Fishing Report February 21, 2018

February fishing action as hot as the temperature

With temperatures in the mid 80s in mid February, Anna Maria Island fishers are enjoying springtime conditions.

God, I love it down here in Florida.

Water temps are on the rise, which is allowing the flats to host some excellent fishing, particularly for those targeting snook and trout. Both species are gradually working their way out of their wintertime haunts and onto the lush grass flats that exist in our inshore waters. And when these fish stage up in the grass, they are there for one reason — to eat.

Casting live shiners, shrimp or artificials are producing action for inshore fishers. If you’re looking for more variety, pompano, bluefish and ladyfish are present in the bays and Intracoastal Waterway. Sheepshead will be spawning in the upcoming weeks, which means they are feeding heavily.

On my Just Reel fishing charters, I’m targeting a variety of species. Jigging the flats with soft plastics, such as the MirrOlure “Lil John,” is producing some great action on spotted seatrout. Slot and over-slot fish are being caught. While targeting trout, I’m seeing an array of other species on the jig —pompano, bluefish and ladyfish.

Switching over to live shrimp as bait also is resulting in good action. Sheepshead, Key West grunts and hogfish are being caught around offshore ledges with some frequency. I’m also finding the sheepshead inshore on small rock piles and along sandy shorelines that have not been renourished. On the untampered shorelines, sandfleas and other small crustaceans and mollusks still exist, which in turn attract the sheepies. Casting live shrimp in these areas is proving quite effective. In some instances, when the water is clear, I’m sight-casting to the sheepies. How cool is that?

Lastly, working top-water plugs — MirrOlure 84MR or the Rapala Skitterwalk — is providing some explosive action on catch-and-release snook and large, keeper trout. Both species are being found on shallow grass flats where clean, clear water exists. This bite requires a little determination, but when a big snook or trout explodes on a surface bait, it seems worth the effort.