Tag Archives: fishing

Keep moving to clean water, avoid red tide for fish success

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Joe Canchola, visiting Anna Maria Island from Indianapolis, holds onto what he described as the “biggest catch of my life” Aug. 17, a 250-pound goliath grouper hooked up offshore on a charter trip with Capt. Jason Stock. The grouper was released.
A double-header permit catch happened Aug. 14 for Mark MacDonald and Troy Berthiaume, both visiting Anna Maria Island from Canada, on a repeat fishing charter with Capt. Jason Stock. Both anglers scratched a “first permit” catch off their bucket list, according to Stock.
Capt. Jason Stock led Mike Asbery from Kentucky Aug. 15 to the biggest redfish catch of the week — a 40-plus-inch bull red — aboard JM Snooky Charters.
Lauren Jordan, 12, helps her mom, Kelly, hoist a nice-sized cobia they caught Aug. 17 on a live pinfish in 110 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico while on a charter trip with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters. The Jordans were visiting from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although red tide remains in local waters, fishing around Anna Maria Island may hold a few good surprises for anglers with perseverance and luck.

Those who have fished in these conditions know that if you can find clean water, you’re most likely going to find fish. Many species will move from an area when they sense red tide, seeking cleaner water. If you do the same, chances are you’re going to find success.

In my past experiences with red tide, I’ve found fishing can be quite good. The reason for this is simple: Find clean water and you’ll find fish. During red tides, I work areas where typically I’d see 10-20 snook. And, as a result, I find numerous snook have gravitated to the area. There could be 50-60 snook in the clean water, which makes for real good sport fishing.

The same applies for other species waiting for you to cast your bait. Redfish, trout, mackerel and snapper: Finding clean water can yield quantities of all of these species. They’re migrating somewhere and, when you find them, it’s game on.

So, don’t be discouraged if you run into red tide.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is running to spots where the red tide has not affected fish. Using small shiners as bait, Lowman is finding catch-and-release snook. Fishing around docks and mangrove edges is yielding good numbers of this fighting fish. Fishing docks for catch-and-release snook, Lowman is putting clients on mangrove snapper and redfish.

On deeper grass flats, spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel are rounding out the bite.

Capt. Warren Girle is moving offshore to avoid red tide. In depths of 40-50 feet, he is putting clients on mangrove snapper and Key West grunts where bottom fishing with live shiners. Also in these areas: juvenile gag and red grouper, as well as Spanish mackerel. Fishing inshore in areas that show no red tide, is providing action on spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is targeting catch-and-release snook along eastern shorelines of Tampa Bay. Live shiners are attracting the snook — as well as a few redfish — to the hook. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is resulting in mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and many large jack crevalle. Chumming heavily with live or dead bait is getting this bite going. On the deeper grass flats, spotted sea trout are providing good action, especially during times of good tidal flow.

Capt. Jason Stock is venturing offshore past the red tide to find a bite. Permit are being caught over wrecks and reefs in depths of 50 feet or more. When done targeting permit, Stock’s anglers are hooking up with Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and numerous sharks in the same areas where structure exists.

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

Be in the know — avoid red tide to find the fish

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Skip Tubbs, visiting from Montana, holds onto his catch, a kingfish caught July 16 on white bait 7 miles offshore while on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Warren Girle.

Despite being overrun with dead fish on the shore and marinelife that is overstressed by red tide, Anna Maria Island fishing can be productive. Fishing the outer boundaries of the red tide or traveling north to areas where the water is not contaminated is key to finding the bite.

The highest levels of red tide this past week seemed to be from the Anna Maria Island Bridge south through Sarasota Bay and along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

Fishing north in Tampa Bay, as well as its connecting waters — the Manatee River, Tera Ceia Bay and Miguel Bay — is productive for anglers who just have to be on the water.

For visiting fishers only here for a short time, these areas are providing enough action to bend a rod in the morning and possibly enjoy a fish dinner back at the vacation home. Although this outlook is promising, remember fishing in these conditions is day to day. You might do well in an area one day, but if red tide sweeps through the next day, you may not catch a thing.

Ultimately, the key to producing a bite during a red tide bloom is being flexible and willing to travel. You may end up in waters you’ve never fished as you run from the red tide, but that’s a good excuse to do a little scouting in some new waters. You never know, maybe you’ll learn something.

On my excursions with Southernaire, I’m staying north of the toxic bloom by fishing Tampa Bay. Mangrove snapper action around rocks and docks is exceptional. Limits of snapper are being caught, usually within an hour of hitting your target. The key is to find the fry bait. Where this bait is present, you should find a mangrove snapper bite.

I’m also finding a decent redfish bite. Due to the vast amounts of fresh water flowing out of the Manatee River, I’m starting to see many fish enter Tampa Bay. And for the sport fisher, mixed in with the reds are catch-and-release snook. Fishing deeper grass areas is yielding a plethora of spotted seatrout. Most are just short of being keepers, but if you’re persistent, limits of trout are attainable. You just might have to catch 20 or 30 to get a keeper fish.

Lastly, fishing around wrecks and rock piles in depths of 10-20 feet is producing excellent action on Spanish mackerel. Chumming heavily with live shiners is key to keeping these fish in the mood.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says despite the red tide, fishing is good. Waves of red tide are moving in and out of the bay, so picking your times to fish is key. On days when the red tide is mild or missing, pier fishers are catching plenty of mangrove snapper. Redfish are being caught using the same bait — live shrimp.

A few catch-and-release snook are being hooked using larger baits, such as pinfish.

