Cold, windy conditions bring challenges for anglers

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Three generations go fishing The Stevens clan, including grandfather Dick of Holmes Beach, son Sean and grandsons Chase and Fischer, left, visiting from Connecticut, enjoyed several days of great fly fishing around Anna Maria Island in December. Permit, yellowtail jack, redfish and other species of fish were all on the hook. Dick said, “The smiles were many and the fishing was very productive.”
Chase Stevens shows off his catch, a pompano, while dad, Sean, shows off a yellowtail. The visitors said they can’t wait to return to “Paradise.”
Chase Stevens shows off his catch, a pompano, while dad, Sean, shows off a yellowtail. The visitors said they can’t wait to return to “Paradise.”

Frequent cold fronts rolling across Florida and consistently windy conditions create some challenges for anglers around Anna Maria Island.

Patience and some knowledge of our local waters is key when trying to find a bite in these situations.

Fishing inshore can be productive if you know where to go — residential docks and canals are good places to start — and the good news is that you don’t need a boat. You just need access to the canal or a dock. Casting live shrimp on a knocker rig in these areas can yield good action on catch-and-release redfish, as well as black drum, mangrove snapper and flounder for the cooler.

Another method to find a bite — this one by boat — is by drifting and jigging over deep grass flats. Soft plastics on a jig head are resulting in catch-and-release spotted seatrout in these areas, as well as ladyfish, jack crevalle and even pompano.

Fishing offshore around ledges, reefs and hard bottom is another option. For this, you’ll need calm conditions — no strong winds.

While in the Gulf of Mexico, anglers are being rewarded with many species, including mangrove snapper, hogfish, Key West grunts and sheepshead.

Most of this action is occurring in 30-60 feet of water.

If you’re willing to venture farther out to depths of 80-100 feet, the red and gag grouper fishing is productive now. You’ll also find many mangrove snappers and amberjack in the deeper waters.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m spending my days hugging the shore. Casting shrimp around the docks is producing a consistent catch-and-release redfish bite for my clients.

I’m also finding enough sheepshead and flounder so my clients can take some fish home for dinner.

Casting free-lined shrimp and soft plastics is yielding decent amounts of spotted seatrout.

Lastly, fishing channel edges where rocks exist is resulting in some black sea bass and a sprinkling of mangrove snapper.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working ledges and hard bottom in the Gulf of Mexico at depths of 40-60 feet of water with good results for his anglers. Baiting live shrimp attracts many species, including hogfish, mangrove snapper, sheepshead and Key West grunts.

In these same areas, using a live pinfish as bait is working well for gag grouper. Many of these grouper are taking the bait, with some reaching 28 inches in length.

On windy days, Lowman is staying inshore, fishing the bays and Intracoastal Waterway. Casting live shrimp around docks is resulting in some catch-and-release redfish was well as sheepshead and black drum. Lowman also is finding catch-and-release spotted seatrout and ladyfish around channel edges where deep grass is present.

Capt. Jason Stock likes going for big game and he’s keeping his clients busy on big amberjack. Casting live pinfish over wrecks and hard bottom areas is resulting in multiple hookups with these strong-fighting fish.

Switching to bottom fishing is yielding numerous mangrove snapper and good results on red and gag grouper.

Lastly, as pure entertainment and a good workout, Stock introduces his clients to goliath grouper. They’re giants and worthy of a trophy photo, but all release, all the time.

Hamilton Brown at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are the primary catch this week. Pier fishers using live shrimp on a bottom rig are experiencing success with targeting the finicky sheepshead. Live crabs as bait also are working, and while the target is sheepshead, pier anglers are hooking into some black drum and a few redfish.

Casting jigs away from the pier is yielding a mixed bag of jack crevalle, blue runners and some pompano. Adding a small piece of fresh-cut shrimp to the jig adds some scent to it, giving an added advantage to savvy anglers.

Capt. David White is targeting pompano along the Gulf beaches and in Tampa Bay. Casting jigs tipped with shrimp or just baiting shrimp is attracting these prized inshore fish to the hook. And later, the frying pan.

Fishing residential docks for catch-and-release redfish is resulting in good action for White’s sport anglers. While catching these reds, black drum, sheepshead and flounder coming to the hook — and the Christmas cooler.

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