Tag Archives: fishing

Temps still hot, resulting in mixed bag for anglers

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Jaden, left, Sandra, Claudia (kneeling), Helene and Richard Wong, visiting Anna Maria Island from Toronto, Canada, fished offshore Capt. Warren Girle and, using shiners for bait, caught snapper for their dinner.
Dr. Roger Danziger and Dr. Bruce Lipskind show off some 5-6-pound mangrove snappers they caught Aug. 13 in 150 feet of water about 50 miles offshore of Holmes Beach in the Gulf of Mexico while fishing on Danziger’s “NozDoc.”

Despite water temps in the high 80s, flats fishing is still productive so long as you fish early morning as opposed to midday.
Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook seem to be the predominant bite, especially during swift-moving, early morning tides. Redfish are present, although the numbers of fish are not what they should be this time of year.

Moving out to deeper structure — artificial reefs, wrecks and rock piles — is a good idea, as you approach the heat of the day. Mangrove snapper, flounder and even grouper are being caught in these areas. You’ll also find Spanish mackerel and sharks in abundance.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m finding a great trout bite on the early morning tides. Spotted seatrout 12-22 inches are being caught by free-lining live shiners over grass flats in water depths of 4-8 feet. Mixed in are bluefish, mackerel, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.

After putting some trout in the cooler, I’m moving to shallower flats of 2-3 feet of water where mangrove shorelines and/or oyster bars are present. In these areas, rallies of schooley-sized catch-and-release snook are occurring. Free-lined live shiners are quickly being inhaled by the 24-inch fish. Bigger linesiders are mixed in, although most are 22-26 inches. An occasional redfish is being caught between snook bites, but it’s random at best.

Catch-and-release shark fishing is at its best right now along the beaches of Anna Maria and throughout Tampa Bay. Blacktip sharks are the most apparent and are ranging 25-100 pounds. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel are working great as bait, but ladyfish, jack crevalle or blue runners work, too.

Lastly, the mangrove snapper have invaded the inshore waters in abundance. Whether fishing the flats, reefs or rock piles, I’m consistently seeing snapper being reeled up. I’m noticing the fish being caught on the flats are barely legal, but the fish on structure are much larger. Free-lining or bottom fishing baits is productive, depending on where you are and what mood the snapper are in.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for mangrove snapper. By using live shiners as bait combined with a bottom rig, Girle’s clients are reeling up limits of snapper 12-15 inches. While targeting snapper, Key West grunts and flounder also are finding their way to the hook.

Moving inshore, Girle is catching numerous spotted seatrout throughout the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Also in these areas are bluefish and Spanish mackerel, which is a nice variety between trout bites.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of species being caught during the morning hours. Fishers using live shrimp as bait are reeling up pompano, which are always a welcome catch. The sheer power of these fish, plus their high cuisine value, make them a favorite catch at the pier. Switching to jigs or spoons as bait is attracting Spanish mackerel and blue runners to the hook. Lastly, shark fishing is proving to be productive for blacktip and hammerhead sharks.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is putting his clients on plenty of mangrove snapper on nearshore and inshore structure. Most catches are running 12-16 inches, although bigger catches are in the mix. Also on structure, in depths of 40-50 feet, Lowman is hooking into an occasional permit. These elusive fish are being taken on crabs or jigs.

Along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, within a mile or so, Lowman is finding an abundance of blacktip sharks. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel or ladyfish as bait are attracting a bite for sharks weighing 50-100 pounds.

Lastly, fishing shallow flats for snook is proving to be good action for Lowman. Although catch-and-release right now, schooley-size linesiders are entertaining on light tackle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is focusing his time on the local reefs and rock piles in both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Most predominant are the mangrove snapper, although Spanish mackerel are not far behind. An occasional kingfish or bonito are mixed in — a welcome surprise for this time of year.

On the flats, spotted seatrout are a mainstay for White. Free-lined shiners are his bait of choice. He says deep grass areas where good current exists are the best bet.

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

Brave the heat for hookups in-, near- and offshore of AMI

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Terry Shockley and grandson Jaden, visiting Anna Maria from Longmont, Colorado, show off their Aug. 8 permit catch. They were guided to the fish by Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Chris Galati Jr., left, and Dylan Brennan of Team Galati show off Brennan’s catch, two swordfish hooked up 120 miles offshore of Anna Maria Aug. 4. Team Galati also included Chris Galati Sr., Chris Raible, Mike Julian and Dan Cain. The team fished the catch-and-release billfish division of the Sarasota Slam tournament, taking second-place swordfish and the wahoo division.
Amanda Paige Winters, of Millington, Tennessee, shows off the a nice platter-size permit she caught on a live crab Aug. 8 in the Gulf of Mexico while on a charter with her family. The group, guided by Capt. Aaron Lowman, also caught mangrove snapper, mackerel, blacktips, seatrout, snook and redfish.
Visiting Anna Maria Island from the Netherlands, Lars Wygers, left, Meike Van Donk, Renata Pauwelse, Tjomas, Sjoerd, Jasper and Adrian VanDonk combined a day of offshore and nearshore fishing Aug. 10 and caught their limit of snapper along with several keeper spotted seatrout. The trip was guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

If you can deal with the heat, there is some great fishing waiting in the waters around Anna Maria Island.

Venturing offshore is resulting in numerous yellowtail and mangrove snappers. Keeper gag and red grouper are being caught with some consistency. And, if you’re staying inshore or nearshore, the list goes on. Spotted seatrout are in abundance around most deeper grass flats. Also inhabiting these areas are a variety of rod-benders, including bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Fishing structure inshore, which includes rocks, docks and artificial reefs, is producing a good mangrove snapper bite, as well as some flounder. Lastly, catch-and-release snook action along mangrove shorelines is proving to be at its best.

