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Date of Issue: March 19, 2010

Cooler weather, water pushes snook into canals

The named storm that whipped through the Gulf of Mexico last week brought a slew of wind, occasional rain and cool morning temperatures, which pushed more snook into the canals — and that’s good news for dock fishers.

Julia Rodriguez of Bradenton Beach shows off a 29-inch snook landed with what she called a “cheap plastic lure” off her back yard dock.

Look for most of the snook to be within the first 100 feet of the canals until winter weather shows up to stay.

A typical afternoon water temperature in the bays last weekend was 75-76 degrees — perfect for snook. The days remaining in the open snook season are dwindling, while anglers on the west coast have until Dec. 1 to keep one snook per day, between 28 and 33 inches.

Also, look for kingfish and Spanish mackerel action off the beaches to pick up. Reportedly, the best white bait had been at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, around the bulkhead off the mouth of the Manatee River, and around Key Royale.

James Followell from the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier said there have been a few mackerel and some small grouper caught there recently. He said not many anglers were out during the windy part of last week.

Capt. Tom Chaya of Anna Maria Fishing Charters out of Catchers Marina plans on catching some kingfish this weekend off the beaches. He also has been targeting snook in canals and small redfish around oyster bars. Chaya suggests working the edges on low tides around Phillippi Creek. He’s also looking forward to a strong pompano run around New Pass.

Capt. Ray Markham of Backwater Promotions on Terra Ceia Island said snook are piling up in canals, and he’s had good success with some larger-than-average flounder of lengths between 15-20 inches. He has been hitting trout in deeper water. The trout had been bunched up in Miguel Bay and were 18-20 inches in length.

Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Fishing Charters out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle said there’s been an amazing number of keeper gag grouper around rock piles and artificial reefs in Tampa Bay. Johnston said he has caught them to 27 inches in length. In the same areas, he’s hooked into occasional mangrove snapper, ladyfish and trout. With calmer winds, kingfish and Spanish mackerel are good targets off the beaches, from 200 yards out to all the artificial reefs systems. Johnston expects snapper and grouper fishing to be excellent offshore.

Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier said anglers have been doing very well with flounder, an occasional snook and even a keeper gag grouper. Spanish mackerel action has been sporadic. “There’s not a heck of a lot out there,” said Sork. “The fish are probably scattered as the winds blow through.”

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier reported a few Spanish mackerel, occasional snook, a few flounder, and a lot of trash fish, such as snake fish and jack crevalle. He said maybe one in five flounder had been a keeper. “Anglers had just been trying to find a sheltered spot,” Kilb said of last week.

Capt. Hank Williams of Wet Willy Charters in Palmetto said the best bet is grouper in as close as 20 miles offshore that are hitting live bait, especially pinfish. “They’re hitting that bait hard,” Williams said, “as fast as you can drop it.”

Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters said that with the rough weather last week, “it was time for fixing and cleaning equipment. The week ahead looks to be an excellent one with the fall pattern at its apex.” And Howard predicted “as long as the shiners are here, fishing for snook, redfish, kingfish, mackerel and many other species should be excellent.” He said sharks are showing up thick approximately 1 mile off the beach in 25 feet of water and near the passes.

Finally, Capt. "Zach'” Zacharias of the DeeJay II at Parrot Cove Marina in Sunny Shores, Cortez, reports “the past week has been a tough nut to crack.”

He says the late-season tropical system that became Hurricane Ida “threw a wrench in the works with its far-ranging, long-term effects. Action in the Gulf was really heating up, but the strong northeast winds early in the week kept most of us fishing close to the beaches in the lee and then the wind went hard to the west and northwest, putting the Gulf off limits altogether.

“Before the blows, we had been doing reasonably well along the beaches with kings, Spanish mackerel, bonito, shark, grouper, snapper and exceptional flounder catches. When the winds forced me to ply the bays for several days, the action was kind of lackluster, but persistence paid off with some scattered redfish, snook, flounder and grouper.

“On Saturday I had a pair of anglers, Rick Fuchs from Cincinnati and Karom Gurgis from Ontario, Canada. We got a break in the wind and hit the beaches with interesting results. With a well full of white bait and pinfish, we plied a number of hard-bottom areas off Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island. The water was still fairly muddied up from the rough surf, but we caught quite a few fish, although not many reached the cooler. The big numbers catch was red and gag grouper, but none were keeper-sized. In addition there were Spanish mackerel, bonito, shark, snapper, key west grunt and gray trout. We had really anticipated another big flounder catch, but came up with a goose egg in that pursuit.”

Zacharias was unsure about the future catch. “I feel as if the kingfish run is over, but there may be some stragglers taken well offshore where the water is still fairly clear and warmer. The best thing that could happen for inshore action at this point is for a good hard cold front to roll in and establish a solid winter pattern for reds, snook and especially sheepshead, and some out-of-season trout. White bait has been easy to get, but that could change any day and shrimp may be the way to go real soon. White bait is not an issue when targeting sheepshead, pompano and black drum — all crustacean critters.”

Send fishing reports and photos to fish@islander.org.

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