Tag Archives: Fishing

Despite cold weather, fishing starts off hot in January

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Michael Gadek, visiting Anna Maria Island from Lake Bluff, Illinois, shows off a nice snook caught on a live pilchard Jan. 5 while on a guided fishing trip with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters.

In spite of cold fronts sweeping down from the north early in 2019, fishing around Anna Maria Island remains consistent for a variety of fish.

Venturing into the Gulf of Mexico on days when the seas are calm is yielding a great bite for those looking to go out and get “the groceries.”

Bottom fishing around ledges, reefs and wrecks is yielding a fish on just about every bait. Mangrove snapper are dominating this bite, followed by Key West grunts, sheepshead, porgies and groupers. You can add lane and yellowtail snapper to the list — if you’re lucky.

Changing baits to live shiners or cigar minnows is producing amberjack, which is always good for those looking for a “reel” workout.

Inshore fishing around Anna Maria Island is producing good action. Fishing structure for sheepshead seems to be getting better and better as winter progresses. Most are 2-3 pounds, which is perfect eating size.

Fishing docks inshore is producing good action on black drum, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release redfish. All three species are readily taking live shrimp.

Lastly, jigging the flats for spotted seatrout is proving to be worthwhile for anglers. Keeper-size trout are being found on channel edges where the shallow grass flats meet with deep water.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m enjoying the sheepshead bite. My anglers are averaging 10-15 keeper fish per trip. When catching the sheepies on structure, we also are reeling up plenty of Key West grunts and mangrove snapper, which is resulting in some good-looking fish boxes at the end of the day.

I’m finding black drum and catch-and-release redfish on my travels, which provide anglers with great action.

To finish out the day, I’m drifting over deeper grass flats and jigging for spotted seatrout. Soft-plastics on a jig head are yielding numerous trout, as well as a few pompano.

Capt. Warren Girle is focusing his efforts on nearshore structure and ledges. In depths of 25-45 feet of water, Girle is finding a variety of species. Baiting with live shrimp is attracting fish to his client’s hooks on nearly every drop. Mangrove snapper are the most prominent, followed by an array of other fish, including sheepshead, porgies, grunts and juvenile groupers.

During his travels in the Gulf of Mexico, Girle is finding the random tripletail lazily floating along in the current where grass or other debris is present.

Moving inshore, Girle’s clients are hooking up with black drum, sheepshead and catch-and-release redfish by casting live shrimp under docks and around seawalls.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is venturing into the Gulf of Mexico when the waters are calm and the winds are light. Using live shrimp combined with a knocker rig, he is dropping baits down to structure to find a bite. Ledges, reefs and wrecks are host to a plethora of species, including snappers, grunts, groupers and sheepshead.

On windier days, when fishing in the Gulf is less favorable, Lowman is returning to the Intracoastal Waterway and its connecting waters. By fishing docks with live shrimp, he’s putting clients on black drum, sheepshead and catch-and-release redfish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing sheepshead being reeled up to the deck quite frequently. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are casting under the pier to attract these ever-popular fish to the hook. While targeting sheepies, black drum, flounder and an occasional catch-and-release redfish are finding their way to the hook.

Pier fishers casting live shrimp out from the pier into Tampa Bay are hooking into pompano. Tipping small jigs with pieces of shrimp is working well to catch a pomp. In fact, this method is producing better results than just casting out bait and waiting for a bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is spending most days offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing wrecks is yielding 60-80 pound amberjack. Also, while wreck fishing, Stock is reeling up numerous mangrove snapper in the 20-inch-plus range. Moving inshore to the flats, Stock is finding some great catch-and-release snook action for his sport fishers. Mixed in with the snook bite are spotted seatrout and catch-and-release redfish.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working his charters inshore for sheepshead. Casting live shrimp around rocks and docks is producing respectable numbers of sheepies, as well as a mix of other fish. Black drum are crazy about shrimp and are being caught with some regularity. The same applies for catch-and-release redfish.

Changing tactics to fish for pompano is producing action for White. Casting Doc’s Goofy jigs throughout the flats, channels and passes is stirring up an occasional pompano bite.

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

Spring-like weather early in 2019 displaces winter fishing

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Zolly Fried, left, and brother-in-law Peter Brandon, both from Canada, along with Jason and Henry Havflik of Minnesota show off their rich reward of mangrove snapper tripletail and sheepshead, caught Dec. 29 with shrimp for bait. The men were guided offshore by Capt. Warren Girle.
Jeff Tomaloff, left, and his brother, visiting Anna Maria Island from Wisconsin, show off a giant amberjack — pushing 80 pounds — that exploded on a Halco popper Jan. 2. The pair also had many others up to 50 pounds. They spent two days fishing, Jan. 1-2, with Capt. Jason Stock, who put the anglers on a big school of amberjack were blasting the surface. Stock said 2019 launched with “beautiful weather and great fishing!”
Capt. Jason Stock led a charter fishing trip Jan. 3 to a hot mangrove snapper bite. Ray Feeney of Illinois shows off just one of the 35 snappers that the anglers kept while on a holiday break on Anna Maria Island with family.

Fishing is exceptional thanks to the spring-like conditions on Anna Maria Island in January.

Whether inshore, nearshore or offshore, there are fish to be caught and there is beautiful weather to enjoy.

And there was no hint of red tide.

The inshore bite for spotted seatrout is quite good when using artificials like soft plastics combined with a jig head. When targeting trout, you will encounter ladyfish and possibly a few pompano.

