Kim and Elena Huston, both students at Anna Maria Elementary School, vacationed in Maine during the summer, where Kim caught this 20-inch-long smallmouth bass. Islander Photo: Courtesy Allan J. Huston
Bang! Startup of snook season inshore
Red tide and bad tides plus hot water has produced poor fishing in the past few days, but with September should come an upturn in action both inshore and out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Snook season started with a bang Sept. 1, with most charters reporting good catches of linesiders. Redfish, trout and some flounder are also good bets in the backwater.
Offshore action was a little slow with last week's threat of Ernesto's squalls, but there were still some good reports of grouper, amberjack and snapper coming from those who went out in the Gulf.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's been catching lots of snook and redfish, with snook running to 29 inches and reds to 26. Artificial bait is his mainstay for the best action, but he's also getting good results with live shiners.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said high winds and surf kept most of the offshore fishers close to port last week, but the hardy few who did venture out into the Gulf caught amberjack to 30 pounds, red and gag grouper, plus lane, yellowtail and mangrove snapper. Inshore fishing for snook was off to a great start, with lots of good-sized fish coming into the coolers.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina noted that "Ernesto wasn't even a bump in the road and the red tide is random and patchy, but neither had a negative effect on local angling. Action remains pretty strong, as it has all summer, with Spanish mackerel, redfish and mangrove snapper making up the bulk of the catch." He's finding snook "staged up along the beaches and just inside the passes of local bays. If you are out to catch a keeper, remember the minimum slot has increased to 27 inches. The best shot at a keeper right now would be targeting late evening and night tides." Capt. Zach also advised that "artificial baits will really produce now, as most of the flats fish are favoring deeper dropoffs and the water is really stained from runoff. The abundant freshwater entering the estuary is flushing a lot of inshore fish out to the more open and saline areas of the bays. Trout will especially avoid water that is a bit too sweet."
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said he's seeing mackerel, snapper and some good-sized, keeper snook coming onto the pier.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said anglers there are catching plenty of mackerel, bluefish, yellowtail jacks, mangrove snapper, small sharks and a few flounder.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said snapper are thick in the cut, black drum are being caught by the Snead Island boat works, and snook are fat and hungry near Terra Ceia Bay.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he found the first few days of snook season to be excellent for his charters, with 30-inch linesiders caught, as well as lots of smaller fish. He's also getting into lots of redfish to keep his customers happy.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include mackerel being caught in the mornings by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, plus shark at night and mangrove snapper.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he expects redfish will continue to school around oyster bars and mangrove shore lines in the next few weeks. "Snook will be more active around the docks at night," he predicted, "and mackerel and trout will be feeding near the bait schools in the deeper seagrass areas."
On my boat Magic, we've been catching redfish from 18 to 27 inches in length, trout to 23 inches, and we did get a nice 29-inch snook.
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.