Captains urging anglers to protect snook fishery
Doug Deming, left, of Bradenton, with a cobia, Henry Kilul of Detroit with an African pompano and Bert Rawald of Bradenton with a cobia caught while fishing with Capt. Burt “Backwater” Rawald.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission study regarding the cold winter snook kill is complete, showing a staggering decrease in the number of snook caught this year compared to prior years.
Snook season is closed to all fishers until Sept. 16, but the FWC is considering extending the closure implemented after the winter kill. The meeting is in Pensacola through Thursday, and those interested in sharing opinions can take a survey at the Snook Foundation website: www.snookfoundation.org.
Many charter fishing captains report they’ve noticed far fewer snook in their usual holes, and so are urging anglers to take the survey and help protect the linesiders.
Also this week, Save the Manatee Club is urging boaters to be wary of manatees as they cruise through shallow waters. Free alert flags to signal other boaters of the presence of manatees are available at The Islander office in the Island Shopping Center, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.
As far as fishing this week, it’s the time of year for anglers to target mahi-mahi offshore around floating debris or offshore marker buoys.
Kim Schearer from Annie’s Bait & Tackle said the north side of the Anna Maria Island Bridge is still producing a lot of trout that are hitting on jigheads tipped with shrimp. She said a 3-foot hammerhead shark was also caught in the same area.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Charters is still catching a lot of trout in Longboat Pass and Sarasota Bay. Spanish mackerel are still strong off the beach, and oversized redfish have been caught in the mangroves around the small islands along the Intracoastal Waterway. Even a few sheepshead were hooked from the pilings of Longboat Key. Johnston said he’s baiting with live shiners.
Capt. Sam Kimball of Legend Charters reported red grouper offshore along with some kingfish. On his half-day trips he’s seeing a lot of Spanish mackerel along the beach.
Capt. Warren Girle said he reeled up redfish to 32 inches, some Spanish mackerel on top-water plugs and trout in north Sarasota Bay. His clients saw success when they started skipping weedless jerk baits under the mangroves for the same species.
Capt. Mike Greig said redfish are schooling up in Tampa Bay and have been slamming white bait. He reported hooking up about 50 reds on one day and around 25 the day before. He said the rains have caused an influx of tannic freshwater to the bay from the Manatee River. Redfish don’t like it, so they were pushed out into the bay.
Capt. Steven Salgado said nearshore he’s been catching mangrove snapper, trout and some snook. He added tarpon are lingering in the passes and snapper, grouper and shark are a good bet offshore.
Capt. Burt “Backwater” Rawald reported he recently guided anglers who hooked up two African pompano in 40 feet of water over a reef off Anna Maria Island. He said the anglers were free-lining large pilchards on 30-pound PowerPro with 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders.
“Several local guides and tackle stores have told me they’ve seen very few African pompano and none this large and never in 40 feet of water,” Rawald said. “Usually much deeper.”
Capt. Bill Miller reported the mangrove snapper bite is in full swing. Mangroves from 12 inches to 5 pounds are being caught in good numbers inside Tampa Bay, he said. When the weather is right, Miller’s been fishing close-in Gulf waters, inside of 5 miles, catching lots of mangrove snapper, grouper, flounder, grunts, Spanish mackerel, sharks and goliath grouper. He said this action should last until mid-October.
John Keyes from Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina said people fishing from shorelines and at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge south fishing pier have reported Spanish mackerel are hitting well on small silver and gold spoons and Gut-Cha lures. There also are a lot of snook on the beaches, he said.
Other marina attendants have reported hearing the north end of Anna Maria Island and also Longboat Key by Whitney Beach are hot spots in general. Keyes said various MirrOlures seem to be the best artificial hard baits.
He added the 1- and 3-mile reefs are holding a lot of mangrove snapper, and some divers have said they’re also holding hog snapper.
Some great shark fishing can be had in places such as marker 70 in Tampa Bay, between the Island and the Skyway Bridge, or around 1-mile reefs. Bill Lowman from the marina suggested dropping a chum bag to get bait congregated around the boat, then once the chum has dissipated, lower a chunk of cut bait on a 8/0 hook attached to a wire leader.
Also, 30 to 40 miles offshore, there are reports of gag grouper.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters said he was scouting last week when the water temperature was 84 degrees in the afternoon, a drop from 89 degrees before the rains. He noticed the redfish have started to school around the waters of Tampa Bay. “Now is the time to turn your efforts towards redfish for drag-screaming excitement and fast action,” he said. “I will be concentrating my efforts on the outside bars of Tampa Bay and on the drop-offs along the Intracoastal Waterway.”
He said big bait pods are starting to school up in Tampa Bay and the tarpon are soon to make their migration into the Gulf. In the past, Howard said he’s seen about a three-week window where baits drifted on the bottom from 100 yards off the beach to 1-mile offshore, making for some amazing tarpon action. He’s hoping this year will be a repeat.
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