Fishing structure — inshore and offshore — is yielding a variety of species, with the most prominent being sheepshead. Live shrimp is working well for these convict-striped fish, as well as mangrove snapper, porgies, Key West grunts and hogfish.

Fishing along the beaches, especially for whiting and black drum, is proving to be good when baiting with live shrimp.

Moving offshore, fishing wrecks, reefs and ledges is producing a variety of fish, including amberjack, bonito, hogfish, snappers and goliath grouper.

So no matter what type of fisher you are, Anna Maria Island is hosting some great fishing experiences in January.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m working inshore and nearshore for a variety of species. Sheepshead by far are the most abundant. I’m finding them around structure in Tampa Bay and along the beaches. Casting live shrimp on a knocker rig is luring these nibblers to the hook. Most are 14 inches, although fish up to 18 inches are common.

Fishing around wrecks and reefs is yielding mangrove snapper and Key West grunts. Again, live shrimp on a knocker rig is working well, as my clients are reeling up snapper — in the 18-inch range — and an abundance of grunts.

Black drum for the cooler and catch-and-release redfish are being caught along beaches and grassy areas. Most of the black drum are in the slot of 14-24 inches. As for the catch-and-release redfish, most are 20-26 inches.

So if the weather holds, don’t miss the opportunity to get out and do some January fishing. Whether for sport or for dinner, you’re sure to find it rewarding.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is ringing in the new year with good catches of sheepshead and mangrove snapper. Both are being caught by pier anglers on live shrimp as bait. Other species, such as black drum and catch-and-release redfish also are taking live shrimp offerings. Malfese also says that casting shrimp-tipped jigs is producing some action on pompano, although the bite is sporadic.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working nearshore structure with good results. Fishing around ledges and hard bottom is resulting in mangrove snapper, porgies and Key West grunts for his clients. All three species are taking live shrimp on a knocker rig.

Moving inshore, Lowman is finding action around residential docks on sheepshead and catch-and-release redfish. Again, live shrimp works well as bait.

Lastly, casting soft plastics over grass flats in Tampa Bay is luring spotted seatrout to the hook — and the fry pan.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is running nearshore along the Gulf beaches for a variety of species. Finding ledges or other structure is yielding mangrove snapper, sheepshead, porgies and white grunts. This bite is occurring in depths of 30-50 feet of water. Live shrimp are Gross’ bait of choice.

Moving into depths of 10-20 feet of water is producing action on spotted seatrout and black drum.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking charters in the Gulf of Mexico for a variety of species, including tripletail, which are being found around floating debris and are taking live shrimp offerings.

While at anchor in depths of 40-50 feet of water, Girle is finding numerous snapper, grunts, sheepshead and groupers. Again, live shrimp is the bait of choice.

While fishing inshore, Girle is putting anglers on black drum and sheepshead, as well as catch-and-release redfish around structure in Tampa Bay.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting sheepshead around structure in Tampa Bay. Using live shrimp as bait around bridges, docks and rock piles is yielding good numbers of the tasty fish. While targeting sheepies, White is picking up black drum and catch-and-release redfish.

Casting jigs around the passes is yielding pompano for White’s anglers. These fish are being caught on deeper grass flats.

Fly fishing with White is going well, especially at night for catch-and-release snook. Casting flies around green underwater dock lights is resulting in good action on the linesiders.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with great results. With any string of calm days, Stock is venturing out to wrecks and other structure offshore for a variety of species. Mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper and hogfish are being caught frequently by Stock’s clients. For fish that pull hard, Stock is putting anglers on amberjack, bonito and goliath grouper.

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

Windy days put damper on holiday fishing

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Thomas Sanborn of Sarasota shows off the overslot redfish he caught on a live shrimp — and then released — Dec. 28 on a guided fishing charter with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters.
Nathaniel Hamilton, 10, and brother Sebastian,12, visiting Anna Maria from Toronto, Canada were happy with their Christmas Day fishing trip. The boys and their parents were guided by Capt. Warren Girle to fish near shore with shrimp as bait and the results, plenty of sheepshead.

Although most Anna Maria Island fishers are waiting out day after day of wind, those who persevere and duck into canals or hide behind mangroves will find a bite.

The most popular bite by far is by sheepshead. Casting live shrimp around structure — sea walls, piers, bridges and especially residential docks — is producing decent numbers of these delectable fish. They are being found around artificial reefs and on the grass flats in some areas.

When targeting sheepies, you usually stand a chance of encountering other species that like structure, including redfish, black drum, flounder and mangrove snapper. Not a bad addition to any fishing excursion, as far as I’m concerned.

On my excursions with Southernaire, I’m following suit. And that suit is striped with black and white. That’s right, we’re catching sheepshead. Casting live shrimp under docks or around other structure in Tampa Bay is yielding pretty good numbers of the feisty fighting fish.

I’m also picking up catch-and-release redfish in the process and I’m noticing quite a few jack crevalle in Tampa Bay, as well as the Intracoastal Waterway south to Longboat Pass.

Although these aren’t good eating, they sure entertain the angler with some hard-fighting antics that last until they are plucked from the water.

Fishing along the beaches is proving to be good. I’m seeing a mix of pompano and whiting while casting jigs tipped with fresh-cut pieces of live shrimp.

On a serious note, don’t forget the harvest of gag grouper closed Jan. 1. Also, keep in mind that the new bag limit of sheepshead is eight fish per person per day.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore ledges when the winds are light and the seas calm.

Fishing in depths of 25-50 feet, Lowman is finding Key West grunts, snappers, hogfish and a few gag grouper. Dropping live shrimp to the bottom is producing a bite.

