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Date of Issue: December 26, 2007

Reds in backwater, grouper everywhere in Gulf

Fishing pic
Good catch from offshore Eric Condie, left, with a red grouper and a kingfish; Bill Mackson with his first hog snapper and a mangrove snapper; and Glenn McClinton with a gag grouper, all caught 35 miles offshore of Anna Maria Island while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire on Show Me The Fish Charters.

The grouper catch is being described as “phenomenal” offshore, with big fish coming in from relatively shallow waters, most from about 12 miles from Anna Maria Island. Other offshore action includes some stray kingfish, amberjack and a few snapper.

Backwater fishing is still great for redfish. The days are counting down for the start of snook season Jan. 1, but if catch-and-release reports are accurate, it promises to be a fine time for linesiders next year. Flounder are also being caught, as well as mackerel.

At Corky's Live Bait, Tackle & Snack Shop on Cortez Road, Annamae Lahay said that offshore fishing has been spectacular, with big grouper being caught, plus bonita, mackerel and kingfish. In the backwaters, mangrove snapper are a good catch on live shrimp, plus Spanish mackerel on spoons. “Redfish are quite plentiful in Perico Bay,” she said, “and there are some in Sarasota Bay, and they are attracted by the ‘select/hand-pick’ size live shrimp and fiddler crabs.” Annamae added that trout are also being caught and released. Sheepshead are starting to show, with fiddler crabs working well as bait, as well as some small flounder, whiting, bluefish, ladyfish and redfish.

Capt. Sam Kimball of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said grouper fishing offshore has been “phenomenal.” Snapper fishing is also good, and he’s catching a few stray kingfish out in the Gulf, as well as some mackerel and amberjack. Capt. Mark Johnson, also out of Annie’s, said his backwater trips are producing lots of redfish and catch-and-release snook. Trout, out of season until Jan. 1, are hard to find, but there are plenty of mackerel to take up any slack in the fishing action.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said there are lots of reports of sheepshead being caught around structures or piers, and mackerel are everywhere.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said anglers there are catching lots of sheepshead, mackerel and a few whiting. Whitebait is still thick there, too.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said the fishing action is focused on mackerel, sheepshead, and catch-and-release snook at night.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he’s hearing good reports of redfish being caught from Terra Bay near the mangroves. Black drum are a good catch in the Manatee River near the railroad bridge, and Dave said that he’s also hearing of good catches of mangrove snapper by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, “if you can boat them through those hungry dolphins.”

At Tropic Isles Marina, reports include good catches of reds and mackerel, plus a lot of small bonnethead and blacktip sharks.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidhe was finally able to get out on the water after a few days sitting at the dock, thanks to cold and windy weather. Whitebait is still out there, and the bait is helping to produce catches of flounder, catch-and-release trout, redfish, ladyfish and a few stray Spanish mackerel. Most of his fishing action is coming from Anna Maria Sound and Palma Sola Bay, with shrimp, whitebait, pinfish and jigs working best as bait. Capt. Zach said he did manage a short trip out in the Gulf one day last week, and got into some Spanish mackerel, bluefish, triggerfish and jacks, and he’s hoping cobia will start to show up soon in better numbers.

On my boat Magic, we’ve been limiting-out on redfish on every trip, plus catching mangrove snapper to 16 inches.

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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