Water temps warm: anglers change tactics to get action
With the temperature in the past week around Anna Maria Island rising into the mid 80s, the water temp went up about 5 degrees, leaving fishers caught between winter techniques and switching to spring maneuvers.
Most are fishing the winter pattern, using live shrimp around docks and structure in the bay to catch flounder, sheepshead, black drum and redfish. This is typical for winter fishing in our area although with daily 80-degree temps, some fishers are moving onto the flats to catch trout, redfish and catch-and-release snook, and live shiners are available if you know where to catch them.
Some flats fishers using live shiners still are having success, especially in the afternoons during high tides. By this time, the sun has warmed the water enough to motivate the fish to chase a shiner.
Fishing nearshore is providing good action for flounder, Key West grunts and sheepshead. Try using live shrimp to get in on this action.
Reports from Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier note that Spanish mackerel and bonito are being caught on a regular basis. “They’re back,” says Medley, “and in good numbers, too.”
If you’re looking for rod-bending action, this may be a good option. Try using Gotcha plugs or silver spoons to get a bite.
Pier fishers using silver spoons or Gotcha plugs are catching Spanish mackerel up to 20 inches to the fork of the tail. During the right tides, limits of these high-activity fish are attainable. Live bait such as shiners and threadfin herring are also catching macks. If using live bait, remember to rig with at least 30-pound fluorocarbon for leader and a 2/0 long shank hook to give you a better chance of preventing the mack’s sharp teeth from cutting your line.
Along with the macks are bonito with similar feeding habits. You will see them crashing the surface striking small baitfish. The average size bonito is 10 pounds, and they readily strike a spoon or Gotcha plug.
Lastly, pier fishers are reeling up respectable numbers of sheepshead. Live shrimp are working, although fiddler crabs are still the top bait. Fish in the 1- to 2-pound range are average. Remember to use a stout hook due to the sheepshead’s boney mouth. I suggest Owner Flyline hooks in a size 2 or 4.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore targeting a variety of species. Around canals and docks, Girle is using fresh-cut live shrimp to catch sheepshead, black drum and flounder. On days that are warmer, Girle is migrating to the grass flats of Sarasota Bay in search of redfish, pompano and bluefish.
In the canals, Girle anchors by docks that are surrounded by deep water. Once set up, Girle instructs his clients to cast fresh-cut shrimp as far under the docks as possible. By doing this, they’re reeling up good numbers of black drum. Sheepshead and flounder are frequenting the docks, which adds variety.
On the flats, Girle is using whole select live shrimp or Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead to target redfish. On the low tides, Girle is using his trolling motor to glide from pothole to pothole, casting baits to locate fish. Average size of the redfish is 24 inches.
Finally, over deep grass flats in south Sarasota Bay, Girle is doing a drift in search of pompano. Small pompano jigs tipped with a piece of shrimp are working and bringing pompano but also bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle, too.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of good action occurring around canals and docks. Flats fishers are migrating to these areas on cooler, windy days to find a bite and are having good success. Using live shrimp around docks, fishers are catching redfish, sheepshead and flounder. Those choosing to use artificials such as Berkley Gulp shrimp or DOA Cal jigs, are jigging through the mouths of deeper canals catching respectable amounts of spotted seatrout.
Moving out to the grass flats of Anna Maria Sound, flats anglers are jigging for trout. Gulp shrimp or DOA Cal jigs are getting the bite, producing respectable numbers of trout, although most are undersized. While fishing this technique, expect to catch ladyfish and bluefish and possibly mackerel and pompano.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says this week’s fishing is moderate at best. Pier fishers using live shrimp are working hard to catch flounder, sheepshead and black drum. Using a bottom rig pier fishers are baiting up with live shrimp and casting their baits under the pier as far as they can. Once their baits settle to the bottom, it’s just a matter of time before they are eaten by a hungry flounder or sheepshead.
Remember, when the water clarity is as good as it is around the pier, you want to rig with as much stealth as possible. If need be, try using some 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon connected to a No. 4 hook. You may lose a couple of rigs to the pilings, but your bite ratio should improve if the fish are feeding.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters says fishing this past week has been steady. Redfish, sheepshead, spotted seatrout, and pompano have all been landed on his charters.
Englander Ian Gilchrist, on his annual vacation to Anna Maria Island had some nice catches of redfish and sheepshead. Using a 2/0 circle hook rigged with a split shot, Howard has his clients toss a live shrimp way underneath the structure and let it set. A tip to improve your luck is to cut up dead and small shrimp into bite-sized pieces and chum the dock you are fishing, Howard says.
Spotted seatrout and pompano are on the flats and eating on a moving tide, he says and using a popping cork and live shrimp will get these tasty fish to the boat. Berkley Gulps are working Howard says.
Looking forward, the tides will have a lot of current flow that should trigger some excellent fishing opportunities. Plan to be at your go-to spot when the current is moving, Howard suggests.
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