Sue Hintz, left, and Kelly Almond, both of Bradenton, both caught some nice-sized grouper while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire.
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Trout rule inshore, plus reds; 'banner' time offshore for grouper, snapper
Offshore fishing seems to be the real deal right now, with lots of grouper and snapper coming into the coolers on those less-than-cool days out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bait is starting to show as well, so kingfish and mackerel shouldn't be too far away for trolling fishers.
Inshore action is pretty much all trout and redfish, with a few snook in the upper reaches of the bays as well as some big flounder and sheepshead.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said "it was a banner week for offshore fishing." He explained that grouper and snapper action is great on the days that fishers can get out, but the "getting out" part isn't so bad because a lot of the best action is within 15 miles from Anna Maria Island. Bill said one of his customers bragged about catching lane, hog, mangrove and yellowtail snapper - yes, all on one trip - as well as some big gag and red grouper. Inshore action is "all trout all the time," Bill added, with snook starting to bit in the farther reaches of the backwaters like canals in Palma Sola Bay and Bowlees Creek off Sarasota Bay. Redfish action is also good.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's been fishing Terra Ceia and Miguel bays and catching speckled seatrout to 19 inches, redfish to 19 inches, flounder to 19 inches, and sheepshead to 3 pounds, with both artificial and live bait working best at different tides and conditions.
Kevin Kizert at Perico Island Bait and Tackle said there are lots of trout being caught "all over, from Bimini Bay to Sarasota Bay." He said the trout are all of good size, as well as some of the big reds from the backwater, plus flounder and sheepshead. He said some days have been windy for the offshore anglers, but the reports keep coming in on good catches of grouper and snapper.
Capt. Eddie Ranft of Sea Fox out of Cortez said his party boat charters have been doing very well offshore. A Saturday trip produced better than 200-head of snapper, Key West grunts and porgies, and a Monday trip out in the Gulf brought back better than 300-head of lane snapper and porgies, plus some grouper. Capt. Eddie said he's not seeing any red tide offshore, and based on the bait he's seeing schooling out there he expects the kingfish and mackerel to start to show up at any time.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters said he has taken his clients out to "fantastic catches of red grouper over the past week. There were a couple of cold, rainy days that were not 'fish-able,' but after the cold fronts moved out of our area, the fish were more than ready to feed." His daylong charters are regularly bringing in red grouper to 25 pounds, gag grouper to 18 pounds and mangrove snapper to 6 pounds, as well as yellowtail, lane and vermilion snapper plus other reef fish. "We have been fishing out 25 to 35 miles," Capt. Larry said, adding that live Key West grunts, frozen Spanish sardines and live shrimp for snapper are working best as bait. Glenn McLinton and Dewayne Przybilla of Minnesota were able to bring back an "awesome catch of red grouper that ranged from 20- to 30-pounds each. Jim Hintz and party also caught a limit catch of 'fire trucks' (red grouper)" in 145 feet of water using live grunts and frozen sardines as bait.
Good luck and good fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year-plus fishing guide. Call him at 723-1107 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.