Lastly, sheepshead and black drum are being caught on shrimp at the R&R.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working north of the Anna Maria Island Bridge to avoid red tide. By fishing southern Tampa Bay and its adjacent waters, Lowman is finding an abundance of spotted seatrout. These trout are being found over deep grass areas. While targeting trout, Lowman is catching numerous mangrove snapper, as well as a few mackerel. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is yielding macks and mangrove snapper. This bite is more consistent than on the deep flats.

Lastly, catch-and-release snook are showing up for sport fishers along mangrove shorelines.

Capt. Warren Girle is catching fish, despite the red tide. He’s traveling beyond the red tide to offshore areas to produce action for his clients on mangrove snapper and grouper, while bottom fishing around ledges and reefs is producing mangrove snapper 14-18 inches. The same applies for the groupers, although juvenile sizes are most apparent. Also, while traveling from spot to spot, Girle is keeping an eye open for floating debris. When lucky enough to see this, Girle is putting clients on triple tail.

Capt. Jason Stock also is working clear of the red tide by fishing north of the Anna Maria Island Bridge. While in Tampa Bay, Stock is finding action for clients by anchoring around structure for mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. Both are being caught on small live shiners.

Blacktip sharks are present in Tampa Bay, which is good action for those who want to hook up something big.

Moving offshore, Stock is running into the Gulf of Mexico past the red tide to find a variety of fish, including large mangrove snapper and almaco jacks that can be found past 8 miles. Also, many large sharks — blacktips and bulls — are present offshore.

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

Fishing remained red hot, before red tide moved north

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Alex Bobb, 19, of Dallas, was on a fishing charter Aug. 3 with Capt. Warren Girle when he hooked this nice redfish on a live shiner in Sarasota Bay.
Fish stock - Capt. Jason Stock hosted a group from Lakeland for a day of fishing in July, when one of the group launched a drone for a great aerial shot. Turns out the drone guy is from Alabama and more drone photos from the day can be found on instagram @shottimepro. Islander Courtesy Photo

Fishing around Anna Maria Island remained consistent through Saturday, Aug. 4.

With red tide in heavy concentration in the waters south of Sarasota down to Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande, it was as if a gray cloud loomed offshore.

As the week progressed and reports from anglers in Boca Grande worsened, I wondered if the currents would bring the fish-killing toxin up here. On Aug. 3, it was present in only two test locations in low concentration, which had little to no effect on fish, sea turtles or manatees here.

Now it’s another story.

Most action last week was occurring in the bays and Intracoastal Waterway due to rough surf and almost daily rainstorms. In the calm backwaters of Tampa Bay, spotted seatrout were in abundance.

While targeting these fish, we were also hooking up with Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and mangrove snapper. And, speaking of mangrove snapper, the bite was strong. These fish had migrated into the inland waters in great numbers and were on the feed. We were fishing around structure — piers, docks, bridges and rock piles — for good results. And on the deeper grass flats, especially where schooling hatch bait was present. Mangrove snapper love to eat small bite-size shiners and, lots of times, if the bait is present you can bet you’ll hook some snapper.

On the shallower grass flats, catch-and-release snook fishing were providing decent action for sport fishers — especially during the higher tide stages. You might encounter a few redfish if you can find a clean spot to fish, as they seem to be slowly arriving back in the local waters. Look for mangrove edges and oyster bars to target the snook and reds.

Lastly, on calmer days with light breezes, it’s worth taking a peek in the Gulf of Mexico for some reef action. The artificial reefs to the north should still be host to a variety of fish, including snappers, grunts, mackerel, flounder and barracuda. Take some extra hatch bait with you to these areas and chum heavily. You might be surprised by the action that results.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier said last week they were seeing the arrival of mangrove snapper. Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait were catching near limits of tasty fish. Most catches were 10-12 inches, with an occasional 15-inch fish being reeled up. Other catches at the R&R before red tide moved to the north end were black drum and over-slot redfish. Both were being caught on live shrimp. Macks and ladyfish were attracted to silver spoons and white jigs.

Lastly, the catch-and-release snook hunt at the pier remained good Aug. 3. Most catches were over-slot and were being caught on large baits — pinfish, mullet and ladyfish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman was targeting spotted seatrout in southern Tampa Bay — north of the Bimini Bay. Anchoring over deep grass flats and using live shiners as bait was yielding numerous hookups on trout. Mixed in with the trout bite were ladyfish and macks. Mangrove snapper were making a showing, too. Lowman found schools of hatch bait along channel edges and around structure to target these snapper, with most catches coming in at 10-14 inches.

Fishing shallow flats adjacent to mangrove shorelines was producing good action on catch-and-release snook for Lowman’s clients. While targeting linesiders, Lowman’s anglers also hit on a few redfish. Lastly, on calm days, Lowman was venturing out to the artificial reefs, where mangrove snapper, barracuda and some gag grouper were biting.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters was putting clients the week of July 30 on mangrove snapper around docks and mangrove edges where deeper water exists. Casting small shiners on a weighted rig yielded snapper up to 15 inches — and plenty of them. Fishing over deep grass produced trout and macks.

Targeting catch-and-release snook also produced a few redfish. To find these fish, White works shallow grass flats, oyster bars and mangrove edges, where these fish are known to seek refuge.

Lastly, with the opening of amberjack season now in place, White hopes to find clear water offshore at the wrecks to cash in on the season.

