Sunday, May 15, 2011
The last few months have been very good for us on the bay and coastal waters, plenty of Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout on most of the bay grass flats. The smaller and larger fish have been in separate schools, with the larger fish, both mackerel and trout running 3 to 6 pounds. There has also been a large variety of fish feeding on the grass, small sharks, bluefish, pompano, flounder, jacks, and ladyfish, etc. I have been anchoring and using large live shrimp and DOA shrimp on a popping float this year more, than I ever have in past years. High winds of 20+ mph have not been a deterrent to the fish chewing on the grassflats, as long as you know where to anchor up and wait because it is never a 24/7 chew.
The coastal fishing has also been good. The larger tarpon are in and a few have been spotted in the passes but most will be running along the beach. The reefs have been active with a variety of fish and sharks most of the time. We have caught more hogfish this year than ever before but we never caught many before. A few cobias have been caught, but there has not been a good run yet. Some king mackerel are being caught and even a sailfish was caught in 55’ of water on Capt. Johnny Long’s guide boat.
Enjoy & Protect
October 25, 2010
Sarasota Florida Fishing Report
By Capt. Bob Smith
It has been excellent fishing along the coast for the past week. We found plenty of large Spanish mackerel and a few King mackerel along with some keeper size cobia and flounder on the bottom. Fishing the “I” reefs in 25 to 30 feet of water using live bait like shrimp, pilchards and pinfish, we found fish on the bottom and the top. Fishing was also good on the bay grass flats with sea trout leading the way. Although most of are bay and coastal fishing can be handled with 12 pound test line, it is a good idea to carry some heavier stuff in the 20 to 50 pound test line when fishing along the coast. During the spring and fall runs, you can often find big fish within 3 miles off the beach. I have caught bull reds to 50 pounds, cobia to 70 pounds, Kingfish, and cuda to 30 pounds, large jewfish, gags and black grouper, sharks and rays too large to hold, and most tarpon are over 100 pounds. Of course you’re not going to find these big fish just sitting and waiting for you with open mouths. They are always possible, but you never know when.
Mark Zisser and family from Missouri were visiting
last week. Mark likes to book a few or more trips with me, as he has
done for the last 25 years. One of the days I took Mark offshore 6
miles to fish some nice natural hard bottom. The bottom is surrounded
by a two foot break that the grouper like to fan out and hide under. It
turned out to be a shark day! It was shark after shark, all kinds, all
sizes on light tackle; the largest was a nurse shark over 8 feet. Mark
was the only one fishing and was using 12, 20, and 50 pound test outfits
with different baits. This kept him running from rod to rod all morning
and me getting his other rods out of the way when he hooked up. The
last fish of the day was the big shark and was around 300 pounds. Nurse
sharks are the least acrobatic of any of the sharks that I know of, but
they just keep on ticking. Mark caught the shark using a Penn 4/0 reel,
50 pound test mono line, 100 pound test mono leader and a 2oz lead. The
bait was a one and half pound live blue runner with a broken tail. By
breaking the tail I was able to use less lead to keep it down and in
place for grouper. Mark was fishing without a harness and the reel’s
drag was set for grouper digging. So by the time he was bringing the
shark back to the boat from its third run and I was snapping pictures,
Mark hollered out
“cut the #@!*% line! I will buy you a new
I knew then that he had a good fight and had caught his largest shark to date.
Enjoy & Protect
December 25, 2009
Pompano are getting thicker on the Stephen’s Point grass-flats just a little south and off of the Ringling home. I had the Stokes family, Pete, June, Emily, and Charlotte from the UK, out for an afternoon trip. Although the fishing has been improving throughout December, we had a slow start Wednesday afternoon. Due to the wind, I opted to fish the east side of the bay for a slower drift and less chop. We fished with live shrimp on and around the Stephen’s Point grass-flats for two hours and hardly lost any bait. Then the wind slowed just a little and the fish started to chew. Pompano, large Spanish mackerel, 3 to 4 pound bluefish and some nice seatrout made our afternoon. We also caught some large ladyfish in the mix. I am sure that my D.O.A. and Silly Willy jigs would have worked just as well as the live shrimp but I didn’t want to take the time to re-rig or change our luck.
Earlier in the week I found a large school of Spanish mackerel just outside of New Pass by the small red and green markers. The birds were diving and the fish were boiling as they fed on the schools of baitfish. The macks were mostly small but keeper size. We did well with Silly Willy jigs, especially when we tipped them with a small belly strip from the mackerel we kept. Of course live bait was also working. Over the past few weeks, some the biggest mackerel we caught were in Big Pass, some almost 30” long.