On my Southernaire fishing adventures, I’m experiencing a great bite. Mangrove snapper is proving to be a winner, especially for clients looking to take a couple of fish home for dinner. An added bonus, an occasional flounder is taking the bait. In the areas I’m catching the snapper and flounder, there are numerous Spanish mackerel to catch on surface baits, which adds a nice mix to the bite.

There are plenty of blacktip sharks in Tampa Bay, which is a great way to make use of the abundance of Spanish mackerel we’re catching. Palm-sized chunks of these oily fish cast among schooling blacktips aren’t lasting more than a minute or two before they are sniffed out and devoured. The shark bite is from blacktips that range 4-6 feet.

Finally, on the grass flats of Tampa Bay I’m finding ample amounts of spotted seatrout. Most catches are running just under slot, but we’re still managing to find enough keepers for a trout dinner. Mixed in with these trout are jack crevalle, ladyfish, mackerel, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is seeing nothing less than exceptional fishing for August. Fishing the artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and in Tampa Bay is resulting in limits of mangrove snapper. Small shiners either free-lined over structure or dropped to the bottom around the structure are like candy for a hungry snapper.

Moving to shallower water or deep grass flats is producing a range of species for Gross’ anglers. Finding bait schools on the edges of these grassy areas also is leading to spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and small sharks.

Finally, redfish and catch-and-release snook are being caught with some regularity. For the snook, fishing around the passes with good tidal flow is resulting in linesiders up to 30 inches. As for the reds, casting free-lined shiners around oyster bars or under hanging mangroves is deadly.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for mangrove snapper. Fishing artificial reefs and ledges is resulting in limits of snapper for Girle. Also present are Spanish mackerel. Free-lined shiners on a long shank hook are attracting some of the high-speed predators to bite.

Moving inshore, Girle is finding exceptional numbers of spotted seatrout throughout the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Most catches are 12-20 inches. Free-lined shiners or shiners under a cork are Girle’s plan of attack for these fish. Mixed in are Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are hooking into black drum, mangrove snapper and flounder. All of these fish are being caught by casting bait under or around the pier pilings.

Large, over-slot redfish and snook also are making their presence known at the Rod & Reel. For both species, live pinfish are producing a bite. Stout gear with leaders of at least 50-pound test are a must if one expects to pull one of these big fish from under the barnacle-encrusted pier.

Spanish mackerel are making a showing at the pier due to the vast amounts of schooling scaled sardines. Small jigs, silver spoons or Gotcha plugs can entice these toothy fish to bite.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is putting clients on numerous Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper around nearshore and inshore structure. Chumming heavily with small shiners is getting the fish fired up, resulting in good action. Also around structure, Lowman is finding permit accommodating. Casting a live crab or jig to these fish is triggering a strike.

On the flats, catch-and-release snook fishing is proving to be stellar for Lowman. Some morning fishing charters are resulting in up to 50 snook to the boat. During these rallies, Lowman is finding an occasional redfish in the mix.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is cruising the bait schools along the beaches for bonito, macks and an occasional kingfish. For some pure adrenaline-pumping, drag-screaming action, the kings fit the bill. Casting live free-lined baits to frenzied schools of ravenous fish is resulting in immediate hookups.

Around structure offshore, White is finding mangrove and yellowtail snapper. Chumming with small, dead shiners and placing one on a hook is resulting in success.

Every so often, a keeper-size gag is getting in the chum and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting anglers.

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

Tropical storm, bad etiquette can spoil a day’s fishing

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Fred Yahya, Mike Grier and Naaman Ritchie, visiting Anna Maria Island from Wichita, Kansas, show off their catch from an Aug. 4 offshore charter fishing trip with Capt. Warren Girle. Back at the dock, everyone was pleased with their catch of mangrove snapper. Girle provided shiners for bait.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be slightly challenging in the wake of Tropical Storm Emily.

Our clear emerald green waters are now the color of iced tea — and since we are in the south, I guess it’s “sweet tea.”

Anyway, persistence and having an arsenal of spots to investigate is key to finding a bite in the aftermath of one of these storms. The fish are still here, you just have to know where to find them. I find it best to start off with the pattern used prior to “the blow,” and start branching out from there. Eventually we find a bite and, if we don’t, we can always just say, “I guess they’re not biting.”

On my Southernaire excursions, we’re managing to find enough fish to stay busy. Some spots are working and some aren’t. In the spots that are producing, I’m watching clients reel up flounder up to 20 inches, as well as mangrove snapper and some keeper gag grouper. Needless to say, I’m fishing structure.

On the flats, I’m finding spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel accommodating, although I feel the bite will greatly improve once the water settles and clears up. There are mangrove snapper in the deeper grass areas, which are a welcome sight among the trout and mackerel. Kind of a “mixed bag” and variety for the dinner table.

On a final note, I’d like to touch upon the topic of etiquette on the water. Now I know this is a wide and vast area of discussion that could fill volumes, so I’m just going to write about a specific incident I experienced recently while fishing a small, not so well-known rock pile in Tampa Bay.

I was anchored up just minding my own business, smiling as I watched my clients reel up snapper and macks. The action was pretty good and, boy was it due. The morning bite up to then had been a bit of a struggle. As this bite commenced, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a boat in the distance making its way in my direction. I recognized the boat and wondered why the captain was heading straight at me.