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

Weather variety results in consistency with varied species

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Mike Surgen of St. Petersburg shows off his catch July 24 — his first time saltwater fishing in Florida. The permit was caught offshore while on a two-boat corporate retreat guided by Capt. Jason Stock.
Andy Scott of Ashville, North Carolina, holds his snook for a quick trophy photo July 29 before it was released. It was caught at a nearshore reef using live shiners. Capt. Aaron Lowman said Scott and crew boated “a ton of Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper” in addition to hooking up with several big snook.

Fishing around Anna Maria Island offers a chance to hook up with a variety of species and also a variety of weather.

If you’ve been out in a boat or fished from the shores of Anna Maria Island recently, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve seen everything from calm, clear water to rough cloudy water, monsoon-like rainstorms to sunny skies — in the course of a single day.

It’s like packing a week’s worth of weather into a four-hour fishing excursion. As the saying goes on AMI, if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes. It will change.

Despite the weather changes, the fishing has been pretty darn good.

Inshore fishing is definitely good for a variety of species, including spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel, catch-and-release snook and especially mangrove snapper.

With the arrival of hatch bait or small shiners, the snapper have moved into the bays and Intracoastal Waterway. But any rock pile, dock, bridge piling or pier will be holding these delectable fish — they’re even all over the flats. And they love their hatch bait. Scale down your leader size and hook size to target these guys and you’re in business. Also, remember that the minimum size is 10 inches and you can keep five per person.

On my charters with Southernaire, I’m targeting snapper. These fish put up a good fight on light tackle and they are among the best when breaded and fried. They make a killer ceviche, too. And, with their abundance in our waters, it’s kind of a win-win. Good action, good eating. This week I’m seeing limits of these tasty fish being reeled up, with most 12-14 inches. Mixed in with the snapper bite are flounder and juvenile grouper — more tasty table fare.

Moving onto the flats, spotted seatrout are the most abundant. Free-lined shiners cast over flats 3-5 feet in depth are being devoured by hungry seatrout. Ladyfish and Spanish mackerel are present, which adds some variety to the bite.

Lastly, catch-and-release snook fishing is still going strong around the passes. Snook sessions exceeding 20 fish per hour are common. And, even better, I’m seeing a few redfish mixed in with the bite.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout throughout the grass flats of Tampa Bay. Clean, moving water is producing good rallies of these popular flats inhabitants. In depths of 3-7 feet, Lowman is finding numerous trout, as well as Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle and juvenile sharks. Using small free-lined shiners is key to being successful at this bite. When the winds calm down and the Gulf is smooth again, Lowman anticipates good action on the artificial reefs and along the beaches.

Martha Alvarado at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of fish being reeled up. Mangrove snapper are the highlight of the catches at the pier. Most snapper are being caught by the use of live shrimp as bait. Size ranges vary from 10 to 14 inches. Other catches on live shrimp include black drum and flounder.

Pier fishers using artificials, such as spoons or jigs are catching numerous Spanish mackerel 15-18 inches. Fishers looking to hook into something big are being rewarded with blacktip sharks. Casting fresh-cut mullet or mackerel chunks out from the pier is resulting in sharks 7-8-feet.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is in pursuit of spotted seatrout, especially around deep grass flats and channel edges. Small, live shiners are attracting a bite. Spanish mackerel and bluefish are interested in these small baits and are being caught while targeting the trout. Gross adds that when using hatch bait, you need to down scale your hook size. He likes using an Eagle Claw Aberdeen hook in a size 1 when targeting trout. When targeting snook and reds, he suggests an Eagle Claw O’Shaunnesy hook in a size 2. Another piece of advice: Use a popping cork to make casting these small baits easier.

Lastly, Gross is putting clients on limits of snapper by running to the rocks and docks. A small shiner with the addition of a split shot is resulting in a bite.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working the flats of Tampa Bay for spotted seatrout. Deep grass flats with good tidal flow are holding many trout, as well as Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper. Casting small shiners free-lined or under a cork is resulting in a hookup for his anglers. On shallower flats, White is using the same technique to target catch-and-release snook for his sport fishers. Mangrove edges are producing the most action on the linesiders.

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

Dodge rainstorms, cool down, hone in on the catch

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Gerald Jarzynka, 11, of Kathleen, Georgia, shows off a “beast” of a red grouper, caught while fishing with family on a charter trip with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters. The fish was caught July 20 in 130 feet of water offshore of Anna Maria Island. White said a bonus for the family was a sea turtle rescue while boating in Anna Maria Sound.
Mike Fieler, visiting Anna Maria Island from Cincinnati, shows off his July 18 catch, a redfish caught using live shiners. The fish was released due to its size, but Capt. Warren Girle, Fieler’s guide, said, “It’s nice to see the redfish back in Sarasota Bay.”

Fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be quite good as long as you’re willing to dodge frequent rain showers — and I mean frequent.

Actually, the showers are brief, which can be nice. They also cool things down on the water.

Just remember to watch for lightning. When you see it, it’s time to turn the other direction. Holding a fishing pole in your hand is just as bad as holding a lightning rod or a golf club. Not good if you plan on fishing again tomorrow.

Inshore fishing is producing good action on spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and plenty of shark. For the trout and the macks, free-lining live shiners over deep grass flats is the ticket. As for the snapper, rocks and docks are where it’s at. If you’re looking to hook into something more substantial, the shark bite is fairly consistent. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel will do the trick for a hookup. Expect to encounter blacktip, bull and hammerhead sharks.

Moving offshore, reports of American red snapper remained steady in depths of 120-150 feet of water, however, July 20 was the final day to fish from private vessels for red snapper in the Gulf. The closure also applies to charter vessels after July 21.

