|Handful of sheepies
John Fernandez, left, and Russ Frangella, both of Holmes Beach, caught a mess of sheepshead by the Anna Maria Island Bridge last week.
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Trout, reds rule in bays; grouper still great offshore
It's trout in the bays, grouper still offshore, and sheepshead everywhere right now as far as the fishing action is concerned.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's finding big trout to 24 inches in Miguel Bay, as well as redfish to 22 inches, all caught on artificial baits.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said sheepshead are No. 1 in the fish parade right now, with the larger females starting to hit the hook better as the winter weather continues. Snook fishing has been turning from fair to excellent, with white bait working best as an attractor. Offshore, grouper and snapper remain an excellent catch in waters within the 40-foot depths out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead are starting to really hit now, with some coming in up to 4 pounds, and there are also good reports of flounder to 15 inches in length.
Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said action there includes sheepshead, some keeper-size snook and night fishing is really starting to improve.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said sheepshead are a good bet for bay fishers, and there are lots of trout coming back from Terra Ceia Bay, plus some small bonnethead sharks and black drum from the Manatee River.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's putting his charters onto excellent catches of snook, all keepers, on almost every trip out. Other action featured sheepshead and reds by the piers and docks in the bays.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports are coming in on good-size trout from Palma Sola Bay, sheepshead around the bridges and piers and lots of redfish on the higher tides from the shorelines in the bays.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include seabass, silver trout, flounder, small grouper and plenty of sheepshead from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge pier systems.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's catching lots and lots of snook, redfish and trout.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said "fishing has been exceptional in between the fronts, especially for big red grouper. Our clients have been catching large red grouper up to 30 pounds, gag grouper to 18 pounds, amberjack to 30 pounds, mangrove snapper to 5 pounds, yellowtail snapper to 3 pounds, as well as some small sharks and bonita." He's been fishing in 60- to 135-feet of water off of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island, using live baits and frozen sardines.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's catching cobia off the beaches, trout to 24 inches in the backwater and reds near the docks in Palma Sola Bay. Sheepshead to 6 pounds are a good bet as well, plus grouper near the Intracoastal Waterway.
On my boat Magic, we've caught lots of redfish to 27 inches with most trips producing up to 15 hookups. There are also good catches coming into the deck of sheepshead to 4 pounds and sharks to 36 inches, all caught with shrimp.
Good luck and good fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year-plus fishing guide. Call him at 723-1107 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.