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Date of Issue: February 13, 2008

Grouper still good offshore, with sheepies, reds great inshore

Fishing pic
Reds to die for
Chuck Kulka of Loudon, Tenn., caught this monster redfish, too big to keep, while fishing with Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters.

Look for great action - again - offshore for grouper and snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Good catches are coming in from the 50-foot depths, for both species. Amberjack is also a good bet for the Gulf waters, but a bit farther from shore.

For the backwater anglers, redfish are the mainstay. Sheepshead are starting to turn up in greater and larger sizes, and trout are finally starting to come to the bait of anglers.

At Corky’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road, reports are that lots of redfish and trout are coming out of Palma Sola Bay. Areas around canals, docks or pilings are resulting in sheepshead. Gulf waters have been hot for whiting and bluefish, and a few fishers have reported catching pompano off the beaches. Around Anna Maria Island, some anglers have caught a few Spanish mackerel, but they tend to be very spotty. Sarasota Bay has resulted in a few redfish and trout being caught. Paradise Bay's January fishing tournament resulted in the following winners: Len Matthew and Jim Waller for redfish; Frank Chan, Ted Hustin and Jim Hustin for sheepshead; and Frank Chan, Carl Shaver and Len Matthew for trout.

Capt. Sam Kimball, out of Annie’s Bait and Tackle on Cortez Road, said he’s still catching lots of grouper, snapper and amberjack offshore. Capt. Mark Johnson, also out of Annie’s, said his backwater charters have featured catch-and-release snook, redfish and trout.

At Tropic Isles Marina, reports include good-size redfish from Terra Ceia Bay and lots of little trout, plus some sheepshead.

Capt. Mark Howard said fishing around Anna Maria has been excellent this week, with some nice size redfish around the deepwater docks. Trout, mackerel and bluefish are in the deep water seagrass beds, hitting on artificial shrimp, and some mangrove snapper are also biting.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore fishing has been terrific for grouper and snapper. Amberjack are biting about 50 miles out in the Gulf, while the grouper catch is coming in less than 50 feet of water. Backwater action is mostly focused on redfish, although trout are starting to show up on hooks, as well as sheepshead. 

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepies are biting, and anglers there are also catching black drum and catch-and-release snook at night.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said fishers there are pulling in some stray mackerel and sheepshead and also some linesiders at night.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said b.lack drum are a good catch from the Manatee River, and there are also reports of sheepshead to 4 pounds as well as lots of big trout.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said that grouper fishing has been great offshore of Anna Maria Island. “On our trips,” he said,” we are catching monster gag grouper, red grouper, scamp, amberjack, triggerfish,porgys and a few kingfish, with the best action in 120 feet of water in the Gulf using live and cut bait.” He said that the tip of the week is to use lighter line of 50 pounds or less to get more bites.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina said that his sheepshead catch is excellent, as well as spotted sea trout, which he’s finding “to have made a miraculous recovery from the red tides of 2005/06 all across the area. A half day trip on Thursday produced the best catch of trout in more than 3 years. We easily boated 40 trout and a dozen of them fell in the 15- to 20-inch slot limit. A number of huge ladyfish and bluefish were taken as well.” He’s fishing in north Sarasota Bay, Palma Sola Bay and Anna Maria Sound. Capt. Zach added that he’s looking forward to the start of snook season March 1.

On my boat Magic, we’ve been catching reds to 26 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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