Red grouper, mangrove snapper, permit and cobia are taking the hook in varying depths and terrain. Finally, bonito and Spanish mackerel are present as well.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m targeting a variety of inshore species. Around the passes, catch-and-release snook action is at its best for sport fishers. Free-lined live shiners are like candy to these fish. Most catches are 20-26 inches, although larger fish are in the mix.

Mangrove snapper are being caught inshore — specifically around channel edges and docks — and now even on the flats. Near limits of these fish are attainable. And speaking of the flats, spotted seatrout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are present on the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Lastly, catch-and-release shark fishing is a great sport. Numerous blacktips, 4-6 feet long, are being caught. We’re also seeing an occasional bull or hammerhead on the hook.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters was spending his days offshore in 120-150 feet of water targeting American red snapper before the season closed. You can still target big red grouper and mangrove snapper and frozen sardines or live pinfish are working great as bait for both.

Kudos to White for another sea turtle rescue this past week — a green sea turtle found bobbing in Anna Maria Sound. He’s got a direct link to Mote Marine Laboratory with his first rescue in 2016, a whopper loggerhead.

Moving inshore, White is putting clients on spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel on deeper grass flats. Blacktip sharks also are being caught inshore with some regularity. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel will get you hooked up, according to White.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is patrolling the nearshore reefs for a variety of species. Bottom fishing with live shiners is resulting in mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper. Free-lining shiners on the surface is producing good Spanish mackerel action.

Casting jigs or live crabs is an option when schooling permit are spotted. Finally, while mackerel fishing, barracuda and goliath grouper are showing up as a bycatch. Moving inshore, Lowman is putting clients on spotted seatrout on deep grass flats. Fishing around residential docks is producing a bite for redfish and catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Jason Stock is working offshore for cobia. Fishing around wrecks or reefs is yielding good-size cobia up to 30 pounds. Some are being caught while bottom fishing, while others are being sight-cast as they approach the boat to have a look around. While on the wrecks and reefs, Stock is catching permit, bonito, mackerel and goliath grouper. American red snapper were on the menu in waters of 100 feet or more.

Martha Alvaredo at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing mangrove snapper being reeled up with some frequency. Pier fishers casting live shrimp under the pier are being rewarded with these tasty little snappers. Most are averaging 10-14 inches. Using live shrimp as bait is yielding black drum, flounder and sheepshead. Those anglers using artificials — jigs or spoons — are being rewarded with Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle. Tipping jigs with pieces of fresh-cut shrimp can result in a pompano or two at the R&R.

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

Summertime pattern settles in, produces stellar fishing

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CJ Vanderhorst of Ohio shows off a keeper cobia he caught while wreck fishing July 9 in the Gulf of Mexico with Capt. Danny Stasny of Southernaire Fishing Charters.
Shark! The Discovery cable TV channel kicks off Shark Week July 22 as feeding sharks proliferate in the Gulf of Mexico. This hammerhead was caught by Capt. Larry McGurire. Islander File Photo

Fishing around Anna Maria Island has settled into a good summertime pattern.

Light breezes from the east combined with morning high tides are producing some stellar inshore fishing opportunities. The deeper grass flats of Tampa and Sarasota bays are loaded with post-spawn trout. You may have to catch 20-30 of these trout to make your limit of four slot-size fish, but who cares? You just reeled up 20-30 fish.

And while targeting the trout, you’ll probably catch some mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish, which makes for great variety and action. While you’re at it, don’t forget to save a couple of these bluefish for shark bait. The abundance of sharks in Tampa Bay is phenomenal. Whether on the flats, wrecks or beaches, you’re going to see sharks. I’m mostly seeing blacktips, although I have seen some bull sharks up to 8 feet in length and some hammerheads topping out around 12 feet.

It’s game on as we come up to the 30th anniversary Shark Week. It gets underway July 22 on the Discovery channel.

So get some chum and popcorn ready for all the viewers and recliner anglers. The channel is already counting down its “50 Best Bites.”

Getting back to the flats fishing, aside from the trout, the catch-and-release snook action is going strong. Now is the time to patrol the beaches and passes in search of this popular sport fish. Live shiners are the ultimate bait, but artificials will work, too. White buck-tail jigs or crank baits, such as Yo-Zuris, will attract a bite, especially at night.

Fishing offshore is producing good summertime action, too. Permit, cobia, groupers and snappers are all on the menu while fishing offshore structure — reefs, wrecks and ledges. Migratory fish, including Spanish mackerel, bonito and a few kingfish, are being caught in these areas.

On my excursions with Southernaire fishing charters, I’m cashing in on the post-spawn trout bite. In some areas, the fish are taking the bait on every cast. Most of these trout are 14-16 inches so, if nothing else, it’s great action. Plus, bigger trout up to 22 inches are mixed in. The big ones are slightly more rewarding when you have to work for them.

Spanish mackerel and bluefish are mixed in — always good for cutting off a few hooks.

Catch-and-release action on sharks is hot right now for my clients. Blacktips 4-6 feet are the norm, although we’ve had a couple of bull sharks in the 8 foot range. I’m also seeing large hammerhead sharks up to 12 feet in length.

