Nick Arendt, 11, from Mundelein, Ill., caught this nice-sized grouper while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire aboard Show Me The Fish Charters.
Cooler weather chills fishing action, but sheepies persevere
Cold weather has done more than just chill the fishers, it's also cooled off fishing action.
Backwater action has definitely dropped with the cooler waters and air, but there are still scattered reports of good catches of sheepshead, a few redfish and some flounder.
Offshore fishing is still good, though, with grouper, snapper and triggerfish being the mainstays. And despite the pretty-much-done kingfish run, there are a few hardy specimens still lurking in the Gulf of Mexico for the diligent fisher.
Don't forget that snook season closes Dec. 15.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said sheepshead are the best bet for backwater fishers, although there are a few redfish being caught. Offshore action is pretty much the best bet, with lots of grouper in the 50-foot depths in the Gulf, as well as lots of triggerfish, lane and mangrove snapper. Figure to go out at least 18 miles for a good catch, Bill advised.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said catches there last week included a few mackerel, bluefish and sheepshead.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said cold weather really chilled the fishing action at the pier, with sheepshead and mackerel about the only catches coming onto the dock.
At Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez, Capt. Mark Johnson said he caught lots of small redfish and a few keepers last week, plus some snook from the canals. Capt. Sam Kimball said his offshore charters have been producing keeper-size grouper and kingfish up to 25 pounds.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidfishing "was much improved during the calm period between the past two fronts. A couple of forays resulted in a mixed bag of redfish to 23 inches, catch-and-release trout to 22 inches, small snook, black drum to 10 pounds, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and a few flounder."
Capt. Zach's pretty much given up on whitebait, instead reverting to the old standbys of shrimp and artificial bait, which are working well for his charters. Last weekend's cold front "should pretty much sock us into a winter pattern, which is much easier to figure out and can provide some top-notch action with a wide variety of species," he added. "The big low tides tend to concentrate large numbers of fish in deeper holes and when they decide to eat it can be a real fire drill."
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said there are lots of reports of lots of black drum up to 10 pounds being caught, plus a few redfish from the Manatee River near the docks. Sheepshead are also thick near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he took some time off the water for deer hunting, but is back and out fishing. He's finding lots of grouper, mackerel, sheepshead and redfish, but snook action is slow as the water temperatures drop.
On my boat Magic, we caught a few keeper-size redfish, black drum up to 6 pounds, lots of small sheepshead and a few snapper to 12 inches in length.
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.