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Date of Issue: February 04, 2009

Grouper, amberjack thick offshore; reds good bet in backwater

Fishing pic
AJs A-OK for these fishers
Dave Cattau, left, Frank Torch, Jeff Wallace, Bob Dykhouse, Denny Miller and Joel Beacroft are pictured with part of their catch of big amberjack. The party also caught grouper, porgys and lots of mangrove, yellowtail and lane snapper while fishing last week with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters. All the action was in the Gulf of Mexico in about 125 feet of water.

Cold weather again stymied fishers last week, but the action for those able to get out in the Gulf of Mexico was productive for gag grouper and snapper.

Amberjack also are getting big and hungry, with lots of reports of lots of big fish being caught.

Backwater fishing is good for sheepshead and redfish. Trout also are being caught in northern Sarasota Bay and Palma Sola Bay.

Remember, gag grouper season closed Feb. 1.

Capt. Sam Kimball out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said his offshore trips for grouper and snapper remain phenomenal. He’s also catching amberjack off the natural ledges in the Gulf.

Capt. Mark Johnston of Annie’s said his inshore trips have been productive, but it’s been a struggle with the fronts scattering fish from their usual haunts. He’s still catching redfish by docks in the bay waters, black drum and some skinny sheepshead.

Danny Stansny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said fishing has been a bit slow, what with cold fronts and rain, but there were some gag grouper and snapper caught last week. Inshore fishing for sheepshead has also been good.

At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include lots of sheepshead being caught, up to five per day in the 6-pound range. There also are bonito running past the pilings and some decent-size flounder, but the flatties are not real prevalent. Black drum also are being caught, and dolphin are having lots of fun catching mullet. The mullet are herding under the pier to escape, and all the action means a good show for pier patrons.

At the Anna Maria City Pier, reports include good catches of bonito and some sheepshead.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said action is “great offshore of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key after each cold front. The fish probably don’t feed much when it’s storming, but when the weather calms down, they’re real hungry and the bite gets wild and crazy. We have to be very flexible this time of year and get offshore before the next cold front comes through. Our parties are catching all the big amberjacks they want or can handle, lots of monster mangrove, yellowtail and lane snapper, porgys, gag and red grouper. Best action has been out past 100 feet, and deeper is usually better for the larger fish.” He’s using frozen sardines and squid to put a lot of scent in the water, followed by live bait for the catch.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidhe managed to get in a couple of trips between the most recent weather fronts. “Despite the dramatic swings in water temperatures, the action remains fairly good on a number of fronts,” he said. “The cold temperatures have helped the sheepshead to bunch and munch. Many of the nearshore Gulf reefs have started to give up good numbers of sheepies to 6 pounds, along with mangrove snapper, black sea bass and countless gag and red grouper. Right along the beaches near any structured areas are spotted and gray trout, pompano and bluefish.” Capt. Zach said his trips to the bays are yielding trout, pompano and ladyfish from a variety of artificial offerings such as Cal shad tail jigs, Cotee Jigs and Gulp fished with a popping cork. Around deeper, highly structured docks and sea walls, he’s been seeing good action with more sheepshead, redfish, black drum, mangos and flounder, taken mostly with live shrimp and cut ladyfish. “Try to seek out areas with a southern exposure, dark bottom and an abundance of glass minnows and there should be something lurking around,” he advised, adding that snook apparently survived the cold last week but they’re not biting.

Good luck and good fishing.

Fishing news and photos are welcome and may be submitted to Paul Roat by e-mail at paul@islander.org.

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