While targeting sharks, my clients are hooking into an occasional barracuda. These fish are great when on the line, as they perform acrobatic high jumps and drag-screaming runs.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore for mangrove snapper. Anchoring over ledges in 40-75 feet of water is yielding mangrove snapper and many red and gag groupers. Live shiners sent to the bottom on a 1/2-ounce to 1-ounce knocker rig are attracting a bite. While in these areas, shiners free-lined on the surface are getting attention from Spanish mackerel and bonito. Moving inshore, Girle is catching numerous spotted seatrout. Targeting these fish in depths of 5-6 feet is producing the most action. Mixed in with the trout bite are ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout throughout the grass flats of Tampa Bay. To find concentrations of trout, Lowman is looking for a combination of clean, clear water where a swift tide runs through lush grass edges or patches of seagrass. Free-lining live shiners on a 2/0 hook is producing good action. In many instances, Lowman is finding some macks mixed in with the trout. To avoid cut offs from their sharp teeth, he’s switching out the 2/0 hook for a long shank hook.

Moving offshore, Lowman is targeting snapper around the artificial reefs. According to Lowman the snapper are becoming weary of taking a hook. He is finding that heavy chumming is helping get the snapper in the biting mood.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters echoes my opinion — summertime fishing is in full swing. Fishing with Gross is resulting in a mixed bag this past week. Deeper grass flats are producing action on spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel and even some mangrove snapper. Free-lined shiners with the addition of a split shot is working well for his anglers.

Catch-and-release snook are being found on the shallower flats, especially where good tidal flow exists.

Lastly, small sharks are being found in numerous areas across Tampa Bay. These fish produce great action on light tackle and sometimes they put on an exciting show when reeled up to the boat.

Capt. Jason Stock is hooking into a few tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, although fishing offshore is producing better action.

While offshore, permit are the primary species to target — when spotted. Other catches include gag grouper, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and bonito. Stock says by using the bonito as bait, his clients are getting some nice hookups on blacktip and bull sharks.

At random, Stock is catching over-slot catch-and-release snook while fishing artificial reefs and other structure with about 30-60 feet of water.

Lastly, keeping an eye out for cobia has been a good pay off on Stock’s boat.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working inshore throughout Tampa Bay and Anna Maria Sound, where fishing deep grass areas is yielding good action on spotted seatrout and Spanish mackerel. Live, free-lined shiners are the ticket to success, according to White.

Catch-and-release snook fishing is producing good action on White’s boat, especially around the passes and along the beach. Moving offshore, White is targeting red grouper and American red snapper, where dead sardines combined with a bottom rig are being devoured — when they reach the bottom.

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

Beat the crowds — fish early, fish late for best results

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Payton Knoebel, Colby Kurts and Callen Knoebel, visiting from Colorado, fished the inshore waters of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island June 22 and their determination paid off with a nice catch of spotted sea trout. They were fuided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.

Despite the exaggerated volume of boats on the water for the holiday week, fishing around Anna Maria Island remained consistently good.

Now the key to fishing these crowded weekends or around the holiday is to fish early morning or late evening. Those fishing morning tides are reporting good action on Spanish mackerel and snapper around the artificial reefs and wrecks. There are a few cobia being caught in these areas, so it’s good to have handy a heavy-action rod — just in case.

On the flats, pursuit of spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook is proving to be worthwhile. Remember, fish early — especially if you’re going to target snook. As morning wears on, the sun rises, boat traffic gets hectic and these fish will turn off and wait for a cooler, more tranquil atmosphere. As for the trout, working the deep grass flats where boat traffic is light is yielding good numbers of fish.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m targeting mangrove snapper. Fishing around the artificial reefs is providing decent action, although the large numbers of fish have not arrived. I’m having to chum heavily to get a bite going. Once the chumming starts, I’m seeing numerous Spanish mackerel show up behind the boat. These are a welcome sight, as they add a variety to the snapper bite. Plus, they are great fish to catch on light tackle due to their drag-screaming runs and hard strikes.

After putting some snapper in the cooler and tiring on the mackerel strikes, I’m moving inshore to some of the deep grass areas in Tampa Bay to target spotted seatrout. Some spots are loaded with trout, although many are running short of keeper-size. It might take 10 trout before you catch a keeper. But hey, when they bite on every cast, it goes by quickly. Mixed in with the trout bite are macks, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Brett Lance at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous oversize snook being caught and released at Anna Maria Island’s northern-most pier. Using large baits — pinfish, ladyfish and grunts — pier fishers are hooking into snook 30-40 inches.

Macks also are biting at the R&R. Casting silver spoons or small jigs around bait schools is resulting in keeper-size macks. Mixed in are jack crevalle and skip jacks.

Also, anglers using live shrimp as bait are hooking up flounder and mangrove snapper for the cooler.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting catch-and-release snook along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and inside the passes of Bean Point and Longboat Key. Sight casting to these linesiders with live free-lined shiners is resulting in some great action for Lowman’s clients. To target larger snook in the passes, Lowman is baiting with pinfish and grunts.

Lowman also is finding success with trout on the deeper grass flats of Terra Ceia and Sarasota Bay. Slot-size trout are being caught with some regularity, with an abundance of smaller fish in the mix. Also, Lowman says results on mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel around the reefs in the Gulf of Mexico remain steady.

Capt. Warren Girle is taking clients to offshore ledges for mangrove snapper. Using live shiners combined with a 1/2-ounce knocker rig is resulting in 12- to 18-inch mangoes for Girle’s anglers.

While targeting snapper, Girle is encountering red and gag grouper. Macks and bonito are present in these areas too, by free-lining baits on the surface. Moving inshore, Girle is putting clients on spotted seatrout. Casting live shiners over the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay is keeping his anglers busy on trout 14-18 inches.

