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Date of Issue: December 23, 2009

Extreme low tides will congregate fish

Bill Zwyghuizen shows off a smoker kingfish he caught with a sardine on a flat line with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters.

Vulture culture
More than two dozen turkey vultures, drawn to the annual mullet harvest, await the rise of discarded fish in the waters of Anna Maria Sound. The vultures gathered Dec. 15 on the dock behind the Imperial House condos in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Carl Parks .

There have been some below-average-level tides that have congregated redfish, snook and trout. These low tides will remain throughout the weekend. Anglers can target low tides, especially just before a cold front.

There reportedly remains a good amount of white bait on the Key Royale flats and anglers might as well keep fishing with the shiners as long as they stay in the area.

Trout season re-opens Jan. 1. Anglers can keep five trout per day between 15 and 20 inches, with the exception of one over 20 inches. And there reportedly have been some big trout around.

Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Fishing Charters out of Annie’s Bait and Tackle said in Palma Sola Bay and Anna Maria Sound there have been a lot of catch-and-release trout. On the south side of Palma Sola Bay, there had been redfish on low tide on the flats and around docks. Johnston added the nearshore natural reef systems are producing a lot of grouper, including a lot of break-offs. “It seems like the fish are right on that structure,” Johnston said.

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters said he was able to net shiners easily again last week at the Key Royale flats, which he used to catch trout, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish on a fast tide. This week, Howard expects more redfish under docks, and a better bite from sheepshead.

Capt. Warren Girle said the mangrove snapper bite is hot 3 miles offshore over artificial reefs. Girle had his clients free-lining shiners. “We went to a spot I’ve never been before,” Girle said. “And if you’re momentarily hooked into a snapper, and you don’t get to cranking real fast, the Goliath grouper will take them. One half the size of a Volkswagen came up within 3 feet of the boat and took him. When kids see that, it’s real, real exciting.”

Inshore, Girle said he’s still catching redfish and trout. The trout are still on deep holes. “And the other thing that went off in the bay was the mackerel and ladyfish,” Girle said. “The little glass minnows showed up again and it was an unbelievable feeding frenzy.”

Capt. Tom Chaya of Anna Maria Fishing Charters at Catchers Marina said one week ago conditions lined up for an excellent bite. On an extremely low tide, Chaya and his clients fished a cut off the Ringling Bridge just before a cold front. “All I saw up and down the flat was fish that were big,” Chaya said. In 20-mph winds from the north, Chaya said his clients caught five snook over 30 inches, limits of redfish and trout to 26 inches. “Even with all the mullet fishermen,” Chaya said.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters reported good action on kingfish, mangrove snapper and grouper offshore of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. On Dec. 15, he reported a school of big kingfish swimming around the boat while the anglers were catching grouper and snapper. The action has been at almost any depth where there is some sort of structure. Live pinfish has been the best bait, he said.

Kyle Dodrill from the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier said anglers have been catching some big grouper and Spanish mackerel, as well as bonito early in the morning. Here’s the good news: Sheepshead are back. “There’s a lot of them,” Dodrill said. “They’re around and are hitting shrimp and fiddler crabs.”

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said anglers there have been landing a lot of Spanish mackerel and a few sheepshead, black drum and bonito. “This is the slow time of the year though,” Kilb said. “There are still snook around. And ain’t nobody fishing for them.”

Danny Stasny from Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina said there had been a lot of big trout around the bulkhead — the flats off the mouth of the Manatee River — and a decent snook bite in north Sarasota Bay. Anglers can target the snook on top-water plugs with some of the cloudy mornings that are inevitable throughout this winter. He said anglers have also done well on grouper, trolling the Sunshine Skyway Bridge shipping channel or fishing some of the rock piles in the bay. He’s also heard of good Spanish mackerel and bonito bites off Bean Point.

Capt. Zach Zacharias of the DEE JAY II out of Parrot Cove Marina reported that “the El Niño pattern seems to be getting entrenched with lousy weather, punctuated by a real nice day or two. The weather gurus claim there is some pretty cold weather dropping in behind this storm. It will be a mixed blessing, as the really good action with mackerel, pompano, blues, and bonito out on the open bay and gulf waters should diminish with a drop in water temperatures.”

Zacharias said it has not been cold enough to run live bait out of the area, and as long as the bait stays around, so will the fish. “The lack of cold has also kept the sheepshead fishing from taking off,” Zacharias said. “A good, hard, cold snap will bunch up and drop many inshore species into deeper, highly-structured, dark-bottomed areas in the interior bays, canals and creeks where they become easy prey.”

Zacharias said once the snook, reds, trout, drum, sheepshead, flounder and snapper become accustomed to the cold water, they can provide some really top-notch action when they decide to eat.

Dave Sork from Anna Maria City Pier said bonito has been hitting the live bait around the pier and there have been some small Spanish mackerel brought to the pier as well.

Send fishing news and photos to fish@islander.org.

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