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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fishing

Cody catches a cuda
Cody Fulghum, 9, of Lavonia, Ga., caught this barracuda while fishing offshore with Capt. Larry McGuire.
Click on image to enlarge

Tarpon season hits high gear; snook thick off beaches

Stick close to the beaches for the best fishing action right now.

Tarpon pods are rolling along the shore from Egmont Key south to Longboat Key and beyond, with some good-sized hookups reported up and down the coast.

A little closer in, beach snook action is about at its peak right now, with the range about a half-cast from the dry sand. Remember that snook are still out of season, but they're great to catch and release.

Offshore snapper action has been described as "great," and gag and red grouper fishing is good.

Redfish are spotty, but there are some good reports of good-sized, plentiful fish in Anna Maria Sound.

Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's following the old fisherman adage of "fish early and late," with morning and late-afternoon charters his mainstay right now. He's mostly working Terra Ceia Bay and Joe's Bay, producing lots of catch-and-release snook to 28 inches, some small redfish to 21 inches and lots of trout in the deeper flats. Whitebait, small pinfish and jigs are working best for the best catches, Capt. Thom said, and he's finding that on the lower tides he's finding good results by getting out of the boat and walking the flats. "It beats the heat, too," he said with a chuckle.

Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said there is great summertime fishing going on right now. Tarpon season is still in full swing, with lots of pods working off the beaches, more toward Longboat Key than the Island, and some really great hookups just north of Egmont Key and running to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Beach snook fishing is at its annual best now, with linesiders working the trough between the dry sand beach and the first sandbar in the Gulf. Bill said the beautiful thing about beach snook is they'll take either live bait like shiners or shrimp, or artificials, with a new lure called a Tsunami working "like a killer." Offshore, look for mangrove snapper fishing to be "great, not good, but great," as well as red grouper in the 30-mile range, plus a few permit at the 1- and 3-mile reef systems.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier had a good fish story to tell: A "young guy" got a tarpon hookup last week off the pier. He fought the silver king for about 10 minutes when a boater cruised by. The guy signaled the boater, jumped in the vessel and kept fighting the fish, eventually bringing what ended out to be about a 140-pound tarpon to the boat. "It was a lot of fun to watch," Bob said. Other pier action included lots of small mackerel, snapper, catch-and-release snook and an occasional redfish.

Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said pier anglers there are also catching lots of somewhat small mackerel, a few flounder and lots of catch-and-release snook. Tarpon are going by, but without taking a hook, and there have been some cobia hooked but not landed and some small mangrove snapper caught.

Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said he's hearing reports of lots of tarpon out there in Tampa Bay, but he's seeing a lots of trout to 29 inches in length and redfish to 34 inches come onto the docks, with the best action coming from Terra Ceia Bay.

Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's finding fishing to be a little slow, but still was able to bring a few 80- to 100-pound tarpon off Egmont Key to the boat, plus lots of catch-and-release snook.

Teresa Baranowski at the Perico Island Bait and Tackle said one of her customers caught a 130-pound tarpon in Longboat Pass Sunday, while another caught a 140-pound silver king off Egmont Key the same day. There are also good reports of catch-and-release snook coming out of Longboat Pass, she said, and lots of redfish just south of the Anna Maria Island Bridge on the east side of Anna Maria Sound. One fisher caught 32 reds one day, Teresa said, exchanging the biggest for the next-biggest until he got the whopper in his bait well. She said she went out one day last week and caught three snook and four flounder, too, and has heard of lots of whiting coming from near the beaches.

Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he has been catching gag and red grouper to 20 pounds, mangrove snapper to 5 pounds as well as a large variety of other fish such as permit, large sharks, barracuda to 5 feet, margates, hogfish and bonita. He took Skip Shipley of Orlando to a nice catch of gag and red grouper, and Marty Fulghum and his family of Lavonia, Ga., out to a catch of grouper, snapper, and a large cuda his son, Cody Fulghum, 9, caught. He said he has been fishing in depths of about 120 feet of water, with bait ranging from live pinfish and shrimp to frozen bait like sardines, thread herring and squid.

Capt. Sam Kimball on Legend charters out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he's catching lots of Spanish mackerel, plus bonita in 80 to 100 feet of water in the Gulf, as well as snapper to 6 pounds. He's finding a few gag and red grouper, as well as some triggerfish, and said that tarpon are thick along the beaches and in Tampa Bay right now.

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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