Capt. Jason Stock is working inshore for big catch-and-release snook. Casting live shiners to fish along the beach is resulting in linesiders up to 36 inches. The same applies in the passes. In these areas, Stock is using larger baits — grunts and pinfish. Moving offshore, permit are being caught using live crabs and jigs as bait. On evening tides, Stock is targeting shark and tarpon along the island beaches with his clients.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing inshore for spotted seatrout. Deep grass flats are producing good numbers of fish while baiting with live shiners.

Targeting catch-and-release snook is keeping White and his clients busy. These fish are found along mangrove shorelines and along the beaches. While targeting snook on his trips along the mangroves, White is hooking into a few redfish.

Moving offshore, White is setting his clients on American red snapper before the season nears its end.

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

Head out to the Rod & Reel for R&R, great snook action

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Keith Martin of Chicago shows off his June 28 catch — a 36-inch snook — at the Rod & Reel Pier. Daughters Emily, Abby and Gracie proudly pose with dad before the trophy fish was released.
College friends Matt Crook of Tennessee, Cleavland Covington of New York, Carolyn Browning of New York, Tate McNeilly of Tennessee, and Ashley Patton, and Doug Foote both of New York show off their June 20 catch. The group met to catch up while on a break from work and to go fishing with Capt. Warren Girle. They used shiners in Sarasota Bay to catch their trout dinner. Foote earned the group MVP award on the fishing trip.

With near perfect weather, fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be stellar — especially at the Rod & Reel Pier on Tampa Bay.

Clear, emerald green waters and light breezes from the west are the perfect recipe for fishing at the R&R and the catch-and-release snook bite is happening right now.

After numerous days of running charters, I finally had a day to spend with the family, and my wife Bekka and daughter Izzy wanted to spend a day at the beach and go snorkeling. Although I had been out fishing in the heat for days, I was excited to spend a morning with them.

However, I still needed a fishing report from Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier. So I suggested we go out there and, while they snorkeled the rocks by the pier, I could visit with Malfese.

We loaded up the truck and went to Anna Maria — Island that is. Swimming pools and fishing piers. Boy, kinda sounds like the “Beverly Hillbillies” huh? I guess that fits since we now reside in Bradentucky.

We arrived at the R&R and got the last parking spot, which saved me from having to drive up and down side streets trying to park “between the signs.” We had calm waters and cool breezes awaiting us.

The girls found a spot on the beach and put on their snorkel gear. I walked out to see Malfese and get his fishing report. The Rod & Reel is true to its name when the snook bite is good. Anglers stood shoulder to shoulder, casting large baits under the deck in hopes of hooking into a monster linesider.

As I neared the end of the pier, I ran into Malfese. He was super busy keeping track of fishers. After our hellos, he got right to the point with his fishing report. I followed him around as he ticked off what was being caught and, aside from the normal action on Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper, he said anglers were hooking up plenty of big snook.

I left him to his job and walked around the pier for a look. Upon rounding the corner, I recognized Keith Martin, a buddy from Chicago. He was at the pier for the snook. We sat and made small talk as he acquired a large mojarra from one of the other anglers.

Mojarras — especially ones 12-inches long — make excellent snook bait.

Within seconds, Martin stabbed a large 6/0 hook through the nose of the fish and lowered it under the pier, where the tide would push it back along the pilings. This is where the big snook lay waiting for an easy meal.

We talked a little longer about this and that as the bait swam under the pier, not knowing that it soon would be lunch for a big snook.

Then Martin stopped mid-sentence. “I just got bit,” he whispered. After a slight pause to let the fish eat the large bait, he reared back and set the hook. The rod bent over double, with the tip going under water. He pulled up with all his might and the fish surfaced. He was still under the pier so there was no visual confirmation, but there sure was a lot of splashing and commotion going on. In fact, water splashed upwards through the planks on the deck. A crowd of spectators gathered, suddenly, the hook pulled out.

Bummer, right? “Thatís all part of catching big snook,” gasped Martin as he shrugged it off. “If I get one on the deck out of five, itís all worth it.”

Well, he finally did get one on the deck. In fact he got plenty — ranging from 36-40 inches. Not bad for spending a morning relaxing at the best place on Earth — the Rod & Reel Pier.

On a side note, remember that as of July 1, there are changes to tripletail and sheepshead size and bag limits. Tripletail minimum size limit increased to 18 inches total length, while sheepshead recreational bag limit is lowered to eight fish per person. To learn more about tripletail, sheepshead and other fish regulations, go online to MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing.”

Malfese says heís is seeing a variety of species being pulled from Tampa Bay in addition to the catch-and-release snook — which are ranging up to 40 inches in length. Casting large baits, such as ladyfish, mullet or pinfish under the deck is resulting in some phenomenal battles. Stout gear is a must, as anglers must be able to wrangle these big fish out from among the pilings before the fish pulls the line through the barnacles to cut off the leader.

Other catches include mangrove snapper, whiting, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish. Flounder, redfish and an occasional pompano also are taking the hook at the R&R.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is spending most of his days fishing inshore and nearshore structure. Fishing around reefs in 15-40 feet of water is producing a variety of catches for Lowman’s anglers — including mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and blacktip sharks. An occasional cobia is making a showing for lucky anglers, too. To get this bite started for his clients, Lowman is heavily chumming the waters with frozen and live chum.

Moving onto the flats, Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout. This bite is best during strong incoming tides, when Spanish mackerel and bluefish are in the mix.

Capt. Warren Girle is running charters offshore to cash in on the mangrove snapper bite. Bottom fishing with live shiners is attracting limits of fish to Girle’s boat, with most catches 15-18 inches. While targeting snapper, Girle is putting clients on numerous juvenile gag and red grouper. Spanish mackerel are being found at offshore structure eating free-lined live shiners fished on the surface.

