From left are Steve Pearce, Karen Sommerland, David Cobb and Dave Spencer with their catch after a day on the water with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters.
Cold weather puts the chill on inshore fishing, but offshore still great
Fishing has been a little slow of late for backwater fishers, what with the cold fronts. Sheepshead, redfish and a few trout are being brought back to the dock, but other species seem to be hunkered down to avoid the cold. Try afternoon fishing when the water warms a bit for a better catch.
Offshore action for grouper and snapper appears to be unaffected by the chill, with excellent catches of grouper and snapper coming out of the Gulf of Mexico in water depths of 50 to 100 feet.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said he found fishing action to be good over the holidays. "Most of the action on Manatee County waters consisted of sheepshead, scattered reds, snook, trout, pompano and bluefish," he said. "Live shrimp accounted for a lot of the success but artificial jigs and soft-bodied lures did the trick as well." Capt. Zach said the weekend cold front will probably suppress good fishing for a few days, but things should bounce back after the chill is gone. He's fishing mostly in Anna Maria Sound, Palma Sola Bay and North Sarasota Bay, with the heavily structured areas proving to be the most productive.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's catching lots of trout using artificial bait, mostly Exudes or DOAs. He's also catching some redfish around the docks in Terra Ceia Bay on shrimp.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said grouper action in the Gulf is still excellent in 50 to 100 feet of water, with gags being an especially good bet right now. Snapper fishing is excellent as well, with some fish tipping the scales at better than 5 pounds. Backwater action for sheepshead is the best it can get, and Bill said he's also heard reports of good-sized redfish being caught near the Island docks.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's been putting his charters onto lots of large gag grouper, limits of snapper - mangrove, yellowtail and lane - with some, porgys and even a 5-foot blacktip shark. We had a great trip with Dave Spencer, Karen Sommerland, Steve Pearce, Trevor Widick, David Cobb and special guest Capt. Mike Heistand a few weeks ago, and "there was a lot of pressure to perform and catch fish with Capt. Mike," Capt. Larry said. "We started catching big gag grouper with an intense bite. When the gags slowed up in the morning, we moved and started catching lots of large mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper and some more grouper." By the way, Capt. Larry will be at Boaters World near DeSoto Square Mall at 7 p.m. Jan. 24, teaching a seminar on grouper and snapper techniques and other offshore fishing tricks.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead were the No. 1 catch for pier anglers last week, and about the only species that made it to the dock.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepies were the best bet for his pier fishers last week, too, and he suggested that shrimp, sand fleas or bloodworms work the best as bait for the bigger catches.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he's seeing a lot of mangrove snapper coming in from around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge ship channel. There are some black drum being caught in the Manatee River, he said, and some really big snook are hanging around the dock but they don't seem to be hungry.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include trout coming off the seagrass flats near or in the sandy holes during the day. Early mornings and in the evenings, the best action seems to come from deeper water for the bigger fish. Sheepshead are still coming on strong by any of the docks in Anna Maria Sound.
At Skyway Bait & Tackle, reports include a few redfish catches in the backwaters. Try waiting until the afternoon to go out, since the water tends to warm a bit more then and the fish get a little hungrier. Good catches are coming in near the oyster beds in Terra Ceia Bay, using shrimp as bait. There are also lots of sheepshead being caught by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
On my boat Magic, we've been catching lots of sheepshead, a few redfish and mangrove snapper to 16 inches in length by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Good luck and good Fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year-plus fishing guide. Call him at 723-1107 to provide a fishing report. Prints and digital images of your catch are also welcome and may be dropped off at The Islander, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include identification for persons in the picture along with information on the catch and a name and phone number for more information. Snapshots may be retrieved once they appear in the paper.