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Date of Issue: March 25, 2009

Macks starting to show, plus kings offshore, snook in backwater

Fishing pic
Fishing pic
Fishing pic
Great day of fishing
Vacationing from Rosholt, S.D., the grandchildren of Ronald and Carol Lick went out on the water with Capt. Larry McGuire of Show me the Fish charters and caught a lot of fish. Pictured, from top, is Tristyn, 10, and Dexter, 12; Dylan, 12; and Hailey, 14. The Lick family has vacationed on Anna Maria Island for the past 15 years. Islander Photo: Courtesy Larry McGuire

Fishing perfection would be complete if grouper season would only re-open. With just a few days before the gag catch comes again, though, it’s pretty sublime both near and off the shore of Anna Maria Island.

Backwater fishing is great for trout, smallish snook and redfish.

Pompano also are moving around the passes and near the beaches.

But the real action is offshore, with kingfish starting to run along the coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Spanish mackerel also are out there, as well as amberjack and an occasional cobia.

With gag grouper season re-opening April 1 — no fooling! — there also are some changes for grouper fishers this year.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules now call for “all commercial fishers and recreational anglers fishing from vessels for any Gulf reef fish species to use non-stainless steel, non-offset circle hooks, de-hooking devices and venting tools to minimize the deaths of released fish.”

“Reef fish” are defined as “groupers, snappers, amberjacks, triggerfish, porgies, sea bass, hogfish and tilefish.”

“Circle hooks” have a point that is turned back to the shank to form a “generally circular or oval shape.” The point is to have the fish hooked in the mouth rather than throat.

“De-hooking devices” allow the hook to be removed from the fish without a lot of harm.

“Venting tools” are basically a pick to deflate an expanded swim bladder of a fish reeled to the surface too quickly. It’s not an ice pick or knife, but something more like a hypodermic syringe with a big needle.

Capt. Logan Bystrom said that inshore fishing “is really picking up. We’ve been catching lots of snook, redfish and trout. Look for snook and redfish in the bays in potholes and around deeper mangroves. Trout have been plentiful in the seagrass flats, and kingfish should be appearing offshore soon.”

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore action for kingfish is starting. “The water temperatures are getting right,” he said, “and bait is in the bays, nearshore and offshore.” He said that Spanish mackerel are starting to hit well, and advises a chum block off the boat stern. “Give it 15 minutes or so,” he said, “and when you start to get a cloud of bait, start casting a silver spoon. Watch for cobia, too.” Backwater fishing reports include lots of snook, trout and pompano in the passes and off the beach, he said, adding that “this is the best time of year to go fishing.”

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters said the spring pattern is coming on hard with snook, trout and redfish being landed. “Mackerel are on the deep flats and off the beach,” he said, adding that “with this week’s high tides, look for the fish to be up in the bushes.”

At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include lots of sheepshead and some mackerel. There are lots of snook hanging out by the pier, but the only hookups seem to be a few small linesiders.

At the Anna Maria City Pier, reports are mostly mackerel, sheepshead and sharks, with snook shying away from fishers there so far this season.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said fishing couldn’t be better. “It is that wonderful time of year when choosing what species to target is the toughest part of your day, except for cleaning fish,” he said. Whitebait has arrived on most inshore seagrass flats and has been fairly easy to net, plus there are a lot of small pinfish mixed in and shrimp are growing to the best size of the year. He’s putting his charters onto sheepshead, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, flounder, Key West grunt, hogfish, speckled trout, redfish and snook. He also boated a 25-pound cobia and a number of barracuda were spotted along with a few kingfish. Capt. Zach predicts that kingfish action will start to pick up in the next few days.

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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