There have been reports of some keeper size gag grouper being caught on the bay. I have not targeted them myself lately but I plan to do so soon. My favorite bait for them is fresh caught pinfish, not over night baits from the bait shop. Pinfish will almost always dive to the bottom, so no lead is needed. Most of the water depths you may fish on the bay are only 10 to 20 feet deep. When a pinfish dances on top of the water it is a good sign of predators below. If it is grouper below, you will see your bait simply disappear under the surface, not a surface blast like a bass would do. If your bait disappears, don’t wait more then a few seconds and start cranking like mad until you feel the weight of the fish. Then set the hook hard and keep the fish moving away from the structure. I never like to fish over the structure on the bay. I cast to it so that I don’t run off the larger fish. I may mark a structure by dropping a marker to the side or behind it, out of my way but still giving me a reference point for casting. To have any consistency at bringing keeper size grouper to the boat, you need to use at least 20lb test line, 60lb test mono leader, stout 4/0 to 6/0 hook and lock down your drag. With grouper, you don’t have the option to let them run. Remember, this is for large bay grouper and not deep water offshore grouper. This is a good starter method but not the only method for grouper on the bay.
Enjoy & Protect
October 18, 2009
Finally some cooler weather is coming our way! As we see the Gulf water temperature drop, we should see the fishing improve. When the water temperature is in the low seventies, I think that is the best for all around fishing. For now, we have some seatrout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Jacks, ladyfish, and an occasional flounder in the shallow water on the Middle Ground grass flats. Live pilchards, shrimp and the DOA artificial 3” shrimp are some of the baits that have been working well.
The best methods of fishing the grass have been free-line or popping cork and drifting or anchoring or a little of both. I like the Eagle Claw 202, Size 4/0, Gold Aberdeen hook for fishing with live bait on the flats. About 3 or 4 feet of 30 pound test clear mono leader on 10 to 12 pound test line and you have a very good grass-flats rig. Of course ultra-light and fly also will work well, but you may need to upgrade your skill level.
We have had some slow days fishing lately, but on the whole, the summer was good inshore and offshore. More than I can say for the economy.
We should see the King mackerel start offshore this month and the pompano and blue action should pickup on the bay. Things start to happen when the weather starts to change.
Enjoy & Protect
September 16, 2009
It has been a wile since I put out a fishing report but August was good for bay fishing and I was busy. September is traditionally the slowest month for charters but you never know about the fishing. September is when the Fall-run can start for most species and the fishing can get hot for both inshore and or offshore, but no guarantees. Mother Nature rules!
On the bay grass-flats, I fish mostly with DOA artificial, 3”, #313, clear-gold glitter shrimp. Live bait is working well but it is hard to keep the pinfish and other small baitfish or junk fish off your line. We have been catching Sea trout up to 24” and almost as many keeper size trout as under size. In the mix of fish, we have been catching bluefish, flounder, pompano, black sea bass, snapper, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish and some nice but short grouper. The bluefish have been good sized for Florida, up to four pounds of fun.
This time of year it pays to know where the good spots are and have the patience to stick it out until the fish turn on. During the summer months, I find that when one spot gets hot many others will at the same time. With all the run off, flood tides and unstable weather conditions, we never know when that will be. Having a VHF radio on board will bring this to bear. In fact, a VHF radio is a very useful fishing tool and can make your day.
Enjoy & Protect
July 26, 2009
First light Sea trout on DOA artificial shrimp! Scott Gifford and his son tied into trout on the Middle Ground grass-flats first thing in the morning. Scott’s fish was 22”. The bay flats and bridges have been producing some nice fish but you may need to cover some ground to find them. Spotted sea trout, bluefish, Gray snapper, flounder and pompano are just some of the fish coming in. Large schools of jacks, ladyfish, and bluefish may start the water boiling at any time. The fish keep moving so you need to keep moving. I find most of my fish along the edge of the deep grass and repeat my drift until they move off. The 3” DOA shrimp are working best for me while holding the pinfish at bay. Pinfish are good for the bay but not good for your live bait.
During the summer, first and last light are best for fishing and night is better than day. None of this is carved in stone and the fish could bite at any time. I am just talking about the probability. I like to start just before daybreak and quit by 10:30am. At night, I like to fish starting just before dusk, an hour before, and an hour after the tide change. This all looks good on paper, but the truth is that those of us who have been bitten by the fishing bug will spend all our free time fishing regardless of what the fish are doing.
Enjoy & Protect
July 11, 2009
The offshore waters have been inundated with red snapper for the past month! Look for them around most of the deep artificial reefs and good bottom. Light tackle with a small jig and tipped with shrimp has worked very well. Keeper size red grouper are hitting good in a hundred feet of water or better. Live pinfish or grunts fished on the bottom will do the job.
