Its linesider season again, and what a season it promises to be
Gavin Leger, 13, pictured top, caught a mangrove snapper while friend Sterling Strader, 14, pictured bottom, caught a gag grouper on a fishing trip about 45 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico while fishing with Capt. Matt Denham.
Click on image to enlarge
Snook season opens Sept. 1 and, by all accounts, it promises to be a good run through Dec. 15. Remember that legal snook must be within a 26- to 34-inch slot limit, with a one-fish-per-day bag limit and all catches require a special tag on your Florida fishing license.
Offshore action for snapper is great right now, while inshore fishing is superb. Redfish are starting to school, and Spanish mackerel are almost everywhere.
Shark fishing is also a good bet, with lots of anglers having lots of fun with smaller sharks in Terra Ceia Bay.
And Vinny Smith at the Rod & Reel Pier definitely gets the fish-of-the-week award for a 5-foot-long barracuda he brought to the dock.
Capt. Thom Smith at Angler's Repair on Cortez Road said he went out a few times last week and did well with redfish, spotted sea trout and Spanish mackerel, all to about 22 inches in length. Blackfin sharks are also out in Terra Ceia Bay and Tampa Bay, with catches to 30 inches and live bait and Mr. Twister artificials seeming to work the best. The dark water coming into the bays, caused by stormwater runoff, is starting to become more brackish, he added, and fishing is getting better daily.
Bill Lowman at Island Discount Tackle said that "there is no shortage of snook out there along the beaches and in the passes and by the piers at the north end of the Island," good news for the linesider anglers who've been drooling to bring in a big one for the last few weeks. Bill said that bait is pretty much everywhere, and Spanish macks are hitting the whitebait like crazy and there are a lot of mackerel around right now. If action slows, he advises using the smallest spoon you can easily throw on the line you've got on your reel for the finicky mackerel. "Shark fishing is phenomenal," he added, with best results coming from the use of a chum bag and live pinfish in Tampa Bay. Snapper fishing offshore is also good near the structure at the 13-mile mark, and Bill offered a tip for anyone going out to the 30-mile offshore depths for grouper: Troll a semi-light line through the weedlines offshore to catch what he calls "a lot" of dolphin - fish, not Flipper - in the surface waters.
Vinny Smith at the Rod & Reel Pier said pier fishing is pretty good, with lots of catches of redfish, catch-and-release snook mangrove snapper and black drum.
Cliff Alcorn at the Anna Maria City Pier said the last couple of weeks have been very, very good for Spanish mackerel anglers. He's spotted a few tarpon hanging around the pier - no hookups, though - and the nighttime fishers are reeling in some sharks. The real deal at the pier, though, is the opening of snook season. Cliff said there are hundreds of the linesiders hanging around the pilings, "big ones," he added.
Teresa Baranowski the Perico Island Bait and Tackle said she's been catching "big sheepshead, 19 and 17 inches long," off the dock at night at the shop. There was also that 40-inch-long redfish that was caught a few days later off the docks, and Prices Key near the mouth of Palma Sola Bay seems to be the place to be for schooling reds. Teresa did brag about one group of fishers who came in an bought four dozen shrimp and came back a little while later with three dozen trout while fishing the flats off the Intracoastal Waterway. Good going!
Capt. Zach Zacharias on the Dee-Jay II out of Annie's Bait & Tackle in Cortez said he made a few trips out last week and did well with redfish to 28 inches, trout to 22 inches, plus mangrove snapper and flounder to about 19 inches in size. Catch-and-release snook were also a good bet in preparation of the season start Sept. 1. Capt. Zach is finding lots of Spanish mackerel off the beaches, and he said there are still some tarpon hanging around off Longboat Pass, in Sarasota Bay and in the mouth of the Manatee River.
Good luck and good fishing.
Capt. Mike Heistand is a 20-year fishing guide. Call him at 779-9607 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.