After enjoying the leftovers of Thanksgiving, Anna Maria’s fishers are happy to give the turkey a break and dine on fresh-from-the-Gulf fare.
Luckily there are plenty of fish to be had in the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island. Anglers venturing offshore are enjoying a bountiful harvest of mangrove snapper and gag grouper while working over hard bottom, ledges and reefs. Also present are hogfish, yellowtail snapper and plenty of Key West grunts and porgies.
Fishing baits on the surface is good, especially for blackfin tuna, kingfish and tripletail.
If you prefer to stay inshore in the clear waters of Tampa Bay, there are fish to be caught there, too. Spanish mackerel are abundant in areas where structure exists and shallow-water gag grouper are being quite accommodating.
If you’re out for sport and looking for action, catch-and-release snook, redfish and trout are appearing on the grass flats.
On my charters, I’m leading my clients to action on the reefs for Spanish mackerel. Free-lining live shiners is resulting in simultaneous hookups on these high-speed fish. Gag grouper are swimming to the surface to strike, adding a nice variety to the mack bite.
Moving to the flats, I’m finding decent action on catch-and-release snook. Waiting to late morning is best, as water temps are on the lower spectrum of what is favorable for snook.
Fishing around docks is improving, especially for black drum and catch-and-release redfish. In these areas, live shrimp is working as bait.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is concentrating his time inshore. Using live shrimp as a primary bait, White is putting anglers on a variety of species, including sheepshead, tripletail, black drum and catch-and-release redfish. Black drum are the most prevalent on the live shrimp.
White also is carrying some live shiners in his baitwell to add to the shrimp. Casting shiners at catch-and-release snook on the grass flats is producing action and keeping his clients on the hook.
Capt. Jason Stock is catching gag grouper in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Chumming the waters lures these gags toward the surface, making it possible to cast live pinfish or Halco plugs in hopes of a top-water strike. Seeing gag grouper boil on the surface and then sight casting to them is probably the most exciting way to catch these fish. Moving to other species, Stock is putting clients on kingfish, tripletails and blackfin tuna while working in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel caught on days when schools of shiners are visiting the pier waters. Casting silver spoons or speck rigs on the edges of these bait schools is attracting macks and a variety other species, including jack crevalle, ladyfish, blue runners and skip jacks. Anglers using live bait instead of artificials are getting their live shrimp at the pier, where casting shrimp under the pier on a weighted rig is yielding sheepshead, black drum, flounder and some catch-and-release redfish. Using larger live baits — pinfish or small ladyfish — is attracting hefty catch-and-release snook to the hook.
Capt. Warren Girle is putting anglers on a good number of Spanish mackerel over structure in Tampa Bay. Free-lining live shiners combined with a longshank hook is resulting in mackerel up to 24 inches.
Meanwhile, gag grouper are waiting near the surface to strike a free-lined shiner and excite the angler.
Moving to the grass flats, Girle is hunting catch-and-release spotted seatrout in depths of 4-8 feet of water. Again, free-lined shiners are attracting a bite. Jack crevalle and ladyfish also are present in these areas and are finding their way to Girle’s anglers.
Moving even shallower, Girle is finding good action on catch-and-release snook. Casting live shiners against mangrove shorelines and oyster bars is yielding catch-and-release snook and a handful of redfish.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is taking anglers to find catch-and-release spotted seatrout in Tampa Bay. Fishing channel edges, grass flats and potholes along productive shorelines is yielding good numbers of these backwater species. Fishing shallow grass flats for catch-and-release snook also is productive for the sports fishers.
The key to catching these snook is to wait until later in the day when the water has had a chance to warm up, according to Lowman.
Fishing docks with live shrimp as bait also is leading to action. Redfish, black drum, flounder and sheepshead are the usual suspects — and some are making it to the cooler.
On calm days, fishing hard bottom and ledges in the Gulf is a great way to gather dinner. In these areas, hogfish, mangrove snapper and many gag grouper are being caught. Throw in a few porgies and Lowman says there’s a fish fry in the near future.
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Fishing in Bradenton Beach
I was visiting from Wisconsin recently and found some great fishing action Nov. 23-24 at the Historic Bridge Street Pier and the jetties off Cortez Beach, both in Bradenton Beach.
Snook, redfish, jacks, snapper, black drum and some big schools of Spanish mackerel were caught.
Working tight to structure with jigging spoons, casting with jigs and 2.5-inch paddle tails, and 3-inch pearl white tube jigs were my best baits.
I used no live bait.
One morning in about two hours, I caught 30 fish — about half were Spanish mackerel and the rest were a combination of jacks, black drum, small reds, snapper and juvenile grouper.
That was a wild morning.
We really enjoyed our stay on Anna Maria Island: Great food, great weather, a beautiful area.
And I read your paper online every week.
We will be back soon and I hope the Anna Maria City Pier is open by then.
And on our return, we’ll have to visit the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria, which we found temporarily closed, causing me to miss my grouper sandwich.
— Marc Wisniewski, Greenfield, Wisconsin