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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Fishing
Snook whopper
Hector Medrano of Holmes Beach caught this whopper linesider fishing from a bayside dock while on vacation from his job with Holmes Construction. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Reds still dominate backwater; grouper good offshore, too

Whitebait is still plentiful and, despite the fact that it's nearly December, fishing is still more summerlike than anything else.

Redfish are still being caught in huge numbers in the bays, as well as lots of big catch-and-release trout. There are also some reports of big flounder, a few big snook and some sheepshead coming from the backwater and the piers.

Offshore water clarity is superb, with some reports of bottom-sighting in 50 feet of water out in the Gulf. As to fishing, grouper are still an excellent bet, as well as snapper, although kingfish action is still spotty and slow. Try anchoring and chumming rather than trolling to draw in the kings, several guides advise.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said fishers there are getting a mixed-bag these days a few mackerel, some sheepshead, black drum, big redfish, snook and mangrove snapper "not a lot of anything, but a lot of everything," as Bob put it.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said mackerel are scarce for anglers there, but there are still some around. Other action includes mangrove snapper, sheepshead, a few keeper-size snook at night and some big flounder.

Lee Gause at Perico Harbor Bait & Tackle said wade fishers are doing well with redfish on the seagrass flats, using shrimp as bait. There was one nice 34-inch-long snook caught, and lots of catch-and-release trout are coming to the hook.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's catching his limit on redfish on almost every trip out, plus a few keeper snook up to 30 inches and plenty of big catch-and-release trout.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said there are a few kingfish being caught off the artificial reefs out 1, 3 or 7 miles. The best action is coming by anchoring and chumming rather than trolling, he said. Keeper-size grouper are being caught trolling, with most catches to 30 inches only 4 to 6 miles out. Bill added that water clarity is really good right now, with visibility sometimes good enough to see the bottom clearly in 50 feet of water.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said fishers are reporting lots of catch-and-release trout in Terra Ceia Bay, redfish to 27 inches in Miguel Bay, and black drum around the docks in the Manatee River, with night fishing being best for the reds.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said snook fishing is still slow, but he's getting some keepers on board his boat up to 34 inches in length. He did get a few 25-pound kingfish and some keeper grouper while trolling in about 40 feet of water last week.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said redfish and snook were his best bets last week.

Capt. Matt Denham on the Rip-Tide out of Catchers said he's catching red grouper to 25 pounds, gag grouper to 16 pounds, mangrove snapper to 6 pounds, lane snapper and triggerfish, all on light tackle in less than 50 feet of water out in the Gulf.

Capt. Sam Kimball on Legend charters out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said snapper fishing has been "extremely strong" in the past week or so, with good catches up to 7 pounds. He's also getting into some gag grouper, banded rudderfish and some "healthy" Key West grunts, plus some kingfish and Spanish mackerel, all in about 50 feet of water out in the Gulf. Shiners and pinfish are the bait that works best, he added.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's said he's bringing back decent catches of snook, grouper, redfish, snapper, mackerel, kingfish and catch-and-return trout.

On my boat Magic, we caught more than 60 redfish last week, plus a few keeper-size snook, bluefish, a catch-and-release trout that stretched to 23 inches, and a 21-inch-long flounder.

Good luck and good fishing.

Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year fishing guide. Call him at 779-9607 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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