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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fishing

Lots of keepers
Bert Rawald of Flamingo Cay and family are pictured with four of the several keeper snook caught with Capt. Gary Huffman aboard the charter boat "Tuna Breath."
Click on image to enlarge

Grouper offshore, reds in backwaters, snook, too

Offshore grouper action is about as good as it gets now, according to the charter guides, with lots and lots of action in about 80 feet of water. Snapper fishing is also great.

Inshore action for flounder is fantastic, with some reports of flatties up to 23 inches in length. Redfish are a mainstay in the backwater, snook are running but finicky, and catch-and-release trout are also a good bet.

Remember that trout season is closed until Jan. 1, and snook season closes Dec. 15. Now is definitely the time to get out there and catch one of those big, hungry linesiders.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said fishing has been excellent of late, both inshore and out in the Gulf of Mexico. Backwater redfish are the hot item right now, as trout season is still closed, but catch-and-release trout are also a good catch. Snook are still moving into their winter-time habitats in the deep bays and creeks. Sheepshead are starting to come on as well. Offshore action for grouper in less than 80 feet of water is great, and snapper are hitting off almost all the offshore reefs.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's putting his charters onto lots of redfish to 23 inches, one keeper-size snook, small bonnethead sharks and lots of catch-and-release trout, all from Terra Ceia Bay and Miguel Bay.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said fishing is very good right now. Sheepshead and black drum are the best bets at the pier, but there were also a slew of snapper, flounder and mackerel caught last week.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said fishing there has been "from fair to good," with lots of small sharks, black drum, flounder, mangrove snapper and sheepshead.

Capt Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said "tis the season to catch gag grouper!" He's finding that fishing for gags improves daily. "I have been putting my clients on nice catches of gags to 15 pounds, red grouper to 12 pounds, mangroves to 5 pounds, sharks to 5 feet, and lots of Spanish mackerel. We have been fishing out to 100-foot waters using live pinfish, grunts, sardines and octopus."

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he's seeing a lot of redfish come onto the docks, plus some good-size flounder with one better than 23 inches caught in the cut. There were also some black drum caught around the docks in the Manatee River, Dave added.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's getting into lots and lots of redfish, some good-size snook now that the season is getting ready to close Dec. 15, plus lots of catch-and-release trout and big flounder.

At the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Piers, the highlights of the week were small grouper, a few mackerel, some nice-size flounder, small sharks and lots of catch-and-release trout.

Capt. Hank Williams said he's finding offshore fishing for grouper to be about as good as it's ever going to get, with some catches up to 30 pounds.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said mackerel fishing has slowed a bit of late, but he's getting good catches of snapper on the offshore reefs, plus redfish and trout in the backwater.

Capt. Matt Denham out of Catchers said he's been getting offshore and catching amberjack to 30 pounds, red and gag grouper to 25 pounds, lots of mangrove snapper to 4 pounds, all caught in about 150 feet of water.

Capt. Ray Markham said he got into a school of juvenile tarpon up to 20 pounds near the Desoto Bridge in the Manatee River. "They were rolling everywhere around the boat," he said. "I jumped about 30 fish, but landed only six." He's finding that redfish are running on the small side, plus he's getting a few silver trout in lower Tampa Bay. "The real surprise is flounder," he added. "Flatties have definitely kicked up the action several notches. In the past two weeks we've landed over 100 flatties up to 3 pounds." Capt. Ray is finding snook to be finicky until the last few days, with light line or flies working best for him.

On my boat Magic, we've been catching lots of reds and snook, plus a few catch-and-release trout.

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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