Kings only days away from migratory run off the coast
Ian Gilchrist, vacationing from England, caught and released this 12-pound, 32-inch redfish while fishing with Capt. Mark Howard aboard Sumotime.
Jeanne Rueger, husband Jim, plus Bob and Loni Sander from Cincinnati, caught a slew of sheepshead, grunts and snapper while fishing with Capt. Sam Kimball. The Ruegers live in Holmes Beach. Jeanne also caught and released a nice-size gag grouper. Kudos, they said, to the folks at Annie’s Bait and Tackle in Cortez, who cooked and served their catch for lunch.
There’s a king-size countdown for the spring king run offshore Anna Maria Island.
A few king mackerel have been caught in recent weeks, but the migration through our part of the Gulf of Mexico hasn’t really hit as yet. Most estimates have the countdown winding down to days, when and if the wind lies down offshore.
Also offshore are lots of gag grouper and, with the season reopening April 1 — no fooling! — the tasty fish can again be caught. Remember to use circle hooks, have a de-hooking device and carry a venting tool for off-size fish to ease their return to the deep, and remember new regs, available at www.islander.org, call for a minimum catch to be 22 inches and only two fish per person per day within the five-fish-per-day aggregate grouper take.
Backwater action continued to be good for trout, redfish and lots of snook, although the snook are running small — keeper-small, but not monsters. Just wait.
Whitebait is in the bays and nearshore Gulf as well, with thicker pods expected as the water continues its warming trend.
Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters said good tides and the promise of even more in the next few days, “fish have been on the chew. Snook action has been exceptional, with keepers landed on most charters. Mackerel have made a showing on the beach and on the deep seagrass beds.” He’s finding whitebait on the flats as well. The spring fishing pattern is now upon us,” he added.
Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said snook season is in full swing in the bays. Linesiders are abundant right now, but running small so far in the season. Expect the big ones to start to hit soon, he predicted. Pompano and permit are off the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, pompano and banana jigs providing the best action. Whitebait is thick on the seagrass flats and near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge for anglers preferring a bit of life to their baits. Offshore anglers are gearing up for gag grouper season to re-open April 1 as well as the spring kingfish run, and Danny reminds everyone of the new regulations regarding circle hooks, venting tools and size limits for grouper. Give him a call for updates.
At the Rod & Reel Pier, reports include good mackerel catches, sheepshead and snook, with the big linesiders coming on mostly at night.
At the Anna Maria City Pier, it’s all sheepshead all the time right now.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he’s hearing of some big trout coming out of Miguel and Terra Ceia bays.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach has been putting his charters onto redfish and snook. Reds are running up to 31 inches, snook up to 32 – not real big, he said, but still a good catch. He’s mostly working Tidy Island and Sister Keys in northern Sarasota Bay, but said he’s getting excellent catches out of Terra Ceia Bay. He came across a big school of big reds on a trip last week, but the fish were spooky and didn’t seem to want to take a hook. The weekend’s high winds and rough seas kept him close to port, which he said was a pity because the fish always seem to turn on just before a big blow.
“Earlier in the week, before the wind started to howl,” according to Capt. Zach Zacharis on the Dee Jay II, his clients enjoyed good action with spawning sheepshead, mangrove snapper, grouper, mackerel and hogfish on the reefs offshore of Anna Maria and Longboat Key.
Bait was much harder to procure and the bloom was off the bite for a few days. But, he said, the southern fetch of weekend winds coupled with warm, sunny days should serve to get things back up to speed. When the fish did cooperate, he boated redfish up to 25 inches, trout to 23 inches, some pompano and a few slot-sized snook in north Sarasota Bay. Surprisingly, shrimp accounted for more fish than either white bait or pinfish, he said.
Good luck and good fishing.
Fishing news and photos are welcome and may be submitted to Paul Roat by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.