dylan and Lucas Engel of Bradenton took a trip with Capt. Jason Stock Feb. 10 and landed this 100-pound amberjack. The boys’ dad is Capt. Allan Engel and they’re regular anglers. Stock said it was “a little swelly in the a.m., making the amberjack really fired up.” They also worked some blackfin tuna in the area and Lucas reeled up a good a tuna catch.

With a week’s worth of stellar weather, fishing around Anna Maria Island has been pleasurable. Calm waters and warm southerly breezes have made for some near perfect days on the water.

Inshore fishing has been good for catch-and-release redfish. Fishing around docks in the bays and Intracoastal Waterway is yielding many 15-25-inch catch-and-release reds. Most are on the smaller size of the range, which makes the larger ones a real treat for sport anglers. Sheepshead and black drum are around the docks, which adds some variety to the bite, as well as the potential to take home a fish or two for dinner.

Fishing offshore is even better, with reports of red grouper, numerous snapper and amberjack being caught. Fishing depths inside of 120 feet is proving to be quite good as water temps slowly rise. For the groupers, live pinfish or frozen sardines work well. As for the snappers, live shrimp gets the job done.

On my trips with Southernaire Charters, I’m concentrating on dock fishing, as well as fishing wrecks and reefs around the inshore waters of Tampa Bay. Around the docks, I’m seeing encouraging numbers of redfish. Casting live shrimp to these reds is attracting a bite. Fishing the wrecks and reefs is proving to be good for sheepshead. Again, live shrimp is working well as bait. The large concentrations of sheepies have yet to make a showing — I predict the bite should improve as we near the next full moon. Let’s hope anyway.

Fishing along the beaches with live shrimp is working — especially for pompano and whiting, and the whiting are ready to spawn. I’m seeing an abundance of them being reeled up to the boat. As for the pompano, there are some around, but the bite is sporadic.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says despite the fishing being a little slow, pier fishers are pulling up some nice-sized sheepshead. Live shrimp as bait is working well. On days when the sheepies are being obstinate, you may try fiddler crabs or sand fleas to get an advantage over the convict fish. While targeting sheepshead, anglers are hooking into an occasional redfish and some black drum.

Capt. Aaron Lowman says he is fishing inshore on deeper grass flats with good results. Casting soft plastics such as the DOA CAL jig in these areas is proving to be good for spotted seatrout and ladyfish, and he’s finding some scattered pompano. Also while inshore, Lowman is casting live shrimp around rocks and docks to catch sheepshead, black drum, flounder and catch-and-release redfish. Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, he’s putting clients on mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and porgies around areas of hard bottom and limestone ledges. Live shrimp as bait works well in all cases.

Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore for a variety of species. Fishing in depths of 30-40 feet is where Girle is finding the best concentrations of fish for his charters. Using live shrimp as bait combined with a knocker rig is yielding mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, porgies and juvenile grouper.

Moving inshore, Girle is fishing canals and residential docks, host to a number of fish, including sheepshead, black drum, flounder and catch-and-release redfish. Again, live shrimp on a knocker rig is the combo for success.

Lastly, jigging with soft plastics on deeper grass flats is attracting some spotted seatrout and a few pompano.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters has been running charters offshore to fish, thanks to a string of warm, flat days on the Gulf of Mexico.

In depths of 100 feet, White is finding plenty of red grouper. Frozen sardines and live pinfish are the ticket. Also, while offshore, White is putting clients on large amberjack around wrecks and other structure, while live pinfish are luring the predators to the hook. Moving inshore, White’s anglers are catching a mixed bag of sheepshead, black drum, pompano and catch-and-release redfish.

Capt. Jason Stock is taking charters offshore. The warm, calm days we’ve had are perfect for venturing offshore and Stock is cashing in on them. Amberjack are the highlight of the offshore experience with catches ranging 40-100 pounds. If you’re looking to pull on a big fish, these are great candidates. You might wonder what you got yourself into halfway through the fight. These fish don’t give up until they are in the boat. Other catches occurring offshore are mangrove and yellowtail snapper, as well as blackfin tuna and some goliath grouper.

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