Moving inshore, Girle is putting his anglers on redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. All three are being caught during morning tides over grass flats in 3-6 feet of water — shallow for the snook and reds, deep for the trout.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is migrating out to deep water to escape the extremely warm inshore waters. In depths of 100 feet or more, White is hooking up with African pompano over wrecks and reefs. While fishing ledges and hard bottom, White is putting anglers on numerous red grouper, as well as some respectable-sized mangrove snapper.

While fishing inshore, White is still hooking up with tarpon along the beaches, where pass crabs cast at moving fish are attracting a bite. When the tarpon are staged in the passes, White is using dead threadfin herring to entice the last silver king of the season to his boat

Capt. Jason Stock is again taking care of the permit bite while fishing offshore wrecks and reefs. Casting live crabs to these fish as they school on the surface is providing action for Stock’s clients. Permit up to 25 pounds are being taken in this fashion.

Also while offshore, Stock is putting clients on mangrove and yellowtail snapper, Spanish mackerel, goliath grouper and a variety of shark. When fishing inshore along the beaches, Stock is putting clients on tarpon and some big catch-and-release snook.

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

Tarpon bite slows, other species readily take the bait

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John McLaughlin of Ohio, visiting his parents in Holmes Beach, hooked up several tarpon, bringing two fish to the boat and capturing a trophy photo. McLaughlin was guided by Capt. Warren Girle. They fished Egmont using thread fins for bait and each tarpon weighed about 100 pounds.
Roger Danziger brings home two American red snapper, one weighing in at 24 pounds, June 11, the first day of snapper season. The snapper were caught in 160 feet of water, 40 miles off of Anna Maria Island while fishing with wife Debbie Danziger and friends Bruce Lipskind and Rod Wagner.
New island resident Patrick McGinnis shows off a keeper gag grouper he hooked up on June 19 on a charter fishing trip with Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters. The gag took a live shiner in 40 feet of water off of Anna Maria Island.

Since the tarpon bite is calming down in Tampa Bay, fishers around Anna Maria Island are setting their sights on other species.

Catch-and-release snook are making a great showing around the passes and beaches. Spotted seatrout are in abundance throughout the grass flats in our local bays and along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Sharks are in the mix, being found just about anywhere. Most sightings and catches are blacktips — no minimum size — and bull sharks — legal minimum 54-inch fork length — are ranging 4-8 feet in size. Large hammerheads also are present, with some topping out at 15 feet in length.

On the reefs, Spanish mackerel are starting to show up as well as some mangrove snapper. With this much going on, it’s time to hit the water. Whether from shore or in a boat, a day on the water is good, and fishing is great.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m seeing clients reel in numerous spotted seatrout. To find these fish, I’m working deep grass flats of 8-10 feet during swift moving tides. Many small trout — 12-14 inches — are present in these areas and, with a little persistence, I’m putting limits of upper-slot fish in the clients’ cooler.

For sport fishers, catch-and-release snook fishing is nothing short of exceptional. Fishing early morning tides for these linesiders is proving to be best. Later in the day as the water on the flats heats up, the bite is declining. So get out early. Most catches are 20-26 inches, with bigger fighters in the mix.

Spanish mackerel and snapper are showing on the nearshore reefs, although the bite is not wide-open. As we start seeing an abundance of “hatch bait,” I foresee this bite improving tremendously.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting catch-and-release snook in the backcountry. According to Gross, the snook action is the best he has seen in years. Many snook 22-26 inches are hooking up, with an occasional fish over 36 inches being reeled to the boat. Also, while in the backcountry, Gross is putting anglers on limits of spotted seatrout. Numerous slot-size trout are being caught over deep grass flats. Mixed in with the trout are bluefish and macks, which adds variety to the bite.

Capt. Jason Stock is targeting permit over reefs and wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. Casting live crabs to schooling permit is yielding fish up to 40 pounds. While offshore, Stock is putting clients on American red snapper and goliath grouper.

Moving in closer, tarpon are being caught along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key. While hooked up on tarpon, numerous sharks are being attracted to the commotion. Hammerhead sharks up to 15 feet and bull sharks in the 8-10 feet range are common. Bull sharks must have a 54-inch minimum fork length and bag limits apply. Hammerheads are prohibited from harvest in state waters. You can check out Stock’s recent encounter with a hammerhead on Facebook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is patrolling the nearshore reefs and ledges for macks and mangrove snapper. With the aid of frozen chum blocks and large quantities of live chum, Lowman is managing to get the snapper and mackerel whipped into a frenzy. While this bite is occurring, Lowman’s clients are seeing an occasional cobia or gag grouper rise up from the bottom for a snack.

Tarpon fishing is an option for anglers on Lowman’s skiff. Although he’s seeing the bite thin out, Lowman says his clients are jumping their share of fish. Around the tarpon are numerous sharks and Lowman is willing to bait them to the hook.

Capt. Warren Girle is on “tarpon watch.” Cruising the beaches from Egmont to Longboat Key is resulting in numerous hookups for Girle. Most bites are occurring on dead bait, such as threadfin herring although the trusty pass crab is a good standby, according to Girle.

Fishing offshore also is producing action for Girle’s clients. Mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel are the most abundant, followed by large jack crevalle. Juvenile gag and red grouper are mixed into the offshore bite.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working with his clients on nearshore structure for mangrove snapper and gag grouper. Heavy chumming with live shiners is getting the fish to fire off which, in turn, makes them easier to target. Spanish mackerel also are in on this bite, which adds variety to the catch. Don’t be surprised to see an occasional kingfish on a charter with White.

