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Date of Issue: March 11, 2009

Pompano thick in Longboat Pass, big trout in bays

Fishing pic
Sam Malone, age 10 of Atlanta, shows off his 21-inch catch-and-release snook, hooked from the Gryboski family dock in Holmes Beach. Snook season opened March 1, but Sam's catch was under the slot limit of 26 inches. Islander Photo: David Gryboski

March 1 marked the first day of snook season for 2009.

Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) are powerful fish that are usually found in bays or just off beaches. They have a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw and a distinctive black lateral line. The Florida snook record is 44 pounds.

Snook rules seem to change often. For linesider anglers off Anna Maria Island, the current slot limit is now 28 to 32 inches. There is a one-fish daily bag limit on snook and a special $2 snook stamp is required on your fishing license to keep the species.

Early reports are scattered on snook hookups. Although there are some big ones being caught, most are on the small side.

Other inshore action includes big sheepshead, some to 8 pounds, plus redfish to more than 30 inches, as well as some flounder and lots of trout.

Pompano remain thick in Longboat Pass, and there are a few bluefish being caught.

Offshore action remains strong for amberjack and snapper, with most structure providing some good-sized fish.

      Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing said he’s been having an excellent fishing season so far this winter. “We had a fantastic day of sheepshead fishing last week with the ‘little’ 2-pounders getting released,” he said. “Redfishing has been exceptional, with a dozen reds caught on average every trip. Some of the redfish have been over 30 inches long.” Trout are starting to move around and are getting thick in some areas, he said, adding that he expects the fishing to only get better as the weather warms.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said most snook fishers are assessing the action right now. There are some hookups with smaller fish, and signs of whitebait off the beaches and near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge indicate that the season, as the water warms, could be good. Best bet for backwater anglers now, though, is trout and pompano, both of which are moving around. Sheepshead are also thick around any structure in the bay and off the nearshore reefs, where the convict fish appear to be spawning. Big males of 8 pounds are pretty common, he said, and flounder are also coming in from the same spots. Farther offshore, at 20 miles or so out in the Gulf of Mexico, amberjack and mangrove snapper are still thick and hungry.

At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include lots of big sheepshead. Snook season at the dock has started slowly, with a few 32- and 34-inch linesiders being caught, but most are smaller. Morning fishing is reaping the best results.

At the Anna Maria City Pier, reports also include lots of sheepshead, plus some flounder and some small snook being caught in the mornings.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidwith two weeks until spring, “I happily bid goodbye to winter. It has been one of the longest, coldest and windiest winters in these parts for as long as I can remember. The upside of all this is that in the Manatee/Sarasota area we thankfully escaped any serious fish kills from the cold and we will be experiencing a true spring when the weather finally breaks.” Capt. Zach said snook usually break out of their winter holes around St. Patrick’s Day, “and if the weather report of a solid week or better of 80-degree temperatures comes to pass, that should hold true. Reds and trout will be headed to shallower water and the pompano action should get even better. The past several years have produced exceptionally good kingfish runs in the area, and I have real high hopes for this spring. Last falls king run was cut short by a very early cold spell, but in the spring that should not be a problem. In fact, cold water temperatures to our north will keep the big macks in our neighborhood for a longer period of time. We’ve not had a really good cobia run for several years now, so we’re due for a biggie this year.” He said winter fishing was generally good and pompano fishing was excellent and remains great for the first time in several years. On a trip last week, he took his charter offshore and caught sheepies to 8 pounds, plus Key West grunts, mangrove snapper, triggerfish and numerous juvenile groupers. “Closer to the beaches, areas with good structure also gave up even more sheepshead and snapper, along with trout, pompano, bluefish and mackerel,” he said.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said the offshore action is starting to pick up as the weather improves. “The action is wild and crazy out there with all the big amberjacks you want to fight or can handle,” he said, adding that “mangrove madness” is also taking place in the Gulf with mangrove snapper, plus yellowtail, lane and vermillion snapper, porgys, sea bass, flounder, triggerfish and scamp. He put Glenn and Pat Currier on a pair of nice-sized hogfish as well. Don’t forget that red grouper season opens up March 15 and gag grouper April 1, he added.

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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