Fishers anticipate fast winter-to-spring action
Steve and Heather Borbely of New Jersey caught this redfish, along with 11 more while fishing last week with Capt. Warren Girle.
Ian Gihlcrist caught this 29-inch redfish with Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters.
Some weather experts are predicting air temperatures may reach 80 degrees this weekend and, if so, anglers can be on the lookout for spring fishing to kick off.
But it’s going to take sustained warm weather to bring 60-62-degree water temperatures up about 10 degrees to entice kingfish and cobia into the area. Because of the February chill, snook are still as scarce a sight as Waldo, and so trout and redfish have dominated the inshore scene for some time. Many anglers are finding good redfish action against the docks, and trout are showing up on the edges of deep grass flats.
Look for good high tide action on redfish against the mangroves this week. High spring tides, coupled with any southerly winds, will congregate redfish in the mangrove roots.
Grouper season re-opens in all waters April 1. The minimum size for red grouper is 20 inches in total length, and 22 inches for gag grouper. The daily bag limit is two per angler within a four-grouper aggregate bag.
Derek Olson from Rod & Reel Pier said the only species anglers have been reeling up to the dock are sheepshead and black drum in the mornings and around 5 p.m.
Rocky Corby from Anna Maria City Pier said anglers have been landing sheepshead, pinfish, and catfish. “Pompano should be running around pretty soon,” Corby said.
Capt. Bill Ware of The Damn Yankee said hasn’t been catching much more than a few trout, sheepshead and flounder. “I’m hoping this week is going to be the turning point,” Ware said. “Until the water temperature is 70-75 degrees, I don’t expect to see anything other than trout and sheepshead. The water has been real cloudy and that also makes it hard. If that wind stops blowing and the water clarity improves, fishing should really pick up. It’s been a strange winter. Hopefully we don’t have another like it for 30 years.”
Ware said he’s been using live shrimp and Berkley Gulp baits.
Capt. Steven Salgado said he’s been catching redfish, sheepshead, trout and flounder. He said there have been good numbers of redfish in all sizes. He said the best numbers of redfish have been on low tides, from around docks and oyster beds coming off a large flat. He said the afternoon warmer waters have produced the best conditions for a redfish bite.
Capt. Zach Zacharias of the DEE JAY II out of Parrot Cove Marina said although it’s spring, water temperatures locally are around 10 degrees below what they should be at mid-March. He said the nighttime lows are the culprit in slowing the warmup. White bait, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, and the like will all arrive here sooner or later. “But I would place my bet on the later,” Zacharias said.
Zacharias reported good-to-excellent action with the "big four" of this past winter: Trout to 24 inches, reds to 30 inches, sheepshead to 5 pounds, and black drum up to 15 pounds.
Zacharias said the trout have been found all over the bays in 3-7 feet of water and have been hitting a variety of artificial offerings, including the Tsunami, CAL shad tail and Cotee grub tail lures. He said the redfish have been breaking out of their winter lairs and beginning to roam around the shallower flats on rare warm, sunny days.
“The advent of spring tides will bring much higher water levels during the daytime and red hunting along the bushes and bars will get productive,” Zacharias said. “The sheepshead and drum are still hugging the dock structures, although I have heard rumors of some big schools of black drum on the prowl in shallower water. We really need a break in the wind pattern as of late to allow more reef fishing. Things should be busting loose out in the Gulf of Mexico in the next several weeks.”
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime Fishing Charters said with the forecast calling for warming weather and the water temperatures rising, spring fishing patterns should take hold. He said small-fry bait has shown up around Anna Maria and the bigger shiners should make their appearance anytime.
Howard said the speckled trout bite has been improving with many caught on live shrimp and jigs rigged with Berkley Gulp shrimp in the new penny and pearl colors. He said redfish are still around docks.
Kim Shearer of Annies Bait & Tackle said the incoming tide is the ticket. Capt. Mark Johnston of Legend Fishing Charters reports catching a ton of small trout to the point that his customer said, “This is insane, I have never caught this many fish at one time.” Schearer said Johnston caught a keeper 20-inch trout and some redfish, all on an incoming tide in Sarasota Bay.
Shearer reported that sheepshead up to 5 pounds are still plentiful around the docks near Longboat Pass, flounder can still be found on the bay side of Anna Maria, and snapper were caught on the bay side of Coquina Beach.
Shearer said that Capt. Sam Kimball, also of Legend Fishing Charters, has had a rough time getting offshore this past month, but did manage on one trip to reel up some catch-and-release grouper and a few snapper in 40-50 feet of water. Shearer said she asked Kimball if the tides and moon phases are affecting his fishing right now, and he replied that he hasn’t been watching for that. All he has been watching for is a break in the wind so he can get offshore.
Capt Warren Girle reported that he has been slaying the redfish in Sarasota Bay. He said there are about six nice schools of reds milling the bay, and all have been fish between 26-31 inches.
“Also, trout are everywhere, mackerel have started showing up in the bay, there’s ladyfish everywhere, and even glass minnows have started showing up,” Girle said. “I have not been offshore. The bite has been too god on redfish to go offshore. But fishing is coming back real ridiculous.”
Capt. Larry McGuire of Show Me the Fish Charters said he was out March 19 in about 100 feet of water, and 3- to 4-foot seas, and caught mangrove snapper, triggerfish, Key West grunts, black seabass and catch-and-release grouper. A little farther out, he got into some amberjack action.
“When it warms up we’ll have kingfish and cobia coming in,” McGuire said. “But right now grouper are close in. We saw a lot of birds working bait that was about mid-depth, and we put out a flat line for kings but didn’t get a bite.”
McGuire said that there’s some good action on the 1-, 3- and 7-mile artificial reefs for some big sheepshead.
Capt. T.J. Stewart from Cast Away Charters said trout was his main catch last week. “And an occasional redfish will wander along and catch our baits,” Stewart said. “That has been it.” Stewart said because of the cold weather he has just been jigging and drifting the flats. “One tip,” Stewart said. “Don’t waste your money buying shrimp.”
James Followell from the Sunshine Skyway south fishing pier said Spanish mackerel have been around the piers for more than a week. The mackerel had been all but absent through the winter months. “People have been limiting out on them,” Followell said. “And they’ve been big.” Followell said the macks were only been biting on a morning, outgoing tide. Followell added that the only other catches have been sheepshead, silver trout and a lot of small grouper.
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