Moving on to bigger fish, White is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Fishing the beaches and passes with crabs and herring is attracting a bite for his anglers.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing numerous Spanish mackerel being caught around sunrise. Gotcha plugs and silver spoons are working well to catch these high-speed fish.

Mixed in with the mack bite at the pier are jacks, blue runners and ladyfish. Using live bait — shrimp or shiners — is resulting in redfish and catch-and-release snook as well as some mangrove snapper. For those working shrimp on the hook, pompano are the reward at the pier.

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


Weather, fish fall into routine summertime pattern

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Jeff Davis of Bradenton and David Green of Longboat Key each caught a permit offshore June 7 while using small blue crabs for bait. The sportsmen released their catch after the photo. They were guided by Capt. Warren Girle.

Falling into our typical summertime pattern of calm east breezes in the morning followed by a spattering of thunderstorms in the afternoon is providing excellent fishing around Anna Maria Island.

Inshore fishing is providing good action on spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. Deep grass flats are holding many and all sizes of trout. To find good action on snook, try fishing around the passes and beaches. And speaking of the beaches, the tarpon are running and sport fishing for the silver king is getting good — especially with the calm, clear water we have now. Look for schooling migratory fish cruising the beaches and the passes and be ready to cast your bait at their noses.

Moving offshore in the summer brings a variety of species — mangrove snapper, American red snapper, gag grouper, cobia and permit. For the mangoes and gags, reefs and wrecks are proving to be good. Wrecks are holding the cobia and permit. If its red snapper you fancy, try fishing hard bottom and ledges in depths of 100 feet or more.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m putting clients on plenty of catch-and-release snook. Most catches are 20-30 inches. Live shiners are the best bait to attract the linesiders on the flats and in the passes. Spotted seatrout are keeping clients busy. A free-lined shiner — with the addition of a small split shot cast over deep grass — is quickly being eaten by hungry trout. A lot of small, under-slot trout are present in these areas, but so are the 18- to 20-inch fish. You just have to catch a lot of trout to yield a limit. Spanish mackerel, small blacktip sharks and ladyfish are present in these areas, providing a nice variety for anglers.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a smorgasbord of fish coming to the deck at Anna Maria Island’s northern-most pier.

Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are catching redfish, black drum, sheepshead and mangrove snapper. Casting shrimp under the pier is yielding the best results. Pier fishers casting shrimp away from the pier are having luck on flounder, whiting, blue runners and jacks. Those using shiners as bait are finding even more fish to be caught, including mackerel, ladyfish and catch-and-release snook.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is working both nearshore structure and hard bottom for a variety of species. Around the artificial reefs, mangrove snapper, cobia and permit are taking the hook. Due to the extremely clear water, Lowman is finding the best bite occurs when he can mask the bait on the hook by heavily chumming the waters with a mix of frozen and live chum.

Moving inshore, Lowman is putting clients on redfish and catch-and-release snook along mangrove shorelines and around the passes. Early morning brings the best action, according to Lowman, because the water is slightly cooler than in the afternoon. Tarpon fishing is proving to be good during morning hours, too. Casting live crabs or threadfin herring as bait are producing hookups with the silver king.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working a variety of species. To start, he’s finding catch-and-release snook in good numbers around the passes. Fish ranging from 22-40 inches are taking live shiners on the hook. For the larger linesiders, palm-size pinfish and grunts work well.

Spotted seatrout are tops for Gross’ clients looking to fill the cooler. Trout can be found in grass patches of 3-6 feet of water, which is yielding many 16-18 inch trout. While targeting trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and an occasional blacktip shark are being caught.

Lastly, tarpon fishing is rounding out the bite for Gross. Early mornings spent casting crabs and threadfin herring is proving successful for Gross, with fish in the 100-pound range running the norm for his anglers.

Capt. Warren Girle is working inshore throughout the lush grass flats of Sarasota Bay, where sport fishing for snook is going strong, especially during morning tides when the water is cooler.

Redfish are being caught by Girle’s anglers on the morning tides around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines.

To round out the morning, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout on the deeper grass areas throughout Sarasota Bay. Mixed in with the trout bite are bluefish, macks and ladyfish.

When not flats fishing, Girle is running clients to the beach to patrol for tarpon. Casting live crabs to schooling fish as they migrate north and south along the beaches of Anna Maria Island is resulting in acrobatic jumps, drag-screaming runs and happy anglers.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters also is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island — and in Tampa Bay. With near-perfect conditions, the tarpon bite is following suit. Casting live crabs and threadfin herring to schooling fish is resulting in numerous hookups. Fish in the 80-pound class are the norm, but bigger fish are in the mix.

When he lets up on the tarpon, White is hunting mangrove snapper and mackerel over structure in the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. This bite is occurring in depths of 20-50 feet of water. Moving out deeper to depths of 100 feet or more is proving good for American red snapper.

Capt. Jason Stock is spending his days tracking tarpon from Egmont Key south to Longboat Key. Numerous fish are taking live bait — crabs and herring. While cruising the beaches, Stock is encountering an occasional cobia, and he keeps his gear ready for a cast.

Moving offshore, Stock is sight-casting to permit on wrecks and reefs in depths of 40-60 feet of water. Moving out to depths of 80-120 feet, Stock is finding gag grouper, American red snapper and mangrove snapper accommodating. On lucky days, while bottom fishing, Stock is even finding mahi-mahi schools passing the boat. Although not a regular occurrence in those waters, Stock said, “it sure is welcome.”

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