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Date of Issue: January 16, 2008

Offshore action all one could hope for, weather permitting

Fishing pic
Big fish
Ashley Jorden from St. Louis caught her first fish larger than a bluegill: one nice cobia and a pompano, while fishing with Capt. Zach Zacharias.

Oops.

The fish folks in Tallahassee keep changing the regulations of open and closed season of fish, and news editor Paul Roat bobbled my previous column.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “snook harvest season closes on Dec. 1 in all of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico, Everglades National Park and Monroe County coastal and inland waters. The harvest season for snook remains closed until March 1 in these areas.”

Thanks to William Tuley for pointing out the discrepancy. Catch, then release, please.

Grouper and snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is superb now. That’s the good news.

The bad part is that wind and cold are making a trip offshore a tough go of it, to say the least. The air temperatures at night on Anna Maria Island dipped to 37 degrees last week.

But the offshore species are helping a bit, with reports of gag grouper moving closer and closer to shore, some within 8 miles.

Inshore action is a mixed-bag of mostly small fish. There are trout and some snook, a few redfish and sheepshead.

Capt. Thom Smith out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said he’s catching small redfish, trout and sheepshead.

Capt. Sam Kimball, also out of Annie’s, said he’s catching lots of grouper and snapper, both red and gag, out in the Gulf, plus large land and mangrove snapper. He’s also putting his charters onto some amberjack.

Capt. Mark Johnson of Annie’s said his backwater charters are producing redfish and “finally some keeper-size trout.” He also noted that sheepshead are starting to show up.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said grouper and snapper catches in the Gulf are still excellent, with gag grouper being caught within 8 miles of Anna Maria Island. Trolling and the more traditional bottom-fishing techniques are both working, Bill said. Mangrove snapper and amberjack are also a good offshore catch, but farther from shore. Backwater fishing includes mangrove snapper “everywhere,” he said, plus sheepies and reds, but the fish are running a little small. There are big mangrove snapper coming from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge area in Tampa Bay, though.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said there were lots of hookups on mostly small fish last week: sheepshead, redfish and some pompano. They were keepers amidst the catch, Bob said, but all were running on the small side. Mackerel are all but gone, he added.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said anglers there were catching sheepies, black drum and mangrove snapper, plus some small snook.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he had a minor, or major, catastrophe last week when the extreme low tides took out the water exchange for his shrimp tank, costing him about 5,000 shrimp. Reports coming to the dock from fishers include trout and mangrove snapper, plus redfish and black drum from the Manatee River.

At Tropic Isles Marina, reports include small redfish and sheepshead.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he took 11-year-old Sky Curnutte from Little Rock, Ark., out last week, where she caught a cobia that was released. “The fish jumped six times and ran around the boat a few times for her, putting on a show,” Capt. Larry said. Sky also caught big gag grouper, a few kingfish and small amberjack. Tony Curnutte also caught a 21-pound gag grouper on the trip. It was a tough trip despite the great action because Mrs. Churnutte was killed by a drunk driver in May. The fishing helped father and daughter over the holidays, Capt. Zach said. Other fishing action includes grouper, snapper and amberjack from the Gulf, although kingfish and most of the cobia apparently headed south for the winter.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina said his most recent trip out was the day before the big New Year cold front. “We were able to shoot out off the beach for a bit and were rewarded again with snapper, grouper, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and a pair of cobia. The wind then picked up and ran us into the bay, where we did equally well with trout, pompano, more mackerel and big ladyfish.”

On my boat Magic, we’ve been catching limit catches of mangrove snapper, as well as a lot of redfish, also at the limits allowed.

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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