As the boat got closer, I instructed my clients to reel up and take a break. At least this way it wouldn’t look like we were catching much. Within a minute or so, this guy was 20 feet off my bow checking his machine and hitting the “man overboard” button in an attempt to record a new spot. Without even making eye contact with me, he marked a couple of spots and motored away. Rather than make a scene, I sat idle, but the incident festered in my brain, like a rusty screw being hammered into my head.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had heard from other fishers that this boater had exhibited thoughtless behavior, but never gave it much thought until now. My clients knew what had happened and could tell I was holding back anger. They had some choice words for him, too — comments we won’t publish here — but it just goes to show his bad manners were noted by everyone aboard.

We calmed a bit and continued to catch a few more fish until it was time to head to the dock.

Now is when the story gets really good.

On our way in, we spotted the group that had so rudely barged in on us. As we passed, we watched as the captain pulled his anchor and headed directly to where we had just fished.

I felt nausea creeping up, but kept a smile on my face and steered the boat home to the Mainsail Marina. There I filleted a mess of fish for my happy customers. Another great day on the water.

This being said, I think visiting anglers should do a little research on a fishing guide before their day on the water. Asking the locals is a great way of doing this. They’ll know the local guides and will eagerly recommend a respectable fisher. And always ask an outside source— not the guy that’s trying to sell you a charter.

You can trust the captains mentioned in this report and the advertisers in The Islander. Those of us with good reputations welcome feedback. Those who don’t, know why.

Good manners and fishing go hand in hand for professional guides.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing nearshore and inshore structure for mangrove snapper. Casting small shiners in these areas is resulting in snapper 12-15 inches. In these same areas, changing to a larger bait, such as a live pinfish, is attracting attention from some legal-sized gag grouper.

On the flats, spotted seatrout are a go-to species for Lowman. Areas where grass edges are accompanied by clean water during incoming tides are producing the best action. Live shiners free-lined or under a popping cork are quickly being eaten by 12-18 inch trout.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is finding Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout among the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Live, free-lined “hatch bait” or small shiners are working well for Gross. Keeper-sizes in both the mackerel and trout are being caught with regularity.

On shallower flats, redfish and catch-and-release snook are on the hook for Gross. Again, free-lined hatch bait are producing action, especially when casting around oyster bars. Due to the size of the bait, Gross suggests using light wire hooks, such as the Eagle Claw Aberdeen.

Capt. Warren Girle is working nearshore and offshore structure for mangrove snapper. Mixed in with the snapper bite are Spanish mackerel and some surprises from a couple of barracuda. While catching these species, Girle is hooking into an occasional goliath grouper.

Moving inshore to Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding good action on spotted seatrout. Deeper flats where good tidal flow exists are holding numerous trout 15-18 inches. Mixed in are macks and jack crevalle.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is taking clients offshore for a variety of snapper. Predominately, yellowtail and mangrove snapper are being caught by free-lining small chunks of bait in a chum slick. This method also is attracting juvenile African pompano to the boat.

Moving inshore, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are keeping White’s clients busy. Casting small shiners under a cork throughout the grass flats is producing the bite. Keeper-size trout are fairly consistent.

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

Correct tide and bait produces productive fishing

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Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters holds up a sweet-looking juvenile African pompano July 29 for a kiss — on a dare — from angler Darrel Eaton of St. Charles, Missouri. White led his anglers to the fish 7 miles off the beach, where the Eaton family caught and released several pompanos.
Angler Paris Kostohryz shows off a 10-pound red grouper she reeled up by herself July 22 out of 40 feet of water off Anna Maria Island. It was caught on a live shiner on a knocker rig. Paris and family also caught Spanish mackerel and flounder on their charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is consistently good for those willing to take on the summer heat.

I am noticing a couple of factors fall into play. For one, a swift moving tide is in your favor. In fact, I’ve noticed the stronger the tide the better when fishing the flats for keeper trout and redfish and catch-and-release snook.

I’ve also noticed fishing earlier is better. Early morning when temperatures — both air and water — are slightly cooler and the fish seem to be more active. Plus, it’s a little easier on the angler, too.

Lastly, the size of your bait plays a major role, especially when on the flats. Most of the shiners in the bar are small right now. We call them “hatch bait” because basically they are still juvenile. When on a good bite, I’m experimenting by casting one rod with a small bait and one with a normal or large-size bait and just about every time the small bait gets eaten first.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m giving my clients a thrill by setting them up on blacktip sharks in Tampa Bay. Most of these sharks are 3-4 feet, although fish up to 6 feet are not uncommon. For the small sharks, sight-casting with medium weight tackle is nothing short of addictive.

Small chunks of Spanish mackerel on a light-wire rig and a circle hook are attracting quite a bit of attention from small sharks. For the bigger stuff, I’m beefing up the tackle to extra-heavy spinning gear. Large chunks of mackerel soaked on the bottom during quick-moving tides are being devoured, usually within 15 minutes of being cast out. These large sharks are averaging 6 feet and taking 20-30 minutes to reel in, which really puts some of the visiting anglers to the test. This isn’t like catching blue gills and bass in the pond back home in the Midwest.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing offshore for a variety of species. By using a bottom rig combined with dead sardines or live pinfish as bait, White is attracting red grouper, African pompano and snappers — including mangrove, yellowtail and lane.

Moving inshore, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout are being caught with regularity. Live shiners free-lined or under a cork are White’s plan of attack when targeting these fish. Big snook are being hooked up and released around the beaches and passes.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is reporting a great bite on Spanish mackerel. By fishing along the beaches and in Tampa Bay, Gross is catching as many mackerel as his clients can reel to the boat. Mangrove snapper also are being caught in good numbers, with most being found around rock piles, docks and artificial reefs.

