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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fishing

Big 'cuda
Pictured is Capt. Larry McGuire holding the 5-foot-plus barracuda that 13-year-old Andy Cooper caught this past Sunday with the Mike Stamon fishing party.
Click on image to enlarge

Snapper catch 'best in recent memory' plus lots of big trout

Although spring just arrived, summertime fishing is here in full force in the waters off the Island. Whitebait is thick off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, snook fishing is excellent - some say it's near its peak - and trout are spawning and really big in the backwater, with some reports of 27-inch monsters coming in.

There are lots of Spanish mackerel being caught, and some of the charter captains are saying that the snapper catch is the best in recent memory in the Gulf of Mexico.

Capt. Larry McGuire on Show Me The Fish Charters said, "A week of strong winds kept me from being able to get offshore this past week. I was finally able to guide out the Mike Stamon party on Sunday, and they caught snapper and grouper as well as several 5-foot-plus barracudas. We fished up to 80 feet of water in the Gulf using live bait, shrimp and artificials.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's caught snook to 27 inches in length, redfish to 26 inches and trout to 22 inches, all on artificial bait - mostly soft plastic bait like Mr. Twister or Exudes, with darker colors seeming to work best right now on the artificials.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said there were a few pompano being caught off the beaches last week, but snook hunting is the best bet near shore right now and linesider action may be at its peak. There are also lots of mackerel in the passes and near the piers. Offshore fishing is still great - really great, like the best in many years - for snapper. Grouper action is stable, while kingfish are still hard to find but should start to show up any day on their northward migration. Look for water temperatures to hit 70 and then start hitting the kings.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said sheepshead were really starting to slow down, but mackerel were taking their place, plus flounder, bluefish, jacks, snapper and a few keeper-size redfish.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said mackerel are the best bet there right now, with most of the action coming in either mornings or late afternoons. There are still a few sheepshead hanging around, plus some nighttime snook were caught last week.

Capt. Matt Denham said his charters have done well with amberjack to 50 pounds out in the Gulf, plus red grouper to 25 pounds, gags to 20 pounds, snapper to 6 pounds, but they still are missing kingfish. There are also good catches of lane and yellowtail snapper coming to his boat.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said Spanish mackerel are being caught at the docks in front of Terra Ceia Bay right now, plus black drum and mangrove snapper at the old railroad bridge at the Manatee River. There are also plenty of hungry small snook in Miguel Bay, Dave added.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he put one of his charters onto a 45-inch-long, 30-pound snook on one trip last week. Other action includes lots of keeper-size snook, and obviously linesider fishing is in full swing for him right now.

At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, wade fishers are catching some really big trout due to the near-spawn of the fish in the backwater and, as a reminder, all trout should be released. Redfish are still a main catch for wade fishers right now, with plenty of mackerel coming onto the boaters' hooks.

Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said there are some really big trout out in the bays right now, with some up to 27 inches in length being caught. He's also finding lots of snook, mackerel, snapper and redfish.

On my boat Magic, we caught a dozen legal-size snook up to 34 inches on one trip last week, plus a lot of 29-inch fish. Reds are starting to improve by the day, and trout are coming in to 22 inches and there are plenty of them.

Good luck and good fishing.

Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year fishing guide. Call him at 779-9607 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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