Fishing Report April 17, 2016

Why can’t April last all year?

April fishing is finally shaping up around Anna Maria Island. In fact, shaping up is putting it lightly. With calm winds, clear waters and the arrival of baitfish both in the Gulf and in Tampa Bay, the fishing is nothing less than outstanding. Now’s the time — drop everything and get out there and fish.

On my recent fishing trips with Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m taking advantage of the stellar conditions and trying to fish as much as I can physically stand. Whether on the flats targeting snook and spotted seatrout or out in the Gulf reeling up mangrove snapper around the reefs, I just can’t stay away.

On the flats I’m finding many spotted seatrout, especially during morning tides. Slot and over-slot fish are so abundant that limits of fish are attainable for even the most inexperienced anglers. Free-lined shiners over deep grass flats are producing many 15-18 inch trout. Fishing shallower flats is producing large breeder trout up to 26 inches.

Snook are being found in respectable numbers. Mangrove shorelines where turtle grass and sandy potholes are present are holding many schooley-sized fish. These rallies of snook are great adversaries for visiting anglers looking to bend a rod and hear the drag peel out. Larger, keeper-size snook are being found in the same areas, but are spread out which makes them a little less common. Plus, they’re smart too, which makes the bite slightly more challenging.

Out in the Gulf of Mexico I’m finding a variety of species. Fishing nearshore structure is producing an exceptional bite for mangrove snapper. Live shiners on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are resulting in mangoes up to 20 inches. On light tackle these feisty snapper really put the angler to the test. Getting these fish away from structure is a jog in itself and then running to gauntlet of barracuda and jewfish is enough to rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned anglers.

While targeting snapper, we are reeling up mackerel, cobia, juvenile grouper, jack crevalle, blue runners and the occasional flounder. What a great variety to catch in a morning of fishing.

Finally, I’m still seeing and catching tripletail around the buoys out there. I don’t think targetable numbers of fish are present, but I’m seeing at least a couple a day while in transit from one spot to another while in the Gulf.