Pompano in passes, trout in bays, amberjack offshore
|Real big red
Rus Essner, of Johnston, Iowa, and nephew Tom from Essex, England, had a great day on the water with Capt. Mark Howard and caught some nice-sized redfish.
Pompano are starting to make their winter appearance, with good catches coming out of Longboat Pass. The fish fight like fiends, making for a great catch, and they also make for some of the tastiest table fare around. Jigs are working well to bring in the big ones, which are stretching to 20 inches in size.
Trout and redfish also are being caught in the backwaters of Anna Maria Sound, Tampa Bay and Terra Ceia Bay. Shrimp are a good bait choice.
Offshore action features amberjack and big snapper.
And if the size of the snook hunkering down in the canals near the Island is any indicator, snook season’s start March 1 should be lots of fun.
Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters said he’s been putting his charters onto nice-size redfish under the docks in the bay, with shrimp serving as the best bait. He’s also catching big sheepshead by structures. “Trout have been in the deeper seagrasses,” he said, “with some nice keepers being landed. Try using Berkley Gulps for some nice trout action.” He added that the weather for this week looks good, “so it’s time to get out on the water.”
Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said the best action he’s hearing is pompano being caught in and near Longboat Pass. The fish are big — up to 20 inches in length — and are hitting on yellow and pink jigs. Trout fishing in the bays is getting better by the day, with deeper seagrass flats producing the best results with DOA-baited shrimp. Redfish are still hanging around the docks, he said, hitting better in the afternoons than mornings as the water warms up and they get more frisky. There also are some good reports of mangrove snapper action in the backwaters. Offshore, Danny said amberjack are an excellent fish to target right now, as well as mangrove snapper and triggerfish.
At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports are pretty much limited to sheepshead, and the same for the Anna Maria City Pier, where sheepies are about the only fish being caught.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidthat another spell of winter struck last week, “but it’s getting to the time of the year where the cold has less and less effect on the fish. The days are getting longer with plentiful sunshine so most species are pretty much accustomed to the colder water and will go on a good bite with just a day or two of sunny weather.” He said prior to the front there were Spanish mackerel coming on strong all across the area. “Their arrival is a harbinger of things to come,” he said, “including king mackerel and cobia.” Artificial reefs and wrecks off of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key have been giving up good catches of “chunky sheepshead, spotted trout, mangrove snapper, bluefish and pompano,” as well as some permit, Capt. Zach added. Backwater action in Sarasota Bay and southwest Tampa Bay has been decent with redfish, snapper, sheepies and black drum coming off docks and deepwater seawalls on live shrimp. On the open bay waters, there has been better than average action with trout, bluefish, ladyfish and pompano. Most of these species are taking live shrimp and jigs over deep grass and sharp dropoffs abutting sand and shell bars. “Snook have been breaking out of their winter holes kind of early this year,” he also noted.
Remember that snook season opens locally March 1.
Good luck and good fishing.
Fishing news and photos are welcome and may be submitted to Paul Roat by e-mail at email@example.com.