|Lunker of a linesider
Bob Bragg, of Maryland, caught this 32-inch snook while fishing with Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams out of Holmes Beach.
Wayne Kimmel of Longboat Key caught this 31-inch-long redfish while fishing with Capt. Tom Chaya.
Whitebait here! And spring can't be far behind
Harbinger of spring must be whitebait, as that tasty treat for hooking bigger fish is starting to appear near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and in the Manatee River.
Backwater fishing for sheepshead remains terrific, and there are good reports of trout, snook and redfish coming in as well.
Offshore action for grouper and snapper is superb. Mackerel are starting to show, a hoped-for indicator that the kingfish run this year will be a good one.
Here's a note for all the charter captains or other reporting locations: Go green, help the environment, and get a monofilament line recycle box.
Keep Manatee Beautiful has a slew of the boxes, which are … well, boxes that are designed to hold mono line. When full, you can seal and send it off to Berkley Pure Fishing Co. in Iowa - at no charge, I understand - and the line is recycled into other products.
Mono line takes something like 600 years to disintegrate in the "wild," so recycling is the way to go to avoid killing the marine life we all love.
Give Keep Manatee Beautiful a call at 795-8272 to get a box, or shoot an e-mail off to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he's getting his charters onto lots of sheepshead, but they're doing even better with trout, redfish and an occasional snook on an artificial bait.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said offshore fishing "could not be better, with good reports of gag grouper to 15 pounds, mangrove snapper to 5 pounds, amberjack to 50 pounds and, closer to shore, snapper to 4 pounds and sheepshead to 6 pounds." He added that there was a huge turnaround in the action in the past week - spring fishing is finally here.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier said he's seeing pompano, some mackerel and sheepshead to 4 pounds coming onto the dock.
Jesus Rosario at the Anna Maria City Pier said bait is starting to show up around the pier, and fishing is changing with mackerel catches, some snook and "tons" of sheepies being caught near the pilings.
Dave Johnson at Snead Island Crab House said snook are starting to bite as the water finally starts to warm, and whitebait is starting to show around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and in the Manatee River. There are still lots of sheepshead being reeled in from almost any structure in the bays or out in the Gulf, he added.
Capt. Rick Gross on Fishy Business out of Catchers Marina in Holmes Beach said snook are hitting better and better as the water warms, but he's also putting his clients onto trout and sheepshead. He too is getting into the whitebait mode, with the shiners starting to show up in schools.
At Perico Island Bait and Tackle, reports include sheepshead as the No. 1 fish of late, but there are still good and getting-better catches of trout and redfish from Palma Sola Bay, with better and better reports expected in the weeks ahead.
At Skyway Bait and Tackle, reports include some legal-size grouper from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge area, plus sheepshead and a few mackerel. There was also a catch of a 12-pound sheepie last week, which must be some sort of record in our area.
Capt. Tom Chaya on the Dolphin Dreams in Holmes Beach out of Catchers said he's putting his charters onto plenty of nice-sized snook up to 36 inches on whitebait fishing the seagrass flats and mangrove areas. "Some large reds were found around the docks off Longboat Key," he said, "and we are looking forward to more sizzling action in the weeks to come."
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Parrot Cove Marina in Cortez said he took Anna Maria Island winter visitors Ray and Tom Schmitz and Karom Gurges out fishing last week and they "put the hammer down on some huge Spanish mackerel and juvenile kings." The group also did well in Palma Sola Bay, catching redfish and snook. "The big mackerel signaled the beginning of the annual run and, once again, they are big, fat, and healthy," he added. "Look for this action to continue for a number of weeks and throw in some kings and cobia as well."
On my boat Magic, we are averaging more than 25 sheepshead per trip, plus some pompano, whiting, permit, flounder and a couple of redfish.
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 email@example.com. 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.