Chuck Johnston of Bradenton caught his first amberjack while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire.
Good fishing catches both inshore and off
Chilly weather seems to have really heated up the fishing action, especially sheepshead. Big striped fish up to 6 pounds are being reported throughout the area, near any kind of structure - piers, docks, bridges, reefs or hard bottom.
Whiting, flounder and redfish are also backwater mainstays right now, along with trout and some snook.
Offshore action for grouper and snapper also remains good.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said the catch for the week was pompano, whiting and sheepshead from the beaches, and redfish galore in the bays. Offshore fishing is great for grouper and snapper. Sheepies are "everywhere," Bill added.
Capt. Tom Chaya said he's getting his clients onto a lot of bluefish on the nearshore reefs, plus speckled and silver trout, redfish on lower tides along the seagrass flats of Palma Sola Bay, and he's catching lots of bonita off the reefs in the Gulf.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said anglers there are catching lots of sheepshead, a few whiting and one bonita.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said the cold snap helped keep the fish biting, with lots of sheepies coming in, plus black drum and whiting.
At Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez, Capt. Mark Johnson said he's catching sheepshead to 5 pounds and lots of redfish in the bays. Capt. Sam Kimball said his offshore trips are producing good catches of snapper to 5 pounds and grouper to 10 pounds. There are also good reports of lots of snapper being caught by Egmont Key.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said there are good reports of trout coming out of Terra Ceia Bay, plus some redfish in the 25-inch range. Sheepshead are a good bet just about anywhere, and are running up to 5 pounds, and snapper are pretty thick near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said he's putting his charters onto pompano, reds and whiting, and predicts snook fishing should pick up in March.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's finding fishing to be great on the nicer days. "We have been catching lots of gag and red grouper, scamp, mangrove snapper, porgys, triggerfish, amberjack, bonita and hog snapper," he said, in Gulf depths of up to 135 feet. Live pinfish and sardines have been best as far as bait is concerned for his charters and, in light of the new federal grouper closure well offshore, snapper and amberjack will be the targeted species for his charters in the next few weeks.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include "tons of sheepshead" - at least there's one species that seems to like cold weather! Other action there includes whiting, flounder and snapper.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saidhe's finding the weather to be "really a huge factor. On days that are a little unsettled the fish bite real well, and the bluebird days after the fronts make things tough." He said one trip out in the Gulf between fronts produced good numbers of fish and species. "Fishing in about 30 feet of water on a reef, a party of three enjoyed near non-stop action with sheepshead, gag grouper and mangrove snapper," Capt. Zach said. "Later on in the bay, after taking shelter under the Longboat Bridge from a short deluge, the same trio nailed a few nice reds and a snook before a fairly severe storm ran us off the water." He's also catching redfish to 19 inches, snook, sheepshead and speckled trout to 22 inches. He's finding lots of reds, but they're mostly small. "This bodes well for some great redfishing in the coming few years barring any bad red tide outbreaks," he added. "Speckled trout are rebounding big time in the area as well. Numerous pods of snook with some really big fish have been seen prowling about, but the cool water temps have kept catching them a difficult proposition. White bait should not be a problem this spring, as there is a bunch in the area already."
On my boat Magic, we're averaging 25 sheepshead catches per trip, with some of the fish better than 6 pounds. We're also catching mangrove snapper to 16 inches in length near the Skyway Bridge, as well as some nice-sized reds.
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.