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Date of Issue: March 04, 2009

Pompano thick in Longboat Pass, big trout in bays

Fishing pic
Michigan 'sheepish'
Chris Bivens, from Grand Rapids, Mich., pictured, with Dan Kamphuis and Tod Petty caught big sheepshead and mangrove snapper while fishing with Capt. Zach Zacharias.
Fishing pic
Really great reds
Bob Bodensteiner of Bradenton and grandsons Jerod and Justin caught some excellent-sized redfish while fishing the bay waters with Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters.

Pompano are one of the tastiest fish found in our waters, and both fish and fishers are lined up in Longboat Pass to put dinner in the pan.

Trout action also is excellent right now in the backwater, especially Sarasota Bay. Snook season opened March 1 and there are good reports of redfish coming from the waters under docks in Anna Maria Sound.

Offshore amberjack fishing is great, with fish in the 30-inch size range common. There’s also a few scattered reports of Spanish mackerel and lots of mangrove snapper.

Sheepshead also are pretty much everywhere there is structure both in the bays and off the nearshore reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, with shrimp being the best bait for a good catch.

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing Charters said he’s putting his charters on “some fantastic catches of some very big sheepshead to 8 pounds, with ‘throwback’ sheepies to 3 pounds. He said this winter has been his best for big sheepshead in recent memory.” He took Islander Doug Terry, “Pier Regular” Capt. Tony, Gingerbread Fred and son Ian out one day last week and brought home 16 sheepshead, with some weighing up to 8 pounds. “Redfish also have been chewing in their winter spots,” he added, “with some nice keepers being caught.” He’s also catching speckled trout and pompano from the deeper seagrass beds, with yellow jigs tipped with small pieces of shrimp working best as bait.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said the big fishing news is pompano at Longboat Pass. “The pompano bite is still kicking,” he said, “and they’re lined up in the pass. Best action is coming from pompano jigs in either yellow or pink.” He took a trip through Sarasota Bay last week and caught a mess of trout, some up to 24 inches in length. Jigs again were the best way to get the big trout to the boat. Redfish are around some of the docks in the bay, and he’s finding them to be bunched up. Sheepshead are thick off the nearshore reefs, with shrimp being the best bait. Farther offshore in the Gulf, the action is all amberjack, running slot-limit size and hitting on crippled herring lures. He said he’s also hearing of some spotty catches of Spanish mackerel — early in the season, but the fish are out there and perhaps a harbinger of some good kingfish action to come.

Rocky at the Rod & Reel Pier said there are some small bonnethead sharks coming onto the deck, as well as lots of sheepshead.

Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepies are the best catch right now, with some striped fish stretching to 12 inches or more.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina said his week started out “cold, windy and breezy accompanied by a kind of slow bite, but the weather got prettier as the days progressed and the fishing action just got better and better. Taking advantage of the relatively calm conditions in the Gulf, my clients and I headed to the nearshore Gulf reefs in 30- to 45-foot waters and absolutely hammered some very big sow sheepshead that went up to 8 pounds, plus mangrove snapper to 18 inches, numerous catch-and-release red and gag grouper, and some of the largest Key West grunts I have ever seen so close to the beaches.” The weekend’s moderate cold front should provide some “two steps forward, one step back” action, Capt. Zach warned, “but things should start to bust wide open right on schedule with the spring equinox just a few weeks away. There is no better time of the year when your biggest problem is deciding what type of fishing you want to target any given day.”

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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