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Date of Issue: January 21, 2009

Cold chills fishing, but gags and reds still hit shrimp in bays

Fishing pic
Capt. Larry McGuire shows off a big amberjack he caught a couple of weeks ago using a live pinfish in 160 feet of water offshore of Anna Maria Island. McGuire's Show Me the Fish Charters hails out of the Cortez Fishing Center.

Cold water and rough seas, plus strong winds, has slowed fishing a bit of late.

Offshore fishing, in fact, is pretty much at a standstill as back-to-back cold fronts pound the area. On good days, though, gag grouper action offshore is great.

Gags are moving into the near-shore waters. Troll the edges of the ship channels in Tampa Bay for some good catches.

Backwater fishing for sheepshead, redfish and trout is great right now. All the fish are working their way off the seagrass flats and into canals and rivers, and hunkering down around any type of dock or structure. Try shrimp or sand fleas as bait, or lures.

Remember that there are new gag grouper rules in effect as of Jan. 1. Daily catch is two fish per fisher, and minimum keeper size allowed is 22 inches.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams said he’s catching some nice-sized reds near sandbars on the lower tides. He’s also putting his charters onto trout and bluefish from the deeper pockets over seagrass flats in Sarasota Bay, and “there’s still plenty of snapper around area bridges.”

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach gave his report after being called to the phone from the outside dock, where he was watching snook sunning themselves in the canal next to the shop. “It’s been tough with the weather being so cold,” he said as to fishing. “But with the cold, the gag grouper are moving inshore, and the action is awesome.” He suggests trolling along the ship channels in Tampa Bay, especially along the edges. Offshore action on gags is also great, but with rough seas and high winds, most charters are steering closer to shore for their trips. Backwater action is accommodating on that front, with good reports of snapper and sheepshead, with snapper hitting on shrimp and sheepies coming on to sand fleas. Redfish are moving into the canals near docks and any structures. And snook? They’re still in canals, but the cold water is stressing them a bit and, since they’re still out of season to keep, Danny advises to either leave them be for now or treat the linesiders with some delicacy if you hook one.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said he had little to report on the fishing front due to the cold fronts that dropped temperatures and interest in fishing for even the hardiest of fishers.

At the Anna Maria City Pier, things were also slow last week. A few sheepshead were landed, as were some mackerel, according to reports.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina said “the roller coaster ride for water temperatures is back. Temps went from low 70s with a rash of Spanish mackerel and kingfish hitting offshore to water in the upper 50s and a whole different set of fish caught.” He said he went from hardly any bites on some rainy, cloudy days to colder and more blustery outings on extremely low tides producing trout, sheepshead, black drum and redfish. “Most of the latter action came while plying local canals and deep-water docks with live shrimp,” Capt. Zach said, adding he’s finding live shrimp, cut bait — especially ladyfish — and lead-head jigs worked very slow producing the best results. He also predicts that when water and winds die, beaches from Egmont Key to Longboat Key should start giving up big winter trout, plus pompano, bluefish, sheepies, flounder and some redfish.

Good luck and good fishing.

Fishing news and photos are welcome and may be submitted to Paul Roat by e-mail at paul@islander.org.

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