Moving inshore, dock fishing is providing action on sheepshead, as well as catch-and-release redfish. Again, live shrimp is the bait of choice.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results. Using live shiners or pinfish as bait is yielding a variety of species for Stock.

Fishing hard bottom areas is proving to be good for red grouper and catch-and-release red snapper. Targeting ledges is producing action on snappers, such as lane and yellowtail.

Targeting grouper inshore is a good bet with Stock. In Tampa Bay, he is catching catch-and-release gag grouper with regularity. Trolling or live bait offerings are producing a bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing Tampa Bay with good results. Using live shrimp as bait around artificial reefs, rock piles and docks is yielding a variety of species, including sheepshead, snapper and black drum. Using a knocker rig combined with the shrimp is keeping the bait on the bottom, where it is accessible to the fish. Catch-and-release redfish are being caught using this method, especially when casting baits under docks.

Fishing deeper grass flats with free-lined shrimp is yielding spotted seatrout. The use of a popping cork is helpful to keep the shrimp mid-depth in the water column and also to keep it out of the grass, where the pinfish can get at it.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing pier fishers reeling up sheepshead, as well as a variety of other fish. Casting live shrimp on a weighted rig under the pier is attracting the buck-toothed fish to the hook. While targeting sheepshead, pier fishers are hooking into black drum, flounder and a few catch-and-release redfish.

Casting jigs tipped with shrimp is working for those hoping to catch a pompano, although the bite is sporadic.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore. Using live shrimp as bait is producing numerous species for White. The most apparent are the sheepshead, which are being caught around docks and rocks. While targeting sheepies, White is catching black drum and catch-and-release redfish. Fishing the passes with shrimp-tipped jigs is producing pompano, as well as ladyfish and jack crevalle.

The gift of fishing — the perfect present for young and old

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Patrick McGinnis of Holmes Beach, shows off a nice gag grouper he caught Dec. 18 while on a guided trip with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters.
Michael Bridges, visiting Anna Maria Island from Greenville, South Carolina, shows off a redfish catch Dec. 18. Bridges caught and released several redfish and snook and also caught sheepshead using shrimp as bait. He was guided by Capt. Warren Girle

I think Santa Claus gave us an early Christmas present.

In my travels throughout the waters of Palma Sola Bay, north to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and out to Egmont Key, I did not notice a hint of red tide. The waters looked so pristine it was hard not to be hypnotized by the clear view through to the bottom in most areas.

As far as fishing goes, I’m seeing a good variety of species come to the boat while working my Southernaire fishing charters.

Fishing along the beaches with shrimp-tipped jigs is yielding a few pompano, one of my favorite catches, as they fight hard for their size. Plus, they are great on the grill.

Sheepshead are concentrating around rocks and docks and I’m even seeing them on the flats, gorging on shrimp and other crustaceans.

Fishing for spotted seatrout is shaping up. Casting soft plastics on a jighead over deep grass flats where sandy potholes exist is yielding some good numbers.

Lastly, catch-and-release redfish are being found around docks and oyster bars. Casting live shrimp to these fish is resulting in a hook up for many anglers.

Until next week, Merry Christmas to all and keep those lines tight.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous sheepshead taking up temporary residence under the pier. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are finding success on these convict-striped fish. While targeting sheepshead, other species — flounder, catch-and-release redfish and a couple of catch-and-release snook — are coming to the hook.

Casting shrimp-tipped jigs is attracting a bite from the passing pompano and jack crevalle at the pier.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is trolling deep-diving plugs around structure in Tampa Bay at channel edges, rock piles and artificial reefs, which is proving to be good for gag grouper. Fish up to 30 inches are common.

Enroute from one spot to another, Lowman is keeping his eye out for triple tail, which is paying off. Keeper-size trips are being found around floating debris in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico.

To finish out the day, Lowman is using soft plastics on a jig head to target spotted seatrout. Casting jigs along grass edges, where channels intersect the flat, is producing good numbers of these fish for the cooler.

Capt. Warren Girle says using live shrimp as bait is yielding a good variety of species. Casting shrimp under or around docks is resulting in numerous sheepshead. Also in these areas, Girle is hooking up sport-fishing clients with catch-and-release snook and redfish.

Fishing deeper grass flats is producing spotted seatrout, as well as some jack crevalle and ladyfish. Lastly, fishing artificial reefs with live pinfish is attracting an occasional gag grouper.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore with live shrimp as bait. A wintertime pattern is upon us and White is making the transition. Targeting sheepshead with live shrimp around rocks and docks is producing good action for White and his clients.

While targeting sheepies, White is hooking into black drum, mangrove snapper and redfish.

Moving to deeper water, White is getting in on the inshore action by trolling for grouper with deep-diving lipped plugs. Live bait offerings, such as pinfish and grunts, also are triggering a response.

Capt. Jason Stock is in pursuit of gag grouper in Tampa Bay, where trolling lipped plugs around structure or hard bottom is resulting in many hookups and most catches in keeper-sizes. Stock is using live bait to entice these ferocious groupers. He says anchoring over reefs or wrecks and free-lining live pinfish to the bottom is triggering some amazing strikes for his anglers.

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

Transitional weather results in different species to target

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Jeremy Stock of St. Petersburg, older brother of charter fishing guide Jason Stock, shows off a nice cobia caught offshore Nov. 29 along with amberjack, grouper and kingfish while spending a workday on the water with the captain.
Bubba Diaz, a commercial fisher working out of Cortez, shows off his catch of amberjack Nov. 13 at the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach. Diaz said the fishers were seeing mullet — but not yet casting for them, but the fish were fattened with roe by the week of Dec. 16. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Fishers line up for mullet Commercial fishers wait for mullet to run out of the bay waters Dec. 14 south of the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Cortez Bait & Seafood vice president Kim McVey said Dec. 17 there was a “little run” Dec. 15. Fishers who net a catch, deliver it to the local Cortez fish houses for same-day processing. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

With cold from the north becoming more frequent, you might say fishing is in a transitional phase, but it remains good around Anna Maria Island.