On the flats, Gross boasts of excellent catch-and-release snook action. Rallies of schooley-size fish 20-26 inches are being hooked with some slot-size fish mixed in. Also on the flats, Gross reports finding many spotted seatrout. His clients are reporting catching slot and under-slot fish with ease.

Capt. Warren Girle is working his charters in the Gulf of Mexico around the artificial reefs and wrecks for mangrove snapper. Limits of these fish are being caught during the hour or so just after sunrise. In the same areas are Spanish mackerel, which are attracting barracuda and blacktip sharks. All of which are keeping Girle’s clients busy.

On the flats of Sarasota Bay, catch-and-release snook fishing is productive. Spotted seatrout are being caught on the flats as well as mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting mangrove snapper around nearshore wrecks and ledges. Chumming with hatch bait and a chum block is really getting the snapper fired up for his anglers, according to Lowman. While fishing nearshore structure, Lowman is hooking into a few flounder and some permit.

Fishing in Tampa Bay is resulting in numerous spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel. Free-lined live shiners are a top bait for either species.

Lowman also is seeing jack crevalle and bluefish mixed in with the bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is still mustering up a tarpon bite, although it’s late in the season for silver kings. Lucky clients looking to do battle are being rewarded with sore arms and fish tales to tell their friends back home. Cruising the beaches and passes is still yielding fish for those willing to be patient on the hunt.

Moving offshore, Stock is fishing ledges and wrecks for mangrove and yellowtail snapper. This bite is going strong, at least until the goliath grouper show up. But don’t worry. Once this happens, Stock is pulling out the heavy gear and reeling them up, too. It makes for a good trophy photo.

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

Hot weather requires anglers prepare for success

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Dustin Vaughn, visiting Anna Maria Island from South Carolina, displays his catch-and-release snook skills mid-morning July 18, while using shiners for bait. Vaughn and family were guided to snapper and mackerel for their dinner table by Capt. Warren Girle.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remains hot.

If you’re planning on spending time on the water, plan accordingly.

First, be ready to catch fish.

Second, make sure you protect yourself from the sweltering conditions that are in store for you. Stock up on water and ice, and don’t forget everyone needs a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. There’s nothing worse than having to go in early because you’re suffering from heat stroke or just plain old heat exhaustion. Stay in the shade and stay hydrated.

And keep an eye on the weather app or the horizon for pop-up thunderstorms.

On my recent trips with Southernaire fishing charters, I’m finding blacktip sharks in Tampa Bay. Most of these sharks are 3-4 feet, which makes them great to target with medium-heavy spinning gear. My anglers are sight-casting to the sharks, which makes the hunt really exciting. For bait, cut mackerel, ladyfish or pinfish will suffice. When targeting these smaller sharks, a rig consisting of 8 inches of wire connected to a 4/0 circle hook will do the trick. What’s nice about a circle hook is the fish often gets hooked somewhere visible, mostly on the outer edge of the jaw. This makes it easy to remove the hook and release the shark without too much hassle.

When I’m not targeting sharks, I’m finding an abundance of mangrove snapper around rocks and docks. And for that matter, even some of the deeper grass flats are hosting mangoes. Most catches are 12-15 inches, although every once in a while I’m seeing fish up to 18 inches.

Finally, fishing deep grass flats for spotted seatrout is providing action. Mixed in with the trout are ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, snapper and small sharks.

Capt. Aaron Lowman also is targeting mangrove snapper and flounder around the rocks and docks in Tampa Bay. To catch these species, Lowman is using a bottom rig combined with small shiners or “hatch bait.”

Fishing rock piles in Tampa Bay is producing action on gag grouper. For these, Lowman prefers a live pinfish for bait.

Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is putting clients on Spanish mackerel, sharks and even a couple of cobia turned up around the artificial reefs and natural ledges. Chumming with live shiners is key to getting a bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding good results at the nearshore reefs, where mangrove snapper, white grunts and flounder are coming to the hook. All three are being taken on live shiners. Spanish mackerel and some blacktip sharks also are being found around the reefs.

Moving to the flats, trout are being found in abundance in Sarasota Bay, where free-lining live shiners over deep grass flats is triggering a strike. Mixed in are Spanish mackerel and bluefish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says he’s seeing plenty of snook under the pier. Pier fishers targeting the linesiders are finding success on a variety of baits, including live shrimp, pinfish, shiners and ladyfish. With all snook being catch-and-release, Malfese keeps a close eye on the pier anglers to make sure the fish are handled with care.

Other species being caught at the R&R include Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, flounder and sharks.

Capt. Jason Stock is taking clients offshore for a variety of species. Fishing around ledges and hard bottom is resulting in a variety of snapper, including mangrove, yellowtail and American reds. Moving to wrecks and reefs is providing action on permit, goliath grouper and a random kingfish.

Moving inshore, Stock is targeting big snook — 36-40 inches — around the passes and along mangrove edges where deep water exists. To target the big females, Stock is using large baits — pinfish and ladyfish. After taking photos, the snook are released to be caught another day.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is finding Spanish mackerel quite accommodating for his anglers. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay or in the Gulf of Mexico is resulting in good numbers of the high-speed fish.

Around offshore structure, White is finding mangrove snapper and even a few hogfish are coming to the boat on free-lined shiners.

Moving inshore, White also is targeting big catch-and-release snook. Large shiners and pinfish are producing the bite.

Linesiders up to 3 feet in length are being caught and released.

