Timing is everything when targeting fish

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Next stop? The cleaning table and a fish fry. Chris Dorado, left, Danny Soto, Cristie Garcia and Fernando Sanbartolme, of Miami, fish Aug. 6 on the west coast. Each caught numerous inshore mangrove snapper using shiners on a charter trip with Capt. Warren Girle.

With air temps in the 90s and water temps to match, fishing remains consistently “hot” around Anna Maria Island. You just need to time your trip on the water.

Try to find good flowing tides around sunrise to maximize your chances of having a successful fishing trip. With water temps and air temps slightly cooler in the early morning hours, you may find the fish more active at sunrise than at 3 p.m. under the hot sun. This is especially imperative if you’re planning to fish the flats.

If you can’t make it out early, then you’ll want to fish deeper water. In the depths, the water remains consistently cooler, which, in theory, means the inhabitants should be active throughout the day.

If you’re inshore, try fishing the reefs and wrecks in Tampa Bay for snapper. If you’re traveling offshore, your opportunities are endless. Although, bear in mind that during the summer months, you may encounter large predators — sharks and barracuda — offshore. These ambush-predators are well-versed in devouring the fish at the end of your lure. Why should they pass up an easy meal, right?

It’s good to prepare your gear for the inevitable.

If you’re inshore on the flats in the early morning hours, you can expect to encounter the top trio of catch-and-release species — snook, redfish and trout.

There also are plenty of mangrove snapper inhabiting the inshore waters right now — they’re everywhere. Whether it be around structure or on the flats, you’re likely to hook a few. In deeper areas of the inshore waters, you can expect to see some jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

Moving offshore, yellowtail snapper seem to be the main attraction for those wanting to catch dinner. Mangrove snapper are available there, too, as well as red grouper, blackfin tuna and amberjack.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m seeing limits of mangrove snapper. Most catches are occurring while targeting catch-and-release snook. The snapper are running 10-14 inches — with most right in the middle. As for the snook hookups, the early mornings are yielding good numbers, but as the day wears on and the heat intensifies, the snook become lazy and less apt to bite. When this occurs, I’m moving to deeper flats to target catch-and-release spotted seatrout, which are cooperating.

In between trout bites, ladyfish, mackerel and jack crevalle are taking the bait.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding good results from fishing in Sarasota Bay. Working around rocks and docks is yielding limits of mangrove snapper with small live shiners for bait is attracting snappers up to 12 inches.

Moving to the grass flats, Girle is targeting catch-and-release spotted seatrout in depths of 5-7 feet. While targeting the trout, anglers are enjoying a bite from a variety of other species — macks, bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle and mangrove snapper.

Moving to the shallower grass flats in 2-3 feet of water, Girle is putting his sport fishing clients on catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is spending mornings targeting catch-and-release snook in Tampa Bay for his clients. Most catches are 20-30 inches, although a few larger fish are mixed in. Casting live shiners along mangrove shorelines is resulting in the hookups.

Catch-and-release redfish are coming to the hook for Lowman’s anglers around residential docks and oyster bars. Lowman noted that targeting catch-and-release spotted seatrout remains steady for yet another week over deep grass flats with good tidal flow.

Moving out deeper to wrecks and reefs in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf is producing action, too. Mangrove snapper, permit, cobia and bonita are present in these areas.

Capt. Jason Stock is running some good trips offshore. With the American red snapper season ended, he’s put his sights on other snappers. Mangrove and yellowtail snapper are being caught regularly, although getting them to the boat without them being eaten by a barracuda, shark or goliath grouper is challenging.

With amberjack back in season, Stock is in pursuit. Live baits fished near the surface and surface poppers are working well. Also present offshore are blackfin tuna, which Stock finds equally fun to catch and a heck of a lot better to eat.

Capt. David White also is having good luck offshore, leading his clients to numerous snappers.

Mangrove and yellowtail are fiercely taking the bait from White’s anglers and red grouper are eating well, quickly taking bait as they approach it on the Gulf floor.

Fishing baits on the surface works well for blackfin tuna, with most catches 15-20 pounds, although fish up to 30 pounds are being caught.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says catch-and-release snook fishing is on the rise. Pier fishers using either live shrimp or shiners are hooking plenty of catch-and-release snook during the morning and evening hours at the pier. Mangrove snapper are readily taking baits —  especially shrimp. These tasty little fish are measuring 10-12 inches and limits are easily attainable. Other species being caught include catch-and-release redfish, flounder, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

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