Inshore fishing has been good with a mixed bag of fish coming in. Large spotted sea trout is the most abundant species on the grass-flats. Along with the trout we are catching pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, snapper, flounder and much more. Around the docks and bridges it has been redfish, snook, large jacks, snapper, sheepshead, and occasional tarpon.
Live bait will work but is very hard to keep on your hook with all the pinfish and other small fish attacking it. I do very well wit the DOA 3” Near Clear Shrimp, #312. This artificial works so well that my only problem with it is that the fish like to swallow it. Then it can be hard to get the hook out of the fish. The DOA is so easy to use that just drifting the flats with my rods in the rod holders can produce fish. Some times you need that on a guide boat J.
Enjoy & Protect
June 14, 2009
The weather had been what I call, a little squirrelly but now has smoothed out. A light east wind in the morning will make it a lot easier to spot the tarpon schools running the beaches.
This has been an excellent year on the bay for gray snapper. The average size is about 14” and a few have been up to 16 and 18 inches. They like to hang out around docks, rocks and bridge fenders. I have found the New Pass Bridge very productive for the larger snappers. They move around in schools close to the bottom and love live shrimp drifted past them. If you hook one, you should get more in the same spot however, they will move around. I like to let my bait drift past the spot with only a quarter ounce split shot attached just above the hook. I fish my line loose so that it will drop. Then I watch the line closely for any subtle pickup. You could get a snag but my motto is, “Treat all snags like fish and you lose nothing. Treat a fish like snag and you could loose a good fish.”
We are also getting Spanish mackerel, large jacks and occasional tarpon around the bridge. Snook and redfish can be found around some of the docks this time of year. Snook are also being caught in the surf and are best at first and last light.
Most of the grass-flats around the bay are producing some nice seatrout and it is not hard to get a mixed bag of fish. We have also caught pompano, flounder, mackerel, bluefish and many more different kinds of fish on the grass-flats. I like to use the 3” DOA shrimp with a popping float or on a free line. Work this lure slow if at all. Sometime just a few pops of the line is all it takes. The fish actually eat this lure, so give them time. They very seldom drop it and run away, maybe when a bigger fish is looking at them.
Enjoy & Protect
May 25, 2009
The tarpon run is on and the fishermen were out in droves. Before all the rain, most of the action for tarpon had been north of us near Tampa. Now the water is very cloudy on the bay from all the runoff. This should pass soon and we will be back to normal and our good spring fishing.
Drifting the grass flats around the bay on Sunday, we found some nice trout but it was hard and the pinfish had no trouble finding us. The big ten pound jacks accompanied by some Spanish mackerel have taken up residence under the New Pass Bridge. Drifting along the center pilings with weighted live bait will get you in to some great light tackle action. A ¼ oz. split shot should do the job. There was too much boat traffic Sunday for me to take advantage of that.
This is our best time for catching a large variety of fish both offshore and inshore. Little tunny and Spanish mackerel have been caught just off the beach. It is also the time you could hook-up with a Sailfish in fifty feet of water off shore or find a school of small dolphin in the same area. I won’t go down the long list of possible fish you could catch, but it is a good time to go fishing and a mixed bag of good fish is not uncommon during April, May, and June.
Enjoy & Protect
April 14, 2009
The spring run is on and it doesn’t get much better than this! Yesterday with the wind gusting over twenty it was necessary to anchor the boat so that we could fish the middle ground grass flats. We caught a mixed bag with plenty of nice fish coming in the boat all day long. With Spanish mackerel up to 5 pounds, spotted sea trout to 4 pounds, pompano to almost 4 pounds, most of the fish we caught were keeper size. As far as I could see, the other boats anchored on the flats were also catching fish. It is not often that I anchor on the grass flats, but if the wind is howling and the fish are there, you need to. Look for a dark patch of grass and anchor so that you can cast to it. We found that a free-line with a large live shrimp worked best for us.
We were fishing the flats close to the south end of Zwicks channel, so when the SW wind started to really hammer us in the afternoon, we moved to the channel to get a break from the wind. I anchored in the choke of the channel close to the south end. I added a small split shot to the free-line so that the shrimp would sink to the bottom. We soon hooked up to a couple of nice redfish, a little over slot size but a lot of fun on light tackle. We took pictures of the first one but the second one broke the leader. We also found some trout in Zwicks.
In all, we caught a large variety of fish, just too numerous to mention all of them but they all added to our fun.
