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Date of Issue: January 30, 2008

Grouper, snapper action offshore about as good as it gets

Fishing pic
Late for kings, but good for fishers Tommy Menice of Winter Haven, Fla., caught this 45-plus pound kingfish with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters last week. The king was caught in about 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tommy Menice of Winter Haven, Fla., caught this 45-plus pound kingfish with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters last week. The king was caught in about 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now is definitely the time to go offshore — between cold fronts, of course — for some big snapper and grouper catches. The fish have moved close to shore, and an 8-mile trip out in the Gulf of Mexico will produce a cooler full of fish.

Backwater action continues to be great for redfish, catch-and-release snook and even a few flounder. Trout action is scattered. Sheepshead fishing is a little slow for this time of year, but the cold fronts should turn the striped fish onto an angler’s hook. Fiddler crabs are a good bait for sheepies, by the way.

Annamae Lahay at Corky's Live Bait & Tackle Shop on Cortez Road said the cooler weather appeared to upset fishing a little, “but it brought a lot of fish into the canals and the sheepshead are more plentiful, especially around the docks and pilings.” She said that Palma Sola Bay still remains the hot spot for redfish and trout, especially near the flats, and live shrimp are the best bait. The Manatee River by Fort DeSoto has been great for speckled sea trout and catch-and-release snook, while fishing the Gulf is excellent for whiting, bluefish and some Spanish mackerel. The Intracoastal Waterway off north Longboat Key is producing some big sharks as well, she said, and sheepshead fishing is picking up daily.

Capt. Mark Johnson out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said he’s catching redfish and a few catch-and-release snook in the bays. Capt. Sam Kimball said his offshore trips are producing grouper, snapper, amberjack and banded rudderfish.

At Tropic Isles Marina, reports include redfish coming out of Miguel Bay and Terra Ceia Bay.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore fishing for grouper and snapper is at its peak. Go out to the 40- to 80-foot depths and expect to get hammered with gag grouper, Bill said. Backwater fishing for sheepshead is starting to pick up, and redfish action is good just before any of the cold fronts blow through. Trout are hard to get, but there are a lot of mangrove snapper by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, some up to 14 inches in length.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said fishers there have been catching sheepshead, redfish and some black drum. Snook are hanging around the pier, but don’t seem to be biting.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said catch-and-release snook are biting at night, with sheepshead action picking up during the day. There is also a good mangrove snapper catch going on.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he’s seeing a lot of trout coming onto the dock of late, plus some redfish.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he’s putting his charters onto some nice-sized trout from the deep seagrass flats in Anna Maria Sound. Reds and sheepshead are also hitting on live shrimp and jigs around oyster bars throughout Sarasota Bay, he noted.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidhe sneaked in a trip between fronts on Friday and did well. Perry Tovey, Herman Lackner and Dan Fendley had a respectable catch of speckled trout and redfish. “All of the fish were taken on live shrimp or a variety of jigs fishing an incoming tide in Palma Sola Bay and north Sarasota Bay,” Capt. Zach said. “The day was gloomy and gray and not particularly warm, but the fish seemed to love it. About 20 trout were boated with around six being solid keepers, the redfishing was about the same with around 30 boated and two being keepers.” He said that sheepshead fishing has been disappointing, but trout are a highlight right now. He’s also catching mangrove snapper, flounder and ladyfish.

On my boat Magic, we took Pat Adams out to catch some redfish to 26 inches, plus sheepies and black drum. We also caught and released a 50-inch-long bonnethead shark on the flats in front 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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