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Date of Issue: January 23, 2008

Look for reds in the backwater, grouper, snapper offshore

Fishing pic
Bigger than a ...
Tom Chaya of the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach caught this 58-pound cobia last week.

Fishing has improved, and should continue to do so as warmer water and air temperatures flood the region.

Offshore fishing for grouper and snapper is terrific. The fish are moving closer to shore, generally in less than 100 feet of water, and they are hungry.

Backwater action for redfish is also great right now. Sheepshead are a bit scarce, it would seem, as are trout, but there is some catch-and-release snook fishing going on and a few drum on the hook.

Capt. Sam Kimball out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said grouper action is extraordinary in less than 100 feet of water in the Gulf. He’s also catching mangrove snapper, amberjack and banded rudderfish.

Capt. Mark Johnson, also out of Annie’s, said he’s catching a lot of redfish and catch-and-release snook, plus a few trout. Trout fishing is really hard to come by, though.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore action for grouper is “red hot” right now, as are snapper hookups. The snapper are all over the place and of all species — lane, American red and mangrove. Backwater action on catch-and-release snook is slow, but the redfish catch is making up for it. Sheepshead fishing is a bit slow, he noted.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said fishers there are catching redfish, sheepshead and drum.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said there is good catch-and-release snook fishing at night, plus mangrove snapper and sheepshead during the daylight hours.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he’s seeing a lot of reds coming onto the dock, plus black drum from the Manatee River and mangrove snapper from Tampa Bay near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

At Tropic Isles Marina, reports include redfish in Terra Ceia Bay. Catch-and-release snook fishing is slow, but there are some good reports of grouper being caught on the rocks outside of Terra Ceia Bay.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he’s putting his charters onto plenty of good grouper in the shallow Gulf waters and in the ship channels. He’s still catching good numbers of Spanish mackerel and bluefish on the reefs offshore. In the backwaters, he’s finding lots of sheepshead and redfish, mostly around bridges or docks.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidfishing results have been “on the upswing with every warm, sunny day since the new year freeze. The water temps have already rebounded by about 5 degrees. There is still whitebait to be had here and there, but its effectiveness as bait is diminished and live shrimp and jigs are the key to success right now.” He said he took Dave and Scott Williams of Pittsburgh, Pa., out to a “respectable mixed bag on Friday. The pair nailed hefty bluefish and numerous juvenile gag grouper while fishing hard-bottomed areas off Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.” The rest of the cooler sported pompano, flounder, sheepshead and some spotted sea trout at the end of the day. Sheepshead fishing is “way off the mark locally,” Capt. Zach added. “The water temperature is in their feeding range, but there just doesn't seem to be as many around this year. I've heard through the grapevine that they are thicker than thieves in south Sarasota and Charlotte counties, though.”

On my boat Magic, I took Pat Adams and friend out to catch more than 20 redfish, sheepshead, black drum and a 48-inch bonnethead shark in the mouth of Miguel Bay.

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 news@islander.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.

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