Enjoy & Protect
March 1, 2009
Last week the fishing progressed slowly and was dominated by sheepshead. By Thursday we started to get some nice Spanish mackerel, pompano and seatrout. The sheepsheads have been best in the passes and up close to the rocks. They feed mostly on shrimp, shellfish, crabs and sea worms. They are not considered a sport fish but can get over ten pounds and give a good fight on light tackle. Some consider them very good to eat, but not everybody likes them.
I spent a lot of time fishing the grass-flats and Harts artificial reef. Using live shrimp and DOA 3” artificial shrimp, we started to find some keeper sea trout but we had to put up with a lot pinfish on the live bait. The DOA worked much better.
I found the largest variety of fish on Harts reef. There were plenty of short gag and red grouper to bend your rod. We also caught Spanish mackerel, pompano, snapper, black seabass and sheepshead.
The offshore boats are still catching plenty of snapper on Jigs and shrimp.
The water temperature is rising so the fishing will get better as the temperature rises.
Enjoy & Protect
January 31, 2009
We had to move around a lot to find fish this past week but some nice fish were caught by most anglers. I have been using live shrimp and DOA artificial shrimp. I had to keep moving until I found a few fish and moved on when they quit. From the passes, I moved to the grass-flats and then on to the deeper channels, artificial reefs, docks and so-on.
Mr. & Mrs. Miller from Minnesota caught there first Spanish mackerel and Pompano on Monday.
If you are finding things a little slow and just want to get the rods bending, the one place I have found to have action are the rock piles on Harts reef. They are loaded with small gag and red grouper. They are not much more than a pound or two but are a lot more fun than just feeding pinfish. Although the grouper are very aggressive, we do occasionally catch a nice keeper fish. Trout, pompano, sheepshead, black seabass, flounder and most of the fish that live in the bay come to the reef.
When fishing the reef and if you anchor, get close or over the rock piles. If you are using bait on the bottom, don’t cast or you will get snagged in the rocks. Just let your line drop over the side of the boat and fish just above the bottom. A split shot works good here. You can also cast a free-line out or cast artificial. Just don’t try to drag the bottom with them.
Enjoy & Protect
January 21, 2009
Hold on to them Ladyfish! That seems to be the only action since the temperature drop, but it will pass. The fish will acclimate and if the temperature stays low, they will move to deeper water and start to feed.
When the water gets cold, only the snook may leave and go up the rivers. Most of the other fish stay in the area throughout the winter, regardless of change. The weather will turn them on and off.
We expect to find trout, pompano, bluefish, redfish, flounder, mackerel, sheepshead, snapper, grouper and many more species throughout the winter months.
One of our favorite fish is the Pompano and they had been cooperative before the bad weather. Pompano feed on sandy bottom, from the Gulf beaches to the grass flats and channels around the bay. They can also get very hot in the passes. When we fish the passes, we drift and bounce a pompano jig on the bottom. I like to tip the jigs with a very small peace of shrimp. I make a short cast, leaving the bail open and letting the jig free-fall until it hits the bottom and then close the bail. Without reeling in line, I give the jig a short hard snap up and let it free-fall back to the bottom. This will send up a small puff of sand, simulating a crab digging in. If you are doing it right, you will soon see the paint disappear from the jig, but the tail will hold some color. I like yellow or chartreuse best.
Live shrimp with a large splitshot will also work; just let it drift along the bottom without snapping.
Pompanos favorite bait of all is live sand-fleas. You seldom find live sand-fleas for sale, so you need to catch them yourself. They live in the surf and you need a sand flea rake to catch them. They will drown in a bucket of water but do well in about an inch of wet sand. You need to catch them just before you go fishing.
Enjoy & Protect
January 6, 2009
Kingfish are being caught offshore! That is not normal in January but they are scattered around and can be found. Most of the action offshore has been Grey snapper on jigs tipped with shrimp. Natural bottom in 40’ to 60’ has been best. There are too many predator fish on the artificial reefs. Goliath grouper love to wait until you hook the snapper so that they don’t have to run after them. Keeper gags and red grouper are also being caught on live pinfish.
It has been spotty on the bay with spotted sea trout on the grass-flats. Pompano, snapper, bluefish, black seabass, sheepshead, ladyfish, and lots of short grouper are scattered all around the bay and passes. We have found some slack times but most of the time we can keep the rods bent. This is also the time that keeper size grouper start coming into the bay, so hold your rod tight.
Fresh caught live pinfish and grunts make excellent bait on the bay for the larger fish like grouper. On the bay, I like to free-line my pinfish. Pinfish normally dive to the bottom, but if you see him dancing on top, you know you’re on a good spot.
Enjoy & Protect