Sheepies peaking, small snook good in backwater, snapper offshore
Proudest fish of my life
Ryan Abbott, center, friend Paul Dietz and brother Collin were all on hand when Ryan caught this 40-inch snook in New Pass. As Ryan described the catch, he cast a frozen threadfin herring out and "my dad suddenly said he's coming, he's coming, he's sniffing it, he's got it, set the hook, so I set the hook. My drag went crazy, he tried to take me into the rocks but I pulled him back. Then he tried to take me into the dock after only one minute. I pulled him in, my dad took pictures of him, then we let him go." Ryan added that the New Pass Bait and Tackle shop added a picture of him and his snook to the cover of their menu. "That was the proudest fish of my life," the 11-year-old added.
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Sheepshead fishing is about as good as it's going to get right now, with the best of the season windup expected at the end of the month. There are reports of some monster sheepies being caught up to 7 pounds, so the convict fish are obviously fat, happy and hungry for the hook.
Whitebait is still thick near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Backwater fishers are catching lots of small snook, plus some trout and redfish.
And Larry White caught a 24-inch-long gag grouper from his father-in-law's dock off Key Royale Drive last week.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's caught snook to 27 inches in length, redfish to 24 inches, trout to 17 inches, all on artificial bait, plus mackerel and sheepshead using shrimp as the enticer.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said fishing has vastly improved in the past week, especially around the piers and in the backwater. Sheepshead are being reeled in at better than 6 pounds, and the action is at its peak right now for those black-and-white striped fish. Snook action is off to a good start, with some catches up to 15 pounds already reported. Offshore fishing for snapper remains excellent, although the action is mostly on small catches of 5 pounds or so, although grouper are a good bet in 60- to 100-foot depths in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said there were some mackerel showing up some days last week, but sheepshead were No. 1 as far as pier fishers were concerned. Pompano are also starting to show up, but in small numbers.
Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said fishers there are getting into sheepshead to 4 pounds, mackerel are hitting in the afternoons and there are also reports of good catches of flounder and snook at night.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said trout are showing up at the dock coming from the cut. Sheepshead are still out and around the railroad bridge in the Manatee River, and lots of small snook are being caught in Miguel Bay with good reports of mackerel off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's finding lots of small snook, plus some keepers, as well as good-sized redfish, lots of Spanish mackerel near Egmont Key, and plenty of sheepshead.
At the Perico Island Bait and Tackle, wade fishers are catching redfish in the potholes in the seagrass flats, but only a few. Trout are a good bet, he said, and sheepies are the best near the Manatee Public Beach pier.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's getting his charters onto lots of Spanish mackerel up to 26 inches, sheepshead to 4 pounds, reds to 26 inches and good-size mangrove snapper offshore.
Capt. Sam Kimball on Legend charters out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's finding lots of snapper to 5 pounds, plus triggerfish, grunts and grouper to 15 pounds farther out in the Gulf. He's also catching some cobia to 30 pounds on good day, black fin tuna to 25 pounds and porgies.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's said he's getting his charters onto lots of redfish, trout, flounder and snook on the inside, with limit catches of mangrove snapper and sheepshead to 6 pounds.
On my boat Magic, we have been catching mangrove snapper, trout to 20 inches, redfish to 24 inches and sheepshead to 7 pounds.
Good luck and good fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year fishing guide. Call him at 779-9607 to provide a fishing report. Prints and digital images of your catch are also welcome and may be dropped off at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include identification for persons in the picture along with information on the catch and a name and phone number for more information. Snapshots may be retrieved once they appear in the paper.