You see, as water temperatures drop, some fish change their habits. This can include where they can be found, when they feed and what they want to eat.

Knowing their cold-weather habits is key to hooking up with any species.

One such fish is snook. During the spring, summer and fall, snook are readily available on the flats and along the beaches. Live shiners as bait are like candy to snook as they feed heavily. The fish also will take a variety of other live baits, as well as artificials.

When the winter weather arrives and water temps drop into the low 60s, you may notice snook are harder to find. They don’t like cold water and migrate to areas where they find consistently warm water. When you find snook in the winter, you’ll also notice they don’t behave as aggressively as they do in the warm summer water.

The colder water causes them to be lazy. As they attempt to stay warm, they conserve energy. This influences the bait you choose. Shiners and other live baits — pinfish and mullet — swim too fast for a lazy snook to pursue. But using shrimp or soft plastics with a slow retrieve attracts their interest. Snook become opportunistic, which means they would much rather swim up to something to eat and nonchalantly inhale. They just don’t chase bait in cold water.

Luckily for us, there are other fish to catch in the winter. Some species that come to mind: black drum, redfish and sheepshead. The colder water temps don’t deter these fish from eating. In fact, the sheepshead get fired up. Also, these three species will readily eat live shrimp, which is the most accessible bait during the cooler months.

Another cold weather target is inshore gag grouper. With the arrival of the cold, the fish migrate into the shallow waters of Tampa Bay, making them accessible to inshore anglers. Trolling lipped plugs or using large live baits, such as pinfish or grunts, will attract gags to bite.

Finally, the deeper grass area of Tampa Bay and its water to the south can be host to a variety of species during the winter. Spotted seatrout can be caught in great numbers along channel edges adjacent to the flats. Same for pompano. You’ll also find jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish in the mix.

So, as cold settles in, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of fish to catch in December, January and February. Just change up your technique and you can find success.

On my excursions with Southernaire fishing clients, I’m finding numerous sheepshead and flounder around the passes and channel edges. Offerings of live shrimp are yielding good action on either species — especially the sheepshead.

Casting live shrimp around docks and oyster bars is proving to be good for catch-and-release redfish.

I’m also catching and releasing an occasional undersized snook in the same areas. Spotted seatrout are cooperating over deep grass flats. Casting live shrimp under a popping cork or free-lining live shiners is getting a positive response. Jack crevalle, bluefish and ladyfish are finding their way to the hook.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding a good bite using live shrimp as bait. Casting the shrimp under docks or around other structure is yielding sheepshead, black drum and catch-and-release redfish. Fishing grass flats with live shrimp is producing some action on spotted seatrout and jack crevalle. When fishing the grass flats, Girle is using a popping cork to keep the shrimp suspended midway through the water column. This aids in keeping the pinfish away from the bait so it can be noticed by game fish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is finding decent action on spotted seatrout, as well as catch-and-release snook and redfish. Fishing between the cold fronts when the weather is warm and the seas are calm is proving to be the best time to get a bite.

Using live shrimp as bait around reefs and docks is producing a sheepshead bite, as well as bites from other species, such as black drum and flounder. Placing a live shrimp on a 1/4-ounce jig head and slowly dragging the bottom is resulting in a strike.

Lastly, trolling for inshore grouper is yielding a few keeper-size fish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishers using live shrimp as bait are hooking into a variety of species. While bottom fishing with shrimp, fishers are reeling up sheepshead, black drum and a few flounder.

Tipping jigs with small pieces of fresh-cut shrimp is attracting attention, too. Casting these jigs out from the pier and bouncing them along the sandy bottom is producing action for pier anglers on ladyfish, jack crevalle and a couple of permit.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is doing well for his fishing clients in Tampa Bay. Sheepshead are moving in around structure and are eating live shrimp. White likes to use a small jig head combined with a live shrimp to get the fish to bite.

Targeting gag grouper in Tampa Bay is producing good action for White. Live pinfish dropped to the bottom around structure is a sure-fire way to attract the gags to the hook. Trolling lipped plugs is producing action.

On the flats of Tampa Bay, White is guiding his fly-fishing clients to some tough adversaries. Large jack crevalle are on the prowl on the flats, which makes them excellent targets for a fly fisher. These jacks — in the 10-pound range — can take up to 15-20 minutes to reel in once hooked on the fly. White and his clients love the challenge and, even better, they are catch-and-release.

Capt. Jason Stock is catching respectable numbers of gag grouper in Tampa Bay. Trolling lipped plugs or using live pinfish as bait is attracting a bite. Moving offshore, Stock is finding an abundance of mangrove snapper. The fish are rising to the surface as they feed in the chum slick, which makes them easy targets. Free-lining live shiners into this frenzy is resulting in immediate hookups.

While offshore, Stock is finding amberjack and blackfin tuna. To catch these hard-fighting fish, Stock is casting large artificials on the surface and quickly stripping them in.

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

As weather cools, switch baits to continue hooking up

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It’s a sure sign of cold weather to come — sheepies! Doug and Matt Gritter from Holland, Michigan, fished nearshore Dec. 7 using shrimp for bait and caught numerous sheepshead. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.
Ryan Barlow of Tampa shows off an amberjack caught on a Halco popper. Dec. 8. He also reeled up snapper, tuna, Goliath grouper and flounder on the fishing trip with JM Snooky Charters.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is showing signs of a change.