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

Tides produce a bite, storms put a damper on fishing

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Jack Baade and son Chris, visiting Anna Maria Island from North Carolina, show off a cobia caught July 10 nearshore on a shiner on a charter fishing trip with Captain Warren Girle. The pair also loaded up on mangrove snapper.
Todd Gaenzle of Pennsylvania shows off one of his two tarpon catches, hooked on a live crab July 7 while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Aaron Lowman. Gaenzle fought this silver king for 30 minutes before taking a couple photos and releasing the fish. The tarpon were found biting in the morning off the beaches of Anna Maria Island.

Although the afternoon outgoing tides look nothing less than stellar for fishing the flats, the pop-up thunderstorms we are experiencing are making it tough to be on the water.

Don’t be discouraged — the morning tides are producing a bite. I’m finding limits of mangrove snapper around residential docks and on the deeper grass flats. Where you don’t have to run the boat far in the event of a storm. These snapper may not be the 18-20 inches you’ll find on the reefs and wrecks, but it you can get a limit of 12-15 inchers you’re doing all right.

To catch these feisty little fish, you can try one of two methods.

When fishing around the docks, a small knocker rig made of a 1/4-ounce weight and a size-4 circle hook will do the trick. When on the flats, omit the sinkers and try free lining the bait. And speaking of bait, the small shiners — known as “hatch bait” — are perfect. It’s like they were meant for this type of fishing.

Since we’re talking about hatch bait, don’t be discouraged about size when targeting catch-and-release snook, trout and redfish on the flats. I’m finding all three species don’t seem to mind. In fact, they’re biting the small stuff better than the huge shiners.

You may want to add a popping cork to aid in casting the small shiners. This is working especially well for trout fishing. For the snook, the free-line method is working, especially when the fish are in shallow, clear water. For the reds, try putting two small baits on one hook and see what happens.

Capt. Warren Girle is running his charters out to the nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. By using live shiners as bait with a bottom rig, Girle’s anglers are reeling up mangoes in the 15-inch range. Mixed in with the snapper are juvenile grouper and Key West grunts.

On the flats, Girle is finding spotted seatrout to be the most consistent bite. Free-lining shiners or rigging them under a popping cork is producing trout up to 20 inches.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the flats of Tampa Bay for spotted seatrout. On flats where the water depth is 5-8 feet, Lowman is finding numerous trout. Most catches are 12-15 inches, with bigger fish mixed in.

Fishing nearshore wrecks also is producing action for Lowman’s clients. Free-lined shiners are hooking up with Spanish mackerel and bonito. Shiners on a bottom rig are getting attention, especially from mangrove snapper, flounder and gag grouper.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting the inshore and nearshore reefs. Live shiners as bait are quickly being eaten by Spanish mackerel when fished on the surface. Adding a sinker to this rig and bottom fishing with the shiners is a sure way to catch mangrove snapper, gag grouper and grunts.

On the flats, Gross is finding many spotted seatrout. Most are 10-20-inches. This bite is occurring on deeper flats in 8-10 feet of water or less. On shallower flats with depths of 3 feet or less, Gross is hooking up clients with many catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results. On ledges and hard bottom, Stock is putting clients on a variety of fish, including mangrove and yellowtail snapper. Also in these areas are red grouper. Live pinfish and shiners are proven baits for any of these species.

Fishing offshore wrecks is proving to be good for Stock. Free-lining live pass crabs is resulting in hookups on permit up to 20 pounds. Another inhabitant at the wrecks is goliath grouper. Large baits, such as jack crevalle, can attract this huge catch-and-release species to the hook.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is taking his anglers offshore. By drifting in depths of 120 feet of water, White is leading his clients to a variety of snappers — mangrove, lane, vermillion and American reds. Big red grouper and African pompano also are being taken in this fashion.

For bait, live pinfish or shiners are working most of the time. When the fish are finicky, White likes to switch to dead baits, including threadfin herring and sardines, which often can trigger a bite.

Fishing 101: Before catching fish, you must have bait

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David Bittick, left, Josh Treeful, Halle and Gary Bittick and Bryan and Maddie Faria, all visiting Anna Maria Island from Texas, show off their dinner catch. The group fished July 4 nearshore with shiners and found success on spotted seatrout with Capt. Warren Girle.
Sunrise sets the tone for the early morning bait catch June 26 for writer Capt. Danny Stasny, operator of Southernaire fishing charters.
Mike Collins of St. Petersburg shows off a mutton snapper caught July 5 while targeting yellowtail snapper with Capt. Jason Stock.

Bait was on my mind.

As I left my house to go to the boat at 4:45 a.m., the temperature was already a balmy 80 degrees. And, to be honest, that felt cool compared to what I knew the rest of the day would bring.

In the dark, I pulled my truck into the Mainsail Marina in Holmes Beach and commenced to unload and prepare the boat for another charter and another day of fishing.

After loading the rods, nets, chum and ice, I untied my 23-foot C Hawk from the dock and made my way into Anna Maria Sound. Everything was quiet and peaceful, aside from the light hum of my Yamaha 4-stroke engine.

As I pulled away from the marina and exited the “no wake” zone, I gently pushed on the throttle and brought the boat up on plane. I reached 20 knots and the boat leveled out nicely. I felt the warm air press against me, cooling the sweat on my face and T-shirt. I pushed through the darkness en route to the grass flats with anticipation of loading my bait well.

Now it was 5:45 a.m. and I eased the boat onto the flat to set anchor and start chumming. Heat lightning was flashing to the west, illuminating large clouds that looked like far-away mountains in the Gulf of Mexico. I wondered if a storm was coming, but hadn’t seen anything on the weather radar, so I continued to chum.

