Fishing stays hot for spring break, no virus cooldown

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Vic Heckler, left, and fellow angler Tony Boggia, both from Chicago, fished inshore March 10 using live shrimp for bait. They had success on black drum and pompano, and a likely fish fry that night. They were guided by Capt. Warren Girle.
Amy Skramstad of Minnesota shows off one of many Spanish mackerel she and her family caught March 11 on a fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. The macks ate live shiners and the group took home a few for their dinner, along with many sheepshead and grunts. They fished inside Tampa Bay, where, Lowman said, “there should be some great spring break fishing ahead.

Springtime fishing is settling in around Anna Maria Island. You can tell by the appearance of shiners.

And, until they close the bays and the Gulf, fishing will continue through the new coronavirus fears.

Targeting the top trio of catch-and-release species — snook, redfish and trout — is starting to heat up and should continue into April.

Using live shiners as bait is achieving the best results for targeting these three species.

For those looking to catch something for the fry pan, sheepshead are the top species, and fishing over structure in Tampa Bay is producing good action. Piers, docks, reefs, wrecks and bridges are all good areas to drop baits. As for bait, the choice of live shrimp works well, although, when the sheepies get finicky, it helps to entice them with a fiddler crab or sand flea.

Other species being targeted for dinner include pompano and whiting. Both species can be caught along the sandy beaches of Anna Maria Island. Casting jigs from shore is effective, but tipping jigs with fresh shrimp will increase your chances.

Moving offshore, mangrove and yellowtail snapper are being reported in good numbers. Also, targeting permit over the offshore wrecks is worth a cast.

Capt. Warren Girle is spending his days fishing inshore throughout the waters of Sarasota Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway. Using live shrimp as bait is yielding many catches, especially when fishing residential canals. Casting shrimp under docks in these areas is resulting in sheepshead, black drum and catch-and-release redfish. Moving out in the open water over deep grass flats is producing good action on small jigs tipped with shrimp. Pompano are cooperating, as well as ladyfish, jack crevalle and numerous catch-and-release spotted seatrout.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting sheepshead throughout Tampa Bay. Fishing around rock piles, wrecks, docks and shorelines along sandy beaches is yielding good numbers of these popular fish. Live shrimp as bait, combined with a knocker rig, is getting the job done. Catch-and-release snook, redfish and spotted seatrout are being enticed by sport fishers on live shiners. For the reds and snook, casting shiners along mangrove shorelines is producing the best action. As for the trout, deeper grass flats, where clean water exists, is the best bet.

Capt. Jason Stock is venturing offshore when the winds are calm to fish the offshore ledges, where yellowtail and mangrove snapper are hooking up with his anglers. Some mangrove snapper reach 10 pounds in the same areas where Almaco jacks are biting.

Fishing offshore wrecks is proving good for permit, according to Stock. Casting live crabs over wrecks is resulting in some permit in the 30-pound class.

Moving inshore on days when the winds are strong, Stock is putting clients on catch-and-release redfish, snook and trout. All three species are being caught on live shiners.

Capt. David White is targeting inshore species on days when the winds are high and the seas are rough.

Targeting sheepshead in Tampa Bay is providing good action and is enabling clients to put some fish in the cooler for dinner. Live shrimp on a bottom rig fished over reefs, wrecks and other structures is producing this bite.

Casting jigs tipped with shrimp also is providing action for White’s clients. Fishing over deep grass areas with these jigs is luring pompano to bite, as well as jack crevalle and ladyfish.

On warm sunny days, White is targeting snook along the mangrove-lined shore. To hook up with these fish, free-lined live shiners are the best option.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are the most abundant catch. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are catching near limits of the tasty fish. Most catches are ranging near 14 inches.

While targeting the sheepies with shrimp, pier fishers are hooking into black drum and some catch-and-release redfish.

Casting shrimp away from the pier to the nearby sandy areas is yielding a few pompano, as well as some whiting.

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