With cold fronts becoming more consistent, water temps are dropping, which is definitely affecting fishing.

Those of us who rely on live shiners are seeing less of the bait as the water cools. Plus, the fish are not reacting to them as aggressively as they could.

Needless to say, I see using live shrimp as bait in the near future.

And the winter catch is starting to show up in numbers.

Sheepshead and black drum are showing in the backcountry areas. Grass flats, docks and inlets are host to these fish as they begin to school up and forage for food.

Redfish will follow this pattern as they too like to dig around in the sand or grass for tasty morsels — shrimp, crabs or tubeworms.

For me, this is a welcome sight.

It will be nice to target different species and use different techniques to catch fish. Snook fishing with free-lined shiners is some of the best fishing ever, but, after seeing hundreds of linesiders being caught and released throughout the summer and fall, I’m ready for a change.

Fishing with shrimp as bait will open new opportunities on the water, which includes pompano. It’s always nice to hook into some stray pompano while shrimp fishing. And it’s even better when you come across the motherlode. I imagine we should start seeing more flounder in the mix, another welcome sight.

Either way, don’t be discouraged by the cooler weather. We may not be targeting the snook as much, but a plethora of other species await the hook.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing is quite good despite windy days and cold temps. Sheepshead and black drum are being caught with regularity by anglers using live shrimp as bait.

While targeting their prey with shrimp, fishers are finding success on flounder, redfish and pompano. Folks using larger baits — pinfish or ladyfish — are hooking into some over-sized snook. And, of course, releasing them.

Capt. Aaron Lowman says fishing between the cold fronts is producing good action on catch-and-release snook and redfish. Targeting areas near mangroves, oyster bars or docks seems to be most productive for sport fishers.

Moving out to deeper grass flats is resulting in a mixed bag — spotted seatrout for the cooler, as well as ladyfish and jack crevalle.

As the cold fronts become more persistent, Lowman is targeting sheepshead and black drum. To catch the convict-striped fish, live shrimp fished on the bottom on a jig head is attracting a bite for anglers.

Lastly, trolling grouper in Tampa Bay is productive. Some keeper fish are being caught as well as a few shorts.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding good action on the deeper grass flats for spotted seatrout.

Also in the mix are ladyfish, mangrove snapper and an abundance of jack crevalle. For bait, Girle says live shiners are working well.

Fishing around docks is proving to be good for Girle. Casting live shiners under docks is resulting in catch-and-release redfish and snapper for the cooler.

Moving to deeper water, where wrecks and reefs are present, is good for Spanish mackerel, bluefish and gag grouper.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is switching gears to winter-time tactics while working his inshore charters.

Strong winds and numerous cold fronts make it tough to venture offshore due to uncomfortable conditions.

While fishing inshore, White is using live shrimp as bait, which is yielding a variety of fish — sheepshead, black drum and catch-and-release redfish.

For the sheepies and black drum, White is targeting areas along the beaches or fishing out of the wind in the canals around residential docks.

For the redfish, the same applies, although most of the bite is being found around the docks.

When able to run offshore, White is finding good action on hogfish and snapper, as well as migratory fish, amberjack and kingfish.

Capt. Jason Stock is finding great action on gag grouper on live baits, such as pinfish. He’s producing bites in Tampa Bay and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

While in the Gulf, Stock is putting his clients on cobia, kingfish and large amberjack.

On windy days, Stock is staying inshore to target catch-and-release redfish and snook and finding spotted seatrout also are willing to take the hook.

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

Fish catches vary with changes in weather

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Gary Loughlin of Sarasota shows off one of his catches, a redfish, among numerous redfish and snook hooked up and released Nov. 21 while fishing nearshore. Gary used shiners for bait and Capt. Warren Girle as his guide.
David Coleman of Tampa, David Schmitt of Detroit, Jake and Steve Clavette of Milwaukee and Sarasota show their catches — keeper trout and a redfish to be released — from the nearshore waters Nov. 24 using shiners. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.
David Coleman of Tampa, David Schmitt of Detroit, Jake and Steve Clavette of Milwaukee and Sarasota show their catches — keeper trout and a redfish to be released — from the nearshore waters Nov. 24 using shiners. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains good — as long as you’re fishing east toward the Manatee River and the oyster-lined shorelines of southern Tampa Bay.

Catch-and-release snook fishing trends to be the best bite, although, with the recent cold fronts, I imagine the bite will be tapering off sooner than later.

And that’s OK.

Catch-and-release redfish are being caught with regularity.

And spotted seatrout are making quite a showing on the deeper grass flats in our area.

It’s also time to start putting out finders for pompano, as well as black drum and sheepshead.

Offshore fishing also remains good — so long as you are willing to push out beyond the patches of red tide. On some days, depending on the wind, this could be 10-15 miles.

Fishing reefs and wrecks is producing drag-screaming action on blackfin tuna, amberjack and kingfish. And who doesn’t want to come home with some fat tuna steaks, right?

Mangrove snapper and Key West grunts are being reported in abundance while fishing ledges and hard bottom.

On Southernaire, I’m noticing on my charters that snook are on the move. Unlike warmer weeks where the snook were everywhere, staging up for a hot lunch on the flats, I’m noticing the herd is thinning out. This is common as water temps drop into the mid to low 60s, which causes snook to become lethargic and eventually move in search of slightly warmer water. It’s the reason December is normally catch-and-release for snook. This fall, the season remained closed due to the impact on the fishery from red tide.