The sun was going to rise in a few minutes and the sky took on a sequence of beautiful pastels — blue, pink and purple. In the twilight, I could see the surface of the bay beginning to dimple where I was throwing the chum. The shiners were beginning to show. Simultaneously, small groups of seagulls flew east from their roosting spots on the beach as they headed into the bay to catch breakfast.

It was time to throw the net.

I gathered my 10-foot cast net in my hand by the horn, folded it once and spun half the net over my shoulder. With a small piece of the lead line between my teeth, I let the shouldered part of the net gently slide down into my right hand, securing another piece of the lead line between my index finger and thumb.

Now I was ready. With a half spin of my body for momentum, I threw the net into the air. As it opened into almost a perfect circle, it peeled into the water. I waited a moment to let it sink, then began to pull on the line. As the line went tight, I would feel the bait darting in the net, sending a vibration to my hand.

I got it.

I gently pulled the net over the boat’s gunwale and cleared it into the bait well. Shiners, threadfin herring and pinfish began falling into the well, flipping and skipping, figuring out their new surroundings. “Not bad for the first throw,” I thought. “It’s not always that easy.”

I needed more bait so I repeated this process three more times. Then it was time to clean the boat and pick up my clients.

As I cleaned the seagrass from the deck, I saw pinfish, small crabs and even a pipefish on the deck, waiting for me to put them back in the water. There were some dead shiners and threadfins there, which, after being thrown overboard, were quickly devoured by juvenile snapper and ravenous pinfish.

I sat and watched this occur for a moment before realizing it was nearing 7 a.m., which was when I was supposed to be at the dock to pick up my charter. I pulled anchor and idled away from the flat to the channel. Now, back on plane, I skipped along the surface of the bay toward the marina, satisfied I was ready for the day.

It was time to go fishing. Another great day on the water stretched ahead of me.

Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore wrecks, reefs and hard bottom. While fishing reefs and hard bottom, Stock is catching a variety of snappers, including mangrove, yellowtails and mutton snapper. Fishing around the offshore wrecks is proving good action for Stock, especially on permit and goliath grouper.

Moving inshore, Stock is targeting catch-and-release snook. Casting live shiners along mangrove shorelines where lush seagrass is present is resulting in linesiders up to 30 inches for Stock’s clients.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters also is targeting catch-and-release snook, working shorelines throughout southern Tampa Bay. Rallies of fish exceeding 30 or more hook ups in an hour are not uncommon this time of year when fishing with Gross. For bait, live shiners are unbeatable. Casting these bait around mangrove edges or oyster bars is producing instant gratification for Gross and his clients. Most snook hookups are 20-30 inches.

For anglers looking to catch fish for dinner, Gross is leading clients to mangrove snapper, redfish and flounder. All three species are being caught by casting live shiners under and around residential docks. To put a respectable number of fish in the box, Gross is moving from dock to dock.

Capt. Warren Girle is putting clients on mangrove snapper around the artificial reefs. Bottom fishing with live shiners is resulting in mangrove snapper up to 16 inches. While targeting snapper, Girle is hooking up with juvenile grouper, Key West grunts, cobia and an occasional flounder.

In the backcountry of Sarasota Bay, Girle is finding spotted seatrout to be quite plentiful. Casting live shiners under a popping cork around deep grass flats is producing slot and under-slot fish. Mixed in with the trout are ladyfish and Spanish mackerel.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the rocks and docks for mangrove snapper and flounder. Casting live shiners combined with a split shot around docks is producing some nice catches for Lowman’s clients, especially on the flounder. Changing to a slightly heavier rig — a 1/2-ounce knocker rig — is working for the mangrove snapper around rock piles in Tampa Bay.

Other species being caught in Tampa Bay include gag grouper, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

On the flats of Terra Ceia and Miguel Bay, Lowman is attracting numerous catch-and-release snook to the boat. Live, free-lined shiners are his bait of choice. Chumming with live baits is a crucial aid in getting these fish to bite. It not only gets them in the mood, but as they strike the surface to eat a chummer, they give up their location, which enables the angler to cast to them.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is spending most of his week fishing offshore. Baits such as live shiners, pinfish and threadfin herring, are producing good action in depths of 130-160 feet of water. Species such as American red snapper, African pompano, yellowtail and mangrove snapper are being caught — just to name a few.

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

Intense heat, humidity and fishing spell out summertime

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Luke Mutter of Bradenton Beach shows off his offshore July 2 catch of the day — a 20-plus-pound kingfish caught on a shiner. Mutter was guided to the fish by Captain Warren Girle.

The humidity is up, the heat is intense and the fishing is following suit.

Whether inshore or offshore, there is plenty of productive fishing. Red grouper, snappers and permit are being caught around nearshore and offshore structure. Also in these areas are flounder, goliath grouper and shark.

Moving inshore is providing good action, too. Spotted seatrout can be found around deep grass flats during incoming tides. Expect also to hook into mackerel, ladyfish and even small blacktip sharks. Shallower flats are producing sizzling action on catch-and-release snook. Free-lined shiners in these areas are producing respectable numbers of linesiders. Sessions resulting in 30-40 snook are not uncommon.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m starting off in the morning targeting mangrove snapper. These fish are being taken around rocks and docks throughout southern Tampa Bay. On average I’m seeing a dozen or so fish in the box before the bites starts to slow down.

Once we have dinner in the cooler, I’m migrating to the flats to get in on the spotted seatrout bite. These fish are being found among the deeper grass during morning incoming tides. Live, free-lined shiners or shiners under a cork are working best as bait. Actually, most bites are occurring on the smaller-sized shiners — “hatch bait,” as we like to call it. Mixed in with the trout bite are Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and some small blacktip sharks.

