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Date of Issue: March 20, 2010

Cold weather: Fish get no chance to rebound

Dick Thrall holds a 24-inch redfish caught with Capt. T.J. Stewart, who counted 81 spots on the redfish.

First mate Larry Bethke, left, and Denny Miller hold a lemon shark caught in 120 feet of water with a live pinfish while on a charter with Capt. Larry McGuire.

Fishing continues to be slow as another cold front blew through Florida. Some captains are claiming this winter is one of the worst they’ve endured.

There are some glass minnows schools on the flats, so anglers can find the bait pods and expect possible action with redfish and trout. The best action likely will be up the river in creeks and canals, or in deep-dock canals of areas such as Key Royale.

Winds are expected to come from the east later this week, which could allow anglers to head offshore and fish the artificial reefs that before the gusts had been holding some big sheepshead, as well as mangrove snapper and a bunch of porgies.

Capt. Warren Girle said he has been working hard for fish in water temperatures that have averaged about 52 degrees on the flats. He said his anglers have been catching a bunch of trout, but they’ve all been on the skinny side. He said there have been some big ladyfish around, as well as some big glass minnow schools.

But the fish are still lazy to bite. “The fish just aren’t getting a chance to rebound with the weather,” Girle said.

Girle said his fish-finder has shown there are more fish in canals than on the flats. He said that’s because of the muddy bottoms in the canals that warm the water. Plus, the canals are out of the wind. “So my plan is to go dock fishing again,” Girle said.

Girle said he’s had to go almost to Sarasota Bay to find any clean water.

Finally, He thinks most of the redfish are hunkered down in deep holes.

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters said he’s been landing mostly trout, redfish and sheepshead. He’s been fishing redfish around docks, using live shrimp to induce bites. “What I’ll do is pinch the tail off for some scent,” Howard said. “And I’ll spring for some select shrimp.”

Howard has found trout in 6 feet of water by fishing pot holes along the Intracoastal Waterway. He’ll toss out a split shot and live shrimp and drag the rig along the bottom.

Capt. Mike Greig said he has caught some trout, flounder and sheepshead, but the fishing has been slow. This week, Greig suggests fishing sheepshead around docks and trout fishing. “I haven’t seen any pompano yet,” he said.

Capt. Zach Zacharias of the DEE JAY II out of Parrot Cove Marina said sheepshead come on real strong with the average size increasing substantially. Most of the tasty convict fish have been found in the bays around deep docks and taken with regular-sized live shrimp.

He said the last trip before the routine weekend front was windy and cold, but a decent incoming tide got the sheepies on a tear with some slot-sized redfish in the mix. Speckled trout have also been cooperative, he said, with specks ranging from 10-20 inches. He said they have been taken with live shrimp, Cotee jigs and CAL jigs. “With the changing weather patterns, the trout have been moving around quite a bit and may not be found in the same place one day to the next,” he said.

In addition, Zacharias reported a few flounder, hefty ladyfish, black drum and bluefish. “The weather report is calling for at least another week of low temperatures in the 40s and highs around 60,” he said. “The abnormally low water temperature just does not have a chance of rebounding under those conditions. The frequency of the cold fronts has not allowed the water off the beaches to settle and clear as well. The winter pattern action we have been enjoying should continue on, but don't look for spring to be busting out anytime soon.”

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters  said amberjack are feeding extremely well and don’t mind the cold weather. He said his clients are also catching mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, porgies, triggerfish, sharks and catch-and-release grouper. “We are not even trying to catch grouper, but still catching a few,” he said. “A variety of big live baits and especially live pinfish are working great.”

McGuire said the best action is in 120 feet of depth, and deeper is better. He said this year has had some rough weather but there are usually a few nice days between each cold front.

Richard McGrath from the Sunshine Skyway south fishing pier said there have been almost no anglers on the pier lately, but he’s heard fishers were catching trout and black seabass.

Bob Kilb from the Rod & Reel Pier said anglers have caught a few sheepshead and an occasional bonnethead shark.

Dave Sork from Anna Maria City Pier said he has seen a few sheepshead around. Best baits are tube worms, or send fleas, which anglers can get from the beach.

Capt. T.J. Stewart of Cast Away Charters said

this week will probably be too windy to get offshore, unless winds shift and come from the east, as some weather forecasters are predicting. Until then, Stewart recommends anglers fish far up the Manatee River late in the day as the water warms. The darker bottoms in the river heat up quicker, and there are many creeks and canals that anglers can get into and hide from the wind.

Send fishing news and photos to fish@islander.org

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