I already have experienced a couple of mornings where the water temps were in the lows 60s and the snook bite was half of what it could be. And the fish that did take a bait were less than energetic about it.

That being said, I’m still seeing good gatherings of fish on days when water temps are up to 70 degrees. On warmer days, hooking up 20-30 snook is attainable, although I fear the clock of old man winter is ticking.

Fishing deeper grass areas is yielding some slot-size spotted seatrout, as well as a menagerie of other species, including mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and flounder.

Capt. Warren Girle is spending his days in Tampa Bay. Fishing the shallower grass flats where mangrove shorelines of oyster bars exist is yielding numerous catch-and-release snook. Free-lining live shiners in these areas is attracting a number of linesiders 20-26 inches, with a few larger fish mixed in.

While targeting catch-and-release snook, Girle is finding a random sampling of redfish, also catch-and-release due to red tide.

Moving to slightly deeper grass flats — 5-6 feet of water — Girle is catching spotted seatrout. Among the trout are ladyfish and jack crevalle, which adds a nice variety to the bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is patrolling offshore when winds are light and seas calm. Fishing around wrecks is proving to be good for blackfin tuna, as well as kingfish and big mangrove snapper. Fishing hard bottom or ledges is producing ample amounts of Key West grunts.

Moving inshore, Stock is putting clients on plenty of gag grouper in Tampa Bay. Fish that are shy of the 24-inch minimum are quickly tagged and released.

Lastly, catch-and-release snook fishing is quite good for Stock’s sporting anglers who free-line shiners over shallow grass flats.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is cashing in on the great snook bite before winter closes in and shuts it down. Free-lining live shiners around mangrove points, cuts and depressions is resulting in some stellar snook sessions.

While targeting linesiders, Lowman is putting his sport anglers on some catch-and-release redfish.

Lastly, trolling lipped plugs in the shipping channel in Tampa Bay is attracting the attention of some large gag grouper. Fishing structure — where these fish lurk — with live bait is yielding some keeper fish.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore while the snook bite lasts. Free-lining live shiners over shallow grass flats in areas where snook are staging to move to warmer water is proving to be good. Mornings of 30 or more catch-and-release linesiders on the hook are not uncommon.

Moving offshore, White is hunting blackfin tuna, amberjack and large snapper around reefs and wrecks with good results. For the tuna and AJs, White is free-lining live cigar minnows or pilchards.

As for the snapper, a bottom rig combined with a live pilchard is deadly.

Capt. Eric Chaignet of Gulfcart Charters reports fishing offshore is good for his clients. Fishing wrecks or reefs in the 30-mile range is yielding blackfin tuna and kingfish. Moving in a few miles around hard bottom and ledges is producing decent action on hogfish as well as snapper and grunts.

Chaignet reports inshore fishing is proving to be good, especially for the catch-and-release duo of snook and redfish.

Lastly, trolling lipped plugs in Tampa Bay is resulting in some keeper gag grouper.

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

 

Snook harvest seasonal closure starts

The recreational harvest season for snook closed Dec. 1 in federal and most state waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including all of Monroe County and Everglades National Park.

Snook, as well as redfish, remain catch-and-release only in state waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line through Gordon Pass in Collier County through May 10, 2019, in response to the impacts of red tide.

Snook outside of that area will reopen to harvest March 1, 2019.

Anglers may continue to catch and release snook during the closed season.

Season closures are designed to help conserve snook during vulnerable times such as cold weather.

Atlantic state and federal waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, will close Dec. 15 through Jan. 31, 2019, reopening to harvest Feb. 1, 2019.

Tampa Bay gives sanctuary to inshore fish, anglers get action

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Lucas Engel, 14, shows off a nice blackfin tuna and a prize 18.77-pound king mackerel Nov. 10, earning him second place in the youth division in the 25th annual Fall King of the Beach tournament held Nov. 8-10 out of Madeira Beach. Engel fished in the tourney with Capt. Jason Stock of J.M. Snooky Charters. Engel helps mate on some of Stock’s charters and he follows a chart set by his father, Allan, who has been a fishing captain locally for 25 years.
Lucas Engel, 14, shows off a nice blackfin tuna and a prize 18.77-pound king mackerel Nov. 10, earning him second place in the youth division in the 25th annual Fall King of the Beach tournament held Nov. 8-10 out of Madeira Beach. Engel fished in the tourney with Capt. Jason Stock of J.M. Snooky Charters. Engel helps mate on some of Stock’s charters and he follows a chart set by his father, Allan, who has been a fishing captain locally for 25 years.

Fishing north of Anna Maria Island proves to be excellent despite the patches of red tide persisting to the south.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t infiltrate Tampa Bay — the sanctuary for inshore fish, such as snook, redfish and trout.

While fishing Tampa Bay, I’m seeing my clients reel numerous catch-and-release snook to my boat. On some mornings, catches of 30-40 fish are keeping us busy. That’s what sport fishing is all about. Mixed in with the snook are catch-and-release redfish, although they are sparse.

Moving to deeper grass areas is yielding plenty of spotted seatrout, although most are just under the minimum size limit of 15 inches. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is producing action — especially on mangrove snapper and gag grouper.

Bottom fishing with live shiners is producing the snapper, while using live pinfish is best for attracting the grouper.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the inshore waters of Tampa Bay to avoid red tide that popped up again to the south. Catch-and-and release snook fishing is going strong for Girle, too. He reports some catches reaching as many as 40 snook in a morning trip. While targeting snook, catch-and-release redfish are mixed in as well, which adds some variety to the bite.

