|Good time by all
This happy bunch of fishers brought back a bunch of fish while fishing with Capt. Larry McGuire on Show Me The Fish Charters. The group's catch included gag grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper and four hog snapper. Pictured, from left, are Fred Kogge with a gag, Dick Prentice, Jerry Jasinski, Tom Keller and Jack Calaoun, all with hog snappers, and kneeling is Tom Kearney with a mangrove.
There's a whole lot of weird fish being caught out there
Despite snook season opening Feb. 1, the linesider catch is few and far between so far, but hope springs eternal that the catch will improve in the next month or so.
In the meantime, catches of hog snapper continue out in the Gulf of Mexico, something of a rarity for our waters. There are also good reports of amberjack, grouper and snapper coming from offshore.
In the backwaters, now is definitely the time to get that big sheepshead. Catches are coming in routinely at 5 pounds, and the striped fish are thick around any sort of structure and seem to be nibbling on almost any type of bait. Trout, redfish and big flounder are also a good bet.
Pompano, whiting and bluefish are another good bet in the inlets north and south of Anna Maria Island.
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina saida couple of forays out in the Gulf between fronts produced some "really interesting results. In close to the beaches, the bluefish were so thick they get to be boring in short order, so we ventured out a little farther to get away from them. That move paid off with some big spawner sheepies and hefty gray triggerfish. Some unusual catches included a few 16-inch-long hogfish, as well as larger than usual Key West grunts and lane snapper. The most unusual catch was a pair of 30-inch snook taken on small shrimp intended for sheepies over hard bottom about 1 1/2 miles west of Anna Maria. Catching snook that far from shore in the Gulf is rare, but almost unheard of in January."
He added that inshore action has featured trout, redfish and sheepshead being caught with live shrimp and Berkeley's "Gulp" shrimp, with low incoming tides providing the best timing for the best catch.
"In the past couple of years, there have been more and more unusual catches made in these parts," Capt. Zach noted. "Last year's mullet roe season saw a number of bonefish netted in the area. Hog snapper are becoming more common as well. Offshore, there are far more yellowtail snapper in summer, plus more mako sharks and permit than I ever remember seeing in 50 years of fishing around here. Maybe it has something to do with climate change, but there is certainly something in the works."
At Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez, Capt. Mark Johnson said he's been catching sheepshead up to 5 pounds and lots of small redfish. Capt. Sam Kimball said he's putting his charters onto mangrove snapper to 7 pounds, and farther out in the Gulf he's catching grouper to 10 pounds.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said sheepshead are thick around almost any structure in the bay right now - hard bottom, docks, piers and bridges, with the best sizes running to 5 pounds. Mackerel are spotty but somewhat consistent, and the passes are producing whiting, pompano and bluefish. There are also lots of small redfish being caught on the seagrass flats and near the docks in the bays.
Tom Cassetty at the Rod & Reel Pier said he's seeing a few mackerel come onto the lines, as well as bluefish, sheepshead and a couple huge flounder, plus whiting.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said sheepshead are the best bet right now, with most of the action coming from those using fiddler crabs, sand fleas, bloodworms or shrimp. There are also a few mangrove snapper coming onto the dock, plus black drum and yellowtail snapper.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said black drum are being caught in the Manatee River. He's also heard great reports of redfish up to 38 inches being caught by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, as well as mangrove snapper up to 18 inches in length. Small redfish are also coming out of Terra Ceia Bay.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina said he's catching a few pompano, whiting and bluefish along the beach, mangrove snapper offshore and enough reds to make his charters very happy.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include mackerel and sheepshead from southern Tampa Bay, plus some small bonnethead sharks and a few flounder. Trout are also a good bet from Terra Ceia Bay.
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me The Fish Charters said he's finding fishing to be great - on the nice days, of course. "We are catching big gag grouper, monster red grouper, big amberjack, lots of mangrove and yellowtail snapper, four hog snapper on one trip, triggerfish, sharks, and last weekend we caught 12 kingfish and hooked many more," he said. "We are fishing 20 to 40 miles out in the Gulf, using a variety of live and frozen baits."
On my boat Magic, we caught snapper to 17 inches, reds to 19 inches, trout to 20 inches, one black drum that tipped the scales at better than 6 pounds, and sheepshead to 4 pounds.
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.