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Date of Issue: May 20, 2009

Tarpon hitting off Anna Maria Island

Fishing pic
What a catch
On May 8, longtime Island resident Bob Gutierrez, fishing on the Linda with Capt. Bob Kelly and first-mate Dick Snyders landed and released an 84-inch sailfish after a 75-minute battle. It was landed on a medium-spinning rod with a No. 30 line about 20 miles west of Anna Maria Island.

Boats, slowly poling or drifting along the shallows just off Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico, are a good indicator that tarpon are starting to move around. They’re hungry, and will get more hungry in the next few weeks.

Silver king hookups are picking up from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge south to northern Longboat Key. Shiners and pass crabs work best for bait so far, according to reports.

Backwater action for trout is terrific, and the trout seem to be moving a bit toward the passes. Redfishing is also good in the bays, as is catch-and-release snook.

Spanish mackerel are finally in the passes and nearshore waters. Cobia also are coming to anglers at some of the Island’s piers and off any structure offshore. Ditto amberjack and grouper action.

It’s a great time to go fishing.

Capt. Logan Bystrom said it best: “The tarpon are here.” He said he’s been fishing off the beach and getting plenty of hook-ups, “and evening outgoing tides in the passes have been producing a lot of hook-ups also. We have been using shiners off the beaches and dipping for crabs for bait in the passes.”

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Fishing said he’s finding some very big speckled trout to 24 inches, plus Spanish Mackerel to 4 pounds coming out of the backwater deep-water seagrass flats. “Sharks have invaded the bay,” he said, “with plenty of 4-foot lemons and blacktips around. Tarpon are coming on strong but are very spooky right now.” He’s also caught redfish to 10 pounds.

Danny Stasny at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said trout are starting to move the passes around Anna Maria Island. Good catches are coming from the mouths of Longboat Pass and Bean Point, he said. Catch-and-release snook “are on fire,” and the linesiders are starting to creep toward the beaches. Danny said it’s a 50-50 bet for beach snook so far, with awesome hits and horrible misses being offered for the fish. Tarpon are indeed off the beaches, as any look to the west for the poling fishers waiting for the big pods to roll past can indicate. Offshore action for cobia is starting to turn on, mostly in the 1-15-mile range. “Look for an underwater structure and throw out a pinfish,” Danny suggested. Amberjack are still strong around those artificial or natural structures, as are grouper and mangrove snapper. Kingfish also are lurking around the area.

Ted Pasky at the Rod & Reel Pier said pier anglers are reeling in mackerel, mangrove snapper, black drum, plus catch-and release snook in the mornings. Some fishers have caught cobia of late, and they’ve caught barracuda off the dock.

At the Anna Maria City Pier, reports include lots of mangrove snapper running small but mostly still in the 14-inch legal range, plus mackerel and sharks. There is also a 4-foot-long barracuda that is taunting fishers by hiding under the deck.

Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidthings are definitely changing, just like the weather. “Water temperatures are a solid 80 degrees or higher,” he said. “The crystal-clear conditions in the bays are giving way to a summertime soup brought about by all the little critters and plants growing like topsy in the tepid waters. Gulf waters are still gin clear. The bottom structure is clearly visible up to 40 feet on the reefs off Manatee and Sarasota Counties.” He said he’s been missing kingfish along the beaches for the first time in weeks, so went a little farther offshore to find big Spanish mackerel and a slew of mangrove snapper, grouper, grunts and banded rudderfish, and later kings to 36 inches, mostly in about 30 feet of water over hard bottom spots. Whitebait and small pinfish were best baits. Backwater fishing “continues to be great with spotted seatrout up to 25 inches fishing grassy areas in about 4 feet of water,” Capt. Zach said. “In the same areas there have been ladyfish, jack crevalle and some chunky bluefish as well. An occasional gator trout is being found in close to the mangroves and shell beds.” He’s also found the redfish catch to have improved of late: not huge in numbers, but big in size — up to 34 inches. He’s also finding a few tarpon, but most of the really hot action will come in the next few weeks.

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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