Lastly, catch-and-release snook are abundant on some of the shallow grass flats in Tampa Bay. Free-lining shiners during swift moving tides is resulting in some phenomenal snook action. For these fish, the medium-to-large shiners are working best as bait. Most catches are 20-28 inches, with hook ups of as many as 25-30 fish on a morning trip.

Capt. Warren Girle is working charters over nearshore structure in the Gulf of Mexico. By using live shiners combined with a 1/2-ounce knocker rig, Girle is landing respectable numbers of mangrove snapper. Most catches are 15-20 inches. Mixed in with the snapper bite are juvenile gag and red grouper, as well as numerous Key West grunts.

Changing baits to free-lined pass crabs or Doc’s goofy jigs is producing another favorite among local anglers — permit. These “hub caps” are being caught by lucky anglers in the same areas as the snapper. Permit in the 10-pound range are the norm.

While fishing Sarasota Bay, Girle is catching numerous trout on flats of 3-5 feet in depth. Live shiners fished under a popping cork are attracting attention spotted seatrout as well as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and an occasional bluefish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is taking charters to the nearshore ledges and hard bottom with good results. By bottom fishing with live shiners or pinfish, Lowman’s clients are catching keeper-size red grouper, as well as mangrove snapper and Key West grunts. An occasional flounder is being taken.

Moving inshore, Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout throughout the lush grass flats of Anna Maria Sound. Live shiners under a popping cork are producing the bite. While targeting trout, his anglers also are catching ladyfish and Spanish mackerel.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting a variety of species throughout the waters of southern Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico. To start, Gross is targeting mangrove snapper on the inshore and nearshore reefs. Mixed in with the snapper are grouper and flounder.

After the reef bite calms down, Gross is migrating to the flats to target spotted seatrout. Live shiners under a cork are providing the best action. Catch-and-release snook also are being caught on the flats. Free-lined shiners are the best bait for this.

Capt. Jason Stock is working the offshore waters for a variety of fish. Permit are being found sunning themselves over wrecks in 50-100 feet of water. Live crabs cast in their direction are quickly being devoured, resulting in drag-screaming runs and sore arms for Stock’s clients. Bottom fishing offshore is providing good action for a variety of snapper, including mangrove, yellowtail and American red.

Moving inshore, Stock is chasing some of the remaining tarpon. Live threadfin herring and shiners are working during the morning bite. On the evening outgoing tides, live crabs are a no-brainer. Fish up to 150 pounds are being brought boat side.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters, also is targeting tarpon along the beaches. Casting pass crabs or threadfin herring is producing a bite. Most catches are 50-120 pounds.

Moving to the flats, White’s anglers are hooking up with numerous spotted seatrout. Most catches are slot-size fish in the 15-20 inch range. Also on the flats, White is catching an occasional redfish. Catch-and-release snook round out the flats experience for White. Rallies of schooley-size fish are common.

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

Tropical Storm Cindy puts brief damper on AMI fishing

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Matt Kriser, visiting Anna Maria Island from Highlands Park, Illinois, shows off a keeper gag grouper June 17, the result of an offshore charter fishing trip with Capt. Warren Girle. Kriser also caught and released several permit and numerous snapper.
Capt. Justin Moore assists 
Patricia Hendler of Holmes Beach with her June 17 catch, a 100-pound tarpon hooked offshore of Coquina Beach. The fish jumped twice during an “epic 30- minute battle,” according to Moore.

Despite daily thunderstorms and frequent windy days caused by Tropical Storm Cindy’s northward movement in the Gulf of Mexico, fishing around Anna Maria Island is managing to put smiles on visiting and local anglers alike.

Fishing inshore is slightly challenging, although spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook are producing some decent action. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay south to Sarasota is resulting in mangrove snapper, as well as numerous juvenile grouper. Flounder also are present in these areas, and are being caught by lucky anglers.

Moving offshore, fishing ledges and reefs is proving to be quite good, although due to windy days and rough seas, windows of opportunity to get out to these bites are limited. Reports of African pompano, yellowtail and mangrove snapper are frequent, as well as shark, bonito and permit.

On Southernaire charters, the bite has been on and off. On calm days, I’m venturing with my anglers out to wrecks and reefs, which is providing a great bite for mangrove snapper and flounder. On windy days, we’re staying on the flats, which is proving to be great for catch-and-release snook. Days of 30-40 snook in a two-hour session can be common. As for other fishing on those windy days, I’m finding spotted seatrout, although the bite is spotty, and not because the trout have spots. Using smaller shiners is producing the best action when these fish become finicky. Luckily, there are jack crevalle, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel present in the same areas to fill the lengthy gap between trout bites.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working offshore on days when the seas are calm. Using large shiners or pinfish as bait, White is hooking into red grouper, American red snapper, mangrove snapper and African pompano. Also, plus-size jack crevalle are being caught, which are excellent to target on the fly.

Moving inshore, White is putting his clients on tarpon in the passes during strong morning tides, where pass crabs are the bait of choice. Fish 80-100 pounds are average, with larger silver kings possible.

Capt. Jason Stock is running his charters offshore with good results. On days when the winds are light and Gulf waters calm, Stock is venturing out to depths of 60-100 feet of water to search for variety. Mangrove and yellowtail snapper are predominant around ledges. Small shiners on a bottom rig are enticing these tasty fish to bite. Around artificial reefs and wrecks, Stock is finding goliath grouper and big sharks to keep his clients busy.