Spotted seatrout, bluefish and ladyfish are being caught while fishing deeper grass flats. Mangrove snapper are being caught in the same areas.

Lastly, fishing structure in Tampa Bay is yielding gag grouper and mangrove snapper.

Capt. Aaron Lowman also is putting clients on good concentrations of catch-and-release snook while fishing the flats of southern Tampa Bay. Mangrove edges, oyster bars and lush turtle grass are a great recipe to find linesiders in numbers and Lowman has them dialed in. Free-lining shiners in areas such as these is producing good rallies of 20-30 snook a day.

Fishing structure — residential docks, seawalls and oyster bars — is producing action for Lowman’s anglers, especially for catch-and-release redfish and some mangrove snapper for the cooler.

On a final note, moving to deeper grass flats is yielding spotted seatrout and ladyfish for Lowman’s clients.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore with good results. Free-lining live shiners over shallow grass flats is proving to be good for catch-and-release snook. White reports that on some mornings, he’s seeing up to 100 snook being reeled to the boat.

Mixed in with the catch-and-release snook for White are redfish, jack crevalle, flounder and mangrove snapper.

Moving offshore, White is targeting migratory species — blackfin tuna and amberjack — and he’s finding red grouper are being caught while working areas over hard bottom.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is enthusiastic to report fishing is quite good at the pier. Numerous sheepshead are being caught — some exceeding 16 inches. Live shrimp are working as bait for these tasty fish.

Catch-and-release snook and redfish are being caught on either shrimp or pinfish as bait, while Black drum and flounder are taking the pier angler’s offerings of live shrimp.

For those casting spoons or jigs, an occasional mackerel is being reeled to the deck, as well as some jacks and ladyfish.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding some gator trout while fishing the flats of Terra Ceia Bay. Employing a Cajun Thunder cork, Gross is casting small shiners over shallow grass flats to attract the large trout. Spotted seatrout up to 24 inches are being taken in this fashion.

Catch-and-release snook and redfish are being caught in the same areas as the trout.

Moving deeper, Gross is finding mackerel, bluefish and flounder around the edges of deep grass flats and structure. Some of the flounder are up to 20 inches.

Capt. Jason Stock is targeting catch-and-release snook while the bite remains consistent. Snook rallies in the neighborhood of 50-60 fish in a four-hour charter is common. This produces great action for both sport anglers, and what’s even better? There is no impact on the fishery as these linesiders are catch-and-release only.

When not targeting snook, Stock is on patrol for inshore gag grouper — both shorties and keeper-size. On the short fish, Stock is tagging and releasing them to be caught another day.

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

Be thankful for excellent fishing east of Anna Maria Island

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Debra, left, and Lily Robertson of Sarasota are joined Nov. 14 by family visiting from Maine, Mei-An-Tsu, Karl, Hanna and Kin Anderson, on an offshore fishing trip guided by Capt. Warren Girle. Using live shiners, they caught and released gag grouper, and kept a few snapper and mackerel for lunch.

Although red tide lingers around the shores of Anna Maria Island, fishing to the east remains quite good. In fact, in some places, it’s excellent.

Fishing the eastern shorelines of Tampa Bay and its connecting waters is providing some of the best inshore action of the year.

Catch-and-release snook fishing is epic. And spotted seatrout are making a strong presence on the flats, as water temps drop. Deep grass flats with scattered potholes are holding schools of the ever-popular inshore fish.

As for catch-and-release redfish, I’m seeing some, but not as many as I would like. Other action inshore includes mangrove snapper, which can be found on just about any structure in Tampa Bay. Also, jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish are making a showing, especially around schools of baitfish.

For those braving a trip offshore, fishing is proving to be rewarding. Both Capts. Jason Stock and David White are balancing the chance of encountering patches of red tide on trips offshore against the rewards. Both are reaping the benefits of the risk with rewards for client anglers — catches of blackfin tuna, amberjack and snapper and an early showing of kingfish.

On my Southernaire charters. I’m doing quite well with catch-and-release snook, seeing morning sessions of 30-40 snook on the hook.

I’m finding a few catch-and-release redfish mixed in with the snook bite, although most reds are 16-18 inches. There are some larger ones hanging around docks and oyster bars, but they are scattered and hard to target.

Spotted seatrout are showing quite good on deeper grass flats. Most of the ones my anglers are catching are on the small side, although we are catching a lot.

Lastly, mangrove snapper are available around structure. I’m finding them to be a little leader-shy, so I’m scaling down to 15-pound fluorocarbon with a size-2 hook. Chumming heavily is aiding in getting them to bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is working inshore, finding catch-and-release snook and redfish are producing a great bite for his clients. Free-lining live shiners over shallow flats or around residential docks is attracting both species to the hook.

Moving to deeper water, Girle is anchoring and chumming around artificial reefs and wrecks. These areas are host to a variety of species — mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and gag grouper. All species are being caught in keeper-sizes — even the gags.

Lastly, spotted seatrout and bluefish are being found around deep grass flats and channel edges.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing was a little spotty as of his report. With patches of red tide washing in and out of Tampa Bay with the tides, fishing is unpredictable at the island’s northern-most pier. Conditions can change from good to bad in a matter of a few hours. When the water is clean, pier anglers are catching and releasing plenty of snook. Black drum, sheepshead and redfish are present with mangrove snapper in the mix, too.

