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Date of Issue: February 27, 2008

Grouper great offshore, reds inshore, snook season up March 1

Fishing pic
Sheepie showdown starts up
Jerry Dew, of Traverse City, Mich., caught this whopping 7-pound sheepshead at the Rod & Reel Pier last week. The catch reminded us to again offer a "More Than a Mullet Wrapper" Islander T-shirt weekly for bringing in a picture of a big sheepie. Stop by the office, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and we'll take your picture with your catch and, if you've landed the biggest catch of the week, you'll take home the shirt.

If the sightings are any indication, snook season should be excellent when it cranks up March 1. The linesiders are big, plentiful and if the catch-and-release reports hold true, it will be a great time for anglers.

Other backwater catches of note are sheepshead, which are also starting to get big, as are redfish and trout.

Offshore fishing for snapper and amberjack is also excellent.

Please remember that recreational and commercial harvest of red, gag and black grouper in federal water - that’s 9 miles and more out from shore - is prohibited until March 15, and the state authorities have also imposed the same ban for commercial fishing in nearshore areas, although recreational catches are allowed. 

Capt. Sam Kimball out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said his offshore charters are producing great catches of grouper, snapper and amberjack in the Gulf, although he’s finding the grouper and snapper moving closer to shore. Capt. Mark Johnson, also out of Annie’s, said his backwater charters are producing a bunch of redfish, sheepshead and a few trout.

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters said he’s finding fishing to be good. “The beach is starting to come alive with mackerel, bluefish, trout and sheepshead on the nearshore artificial reefs. The deepwater docks have been holding redfish, too, and the edges of the Intracoastal Waterway are holding schools of nice-size trout and big ladyfish.”

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore fishing for grouper has been excellent - when the weather permits - and redfish and sheepies are great inshore.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead up to 4 pounds were the best bet of the week, plus small redfish, a few black drum, yellowtail jacks and a few snapper. Anglers there are looking forward to the onset of snook season’s start March 1, Bob added.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said it’s sheepies all the time, plus a few mangrove snapper, black drum and some small bonnethead sharks.

At Tropic Isles Marina, reports are great for keeper-size redfish outside the marina’s entrance, plus lots of little trout up to 20 inches from the bays and sheepshead from near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge system.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said there are a lot of good-size mangrove snapper and sheepshead coming from the Skyway, plus black drum up to 12 pounds from the Manatee River.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said fishing is hot offshore. His action is coming about 45 miles off Anna Maria Island. “We are catching lots of big amberjack. After catching a few of them, most folks tap out and can’t continue fishing. We are also catching a lot of mangrove, lane and vermillion snapper.” He said that fishing inside 9 miles from the Island is good for grouper, snapper, triggerfish, porgys and big sheepshead, and he adds that his tip of the week is shrimp for snapper and sheepshead.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams said that big sheepshead have moved in around hard bottom in the Gulf. Schools of reds were hitting on shiners around the oyster bars in Terra Ceia Bay, and there are plenty of mangrove snapper on the reefs along with some nice-sized gag grouper.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidthat prior to the cold front last week he had good trips with Canadian crews that did well fishing hard bottom in the Gulf. Doug Miller from Ontario and Leo Bingleman of Calgary, Alberta, plus Karem Gurges and Reginald Arsenault, both of Ontario, “flat put the hammer down on big sheepshead and hefty mangrove snapper. Both parties topped off the offshore action with a number of trout.” Capt. Zach said last Friday he saw a huge school of large threadfin herring in northern Sarasota Bay. “I don't recall having seen baitfish of this size and magnitude in February before,” he said. “There’s a lot of pilchards on the local beaches and spots in the bay as well. And I’ve heard through the grapevine that there are a lot of kingfish and cobia being caught off the beaches of Englewood, so it’s just a matter of time before they start showing up in our area.”

On my boat Magic, we’re getting lots of redfish and sheepshead.

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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