Moving inshore, Stock is hooking clients up with tarpon along the beaches and passes. Small crabs or threadfin herring are attracting the bite. He’s finding tarpon in the 80-120 pound range.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working at the nearshore ledges, resulting in good action for his clients. Red grouper up to 10 pounds are being caught on live pinfish combined with a bottom rig. Also present in these areas are mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, bonito and sharks.
In the backcountry, Lowman is finding spotted seatrout in areas where the water is clear and the tidal flow is swift. Free-lined live shiners are the bait of choice here.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking his anglers to the nearshore reefs for mangrove snapper and permit. For the snapper, small shiners on a bottom rig are attracting attention from the 12-18 inch snappers. As for the permit, a small pass crab placed in front of the fish’s nose is sure to be eaten. Permit in the 10-pound range are average.

Moving inshore, Girle is chasing tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Some morning excursions are resulting in as many as five or six hookups. Fish in the 120-pound range are average.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous snook cruising in the shallows at the base of the pier as well as along the beach all the way to Bean Point. Most of these fish are schooley-sized, ranging 20-26 inches, although every so often a large female is spotted. For the smaller snook, free-lined live shiners are resulting in hookups. For fish exceeding 30 inches, the same bait will work, although larger baits such as pinfish, mojarras or even small ladyfish will trigger a strike from this catch-and-release fighter.

Other action on the R&R includes jack crevalle, redfish and flounder. For the reds and flounder, pier anglers are casting baits along the perimeter of the pier or directly under the boards. As for the jacks, jigs and spoons will do the trick.

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

Rainy weather slows, fishing returns to normal

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Tom Waller and Elaine Sullivan of Wimborne, England, show off a 34-inch cobia they caught June 13 on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Tessa Robinson, front, of South Africa and Pat Goldwater of Pennsylvania, long-time friends, went searching for tarpon June 4 with Capt. Warren Girle Once hooked, it took both women to get the fish to the boat for the photo before it was released.

Well, after a week-long soaking from thunderstorms, fishing around Anna Maria Island is starting to fall back into the summertime pattern that started a few weeks earlier, in spite of the official start of summer this week, June 21.

Fishing the flats for snook and spotted seatrout is proving to be effective. For the snook, mangrove shorelines where good tidal flow exists is producing decent numbers of catch-and-release fish. As for the trout, deeper grass flats during early morning outgoing tides seem to be the ticket. Mixed in with the trout are ladyfish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel — a nice addition to the bite.

Fishing rock piles, reefs and wrecks is resulting in some tasty species of fish, including mangrove snapper, flounder, permit and cobia. Other species being found in these areas include barracuda, goliath grouper, sharks and bonito.

On Southernaire charters, we are reef fishing, where mangrove snapper are making a decent showing, although you still have to work to achieve limits. Flounder are in the mix at 15-20 inches. Lastly, cobia up to 38 inches are taking the hook. Catching and landing these large fish on “snapper tackle” requires some skill and a little luck.

On the flats, I’m finding the spotted seatrout accommodating. Free-lined live shiners cast over flats with depths of 6-8 feet are producing trout 15-20 inches along with Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working the flats of southern Tampa Bay for spotted seatrout. Fishing deep grass flats of 5 feet or more where strong-flowing tides exist is resulting in numerous trout, as well as bluefish, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel. Live, free-lined shiners are Lowman’s bait of choice.

Moving out into the Gulf of Mexico, Lowman is patrolling wrecks and reefs in search of a bite. Free-lining live threadfin herring in these areas is resulting in shark, bonito and barracuda.

Capt. Warren Girle is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Casting live crabs or threadfin herring to schooling fish is resulting in hookups of these powerful fish. Persistence is key this week, since fewer numbers of fish are present due to the full moon. Average size of the tarpon being caught is 80-150 pounds.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous snook under the pier and along the shoreline near the pier. Live, free-lined shiners are hooking the smaller fish along the beach, while larger baits, such as pinfish, ladyfish and grunts are attracting slot- and over-slot fish to the bite. The snook put up a good fight, but alas, it’s all catch and release now.

Pier fishers using shrimp for bait are hooking into an occasional redfish, flounder and jack crevalle. Using artificials — jigs or spoons — is resulting in a mack bite.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is having good results with snook on free-lined live shiners on shallow grass flats with numerous hookups of 20-30 inch fish. Mangrove shorelines and oyster bars include some of the aspects of good snook territory. Combine these with good tidal flow and you have a recipe for some great action.

Fishing deeper grass flats with Gross is producing spotted sea trout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Free-lined live shiners are Gross’ bait of choice.

Finally, fishing rock piles in Tampa Bay is producing mangrove snapper, juvenile grouper and flounder.

Capt. Jason Stock is pursuing tarpon, patrolling beaches and passes from Egmont Key to Longboat. He’s producing respectable numbers of fish for his clients, with live crabs, threadfin herring, pinfish and large shiners as bait. He reports the sizes of tarpon between 80-160 pounds.

Moving offshore, Stock is finding his share of permit around the wrecks. Live pass crabs sight-cast to these schooling “garbage can lids” are producing hookups with fish up to 25 pounds. Also, while offshore, Stock is catching mangrove snapper on live shiners around reefs and over hard bottom.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore charters with good results. Redfish, spotted seatrout, mangrove snapper and catch-and-release snook are being caught by his clients. Live bait is producing good action, although even fly fishing is producing a bite. Large bull redfish are readily taking flies in clouser and mullet patterns.

Moving offshore, White is hooking up with numerous snapper, including yellowtail, mangrove and lane. Live shiners are producing, but live shrimp also are attracting fish to the hook, especially hogfish.

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