During times when red tide is hovering on the pier, it may be best to go inside the restaurant and enjoy a cold beer and a cheeseburger.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing the flats of Tampa Bay, where he is finding catch-and-release snook the predominant bite. Free-lining live shiners over the flats is yielding Lowman’s clients catches of 30-50 snook per day. Mixed in with the snook are scattered spotted seatrout and catch-and-release redfish.

On days when red tide is minimal, Lowman is patrolling the beaches, where he’s finding numerous eager blacktip sharks and a spattering of pompano. Jigging for the pompano is proving successful.

Lastly, trolling channel edges and structure with large lipped plugs is yielding a few keeper-size gag grouper.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is running offshore for some of the most sought-after migratory fish — blackfin tuna and amberjack.

White is free-lining large baits over structure to lure these predators to the hook. Also, while fishing offshore, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and gag grouper are taking the hook for White’s anglers.

Moving inshore, White is cashing in on the phenomenal snook bite. Although all catch-and-release, these linesiders produce some of the best action that the flats have to offer sport fishers. While targeting snook, White also is hooking up on mangrove snapper for the cooler and some jack crevalle.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore with good results. He’s finding the push past the red tide is proving to be quite good for a variety of migratory species — blackfin tuna, amberjack, kingfish and even a couple sailfish.

Moving inshore, catch-and-release snook action is keeping Stock busy. Also, while on the flats, Stock is hooking clients up with numerous spotted seatrout. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is producing good action on gag grouper, which Stock is tagging and releasing.

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

Gamble on fishing, Gulf pays off in spite of red tide

Taylor Sears of Boston shows off a blackfin tuna caught offshore of Anna Maria in the Gulf of Mexico with charter guide Capt. Jason Stock.
Taylor, left, Claire, Bryan and Greg Sears of Boston and Capt. Jason Stock show off their catch from a day’s fishing Nov. 7 in the Gulf. The Sears, who run a charter operation focusing on bluefin tuna in Boston, also hauled in amberjack, big sharks, kingfish and goliath grouper. Stock reports fishing is good once you get out far enough to clean water.
Brad and Aidan Schutte, 9, of Kansas and Randy Righter of St. Augustine show off their catch of snapper and mackerel Oct. 25. They were guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

Although patches of red tide still exist in the Gulf of Mexico east of Anna Maria Island, fall fishing is on the upswing.

While taking the gamble on fishing in the Gulf can be risky, those who are willing to try are being rewarded with some exceptional catches.

Reports of blackfin tuna, amberjack, kingfish and bonito are encouraging. Mangrove snapper, grunts and groupers are being caught as well.

Moving inshore, catch-and-release snook fishing is in full swing. As the water temps drop, the snook are on the flats to feed in preparation for winter. Free-lined shiners aren’t lasting more than a few seconds before they are quickly inhaled by hungry linesiders. Catch-and-release redfish, as well as some decent-sized spotted seatrout, are making a good showing.

On my excursions with Southernaire, I’m finding the catch-and-release action nothing short of exceptional. On some days, when the bite is really on fire, my sport-fishing clients are counting down from when their bait hits the water until they get a strike. One one-thousand, two one-thousand — fish on! Yeah, it’s that good. The snook are so voracious I almost feel bad putting a poor little shiner on a hook — almost.

While reeling in the snook, I’m also seeing redfish, mangrove snapper and spotted seatrout in the mix. My clients are astonished at the variety of species they can catch in one area — not to mention adding in some jacks and ladyfish. Finally, mangrove snapper are still being found on wrecks and reefs. Depending on water clarity, I’m either free-lining baits to them or bottom fishing.

Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore looking to hook into some of the migratory species — kingfish, amberjacks, bonito and blackfin tuna. All of these species are being found around offshore structure — reefs and especially wrecks. Both live and artificial offerings are working. In tow with these fish are numerous sharks, which are readily taking freshly filleted pieces of bonito.

Moving inshore, Stock is putting his anglers on plenty of catch-and-release snook with a few spotted seatrout catch-and-release redfish and in the mix.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is hooking up with an abundance of catch-and-release snook, many 20-26 inches with a few slot fish for good measure, while working oyster bars and shallow grass flats.

Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is resulting in mangrove snapper and quite a few flounder. For both, Gross is bottom fishing with live shiners as bait. Most of the snapper are 12-14 inches, while the flounder are impressively larger — some up to 20 inches.

Lastly, trout action remains steady for Gross on deeper grass flats where good tidal flow exists.

Capt. Warren Girle is loading up on limits of mangrove snapper around reefs and wrecks in Tampa Bay. Two methods are working to catch these tasty fish. One is free-lining baits over the structure. This is working when the snapper are being leader-shy. The other method is bottom fishing with a knocker rig combined with a live shiner.

Also, when bottom fishing, Girle is hooking into flounder and grouper.

Moving to the shallows, Girle is bringing his share of catch-and-release snook to the boat. Redfish and trout are being caught while flats fishing, too.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working nearshore ledges with good results. Lowman warns there are still patches of red tide in the Gulf and fishing there can be a gamble. On days when there is minimal red tide, Lowman is catching Key West grunts, limits of mangrove snapper and a few hogfish and gag grouper.

Moving into Tampa Bay, Lowman is finding catch-and-release snook, as well as some catch-and-release redfish, for his sport fishers. Action on spotted seatrout is heating up for Lowman with numerous bites occurring over deep grass during incoming tides.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting catch-and-release snook when he has anglers on the boat who are just out to bend a rod. Snook fishing is at its finest right now, with catches of 20-30 fish occurring in one spot. For those fishing for dinner, White is putting them on the mangrove snapper bite. Limits of these fish are being caught with ease. While targeting the snapper, White is also putting clients on flounder and Spanish mackerel.

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