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Date of Issue: March 18, 2009

'Mack-attack' hits near Gulf shore, backwater anglers

Fishing pic
Islander sales representative Toni Lyons shows off her "birthday snook," which measured slightly over 38 inches. It was caught, along with a few smaller released linesiders, from a dock on 56th Street in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Spanish mackerel are starting to show both off the beaches and the bays near Anna Maria Island, and the bite is already starting to shape up to be fast, big and furious.

Reports are at a catch-per-cast basis for the macks, already running up to 26 inches. Kingfish are soon to follow as long as the weather holds.

Other offshore action includes amberjack off the artificial reefs, and loads of sheepshead from the nearshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico. Mangrove snapper are hitting hard, in large sizes and large numbers.

Backwater action for snook is still a bit chilled — like the water temps — with hookups on smaller, more spry linesiders but the wary big fish avoiding the bait to date. Snook action should improve as waters warm.

Redfish are a good bet, though.

Don’t forget that gag grouper season is closed until March 31.

Capt. Sam Kimball out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle on Cortez Road said his offshore trips are putting his charters onto snapper and sheepshead from the nearshore artificial reefs. He’s also catching Key West grunts.

Capt. Mark Johnston of Annie’s said inshore fishing “is fantastic.” He’s putting his clients on huge sow sheepshead and redfish to 26 inches in length. “The sheepshead have finally showed up where they’re supposed to be, and fishing is as good as I can remember,” he said. He’s also catching mackerel off the beaches.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said the best bet is “big, gnarly mackerel” off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and in the bays. The Spanish mackerel catch is coming best from silver spoons or “crippled herring” lures, with the result being some 26-inch fish. Danny said he was bringing in a fish on just about every cast. Snook are out there, he added, but the big linesiders don’t seem to be all that hungry. “Gator” trout are hitting on lures on outgoing tides by the bulkhead around the seagrass flats, though, and sheepshead are huge by the nearshore artificial reefs in the Gulf. Amberjack are about the best bet for offshore fishers right now, with some huge mangrove snapper coming back as well.

At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include lots of big sheepshead and a few mackerel.

Fishers at the Anna Maria City Pier are reeling in big sheepshead as well, plus an occasional flounder.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina predicted that “things are right on the cusp of busting wide open in Manatee-area waters.” Water temperatures are rising in both the Gulf and bays, and bait is starting to show. “Spanish mackerel are evident all over the nearshore reefs,” he said, “and kings and cobia should be right behind.” He’s putting his clients on sheepshead, snapper and flounder in less than 45 feet of water in the Gulf, with shrimp the bait of choice. Sheepshead are topping out at 8 pounds, snapper at 19 inches and flounder about average in size. He’s also catching some Spanish mackerel, and one young angler nailed a hogfish. Backwater fishing includes redfish, snook and trout, all migrating out of the winter holes and moving up on shallow and warm mudflats. “We have been nailing an occasional snook and red using live shrimp on the flats,” he said, “but as soon as whitebait becomes readily available, the action will improve a great deal. The redfish are really scattered and spooky, so chumming with live shiners will work well to bunch them up and get them munching.”

Capt. Mark Howard on SumoTime Charters said “the spring pattern is finally taking hold as the water begins to warm up. Mackerel are off the beaches, with many nice-sized fish being landed. Kingfish should show up in the next two weeks, and snook and redfish are moving onto the seagrass flats with some nice fish being landed there, too. Speckled trout are still hitting in about 4 feet of water.”

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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