Head out to the Rod & Reel for some R&R — and great catch-and-release snook action
With near perfect weather, fishing around Anna Maria Island is proving to be stellar — especially at the Rod & Reel Pier on Tampa Bay.
Clear, emerald green waters and light breezes from the west are the perfect recipe for fishing at the R&R and the catch-and-release snook bite is happening right now.
After numerous days of running charters, I finally had a day to spend with the family and my wife Bekka and daughter Izzy wanted to spend a day at the beach and go snorkeling.
Although I had been out fishing in the heat for days, I was excited to spend a morning with them however, I still needed to get a fishing report from Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier, so I suggested we go out there and while they snorkeled the rocks by the pier, I could visit Jim Malfese.
So, we loaded up the truck and we went to Anna Maria — Island that is. Swimming pools and fishing piers. Boy, kinda sounds like the “Beverly Hillbillies”, huh? But I guess it fits since we now reside in Bradentucky.
We arrived at the R&R and luckily got the last parking spot which saved me from having to drive up and down the side streets trying to park “between the signs.” Upon walking out to the pier we could see the calm waters and cool breezes that awaited us.
The girls found a spot on the beach and put on their snorkel gear. I walked out to see Malfese and get his fishing report. The Rod & Reel Pier is true to fashion when the snook bite is good. Anglers stood shoulder to shoulder casting large baits under the deck in hopes of hooking into a monster linesider.
As I neared the end of the pier, I ran into Malfese. He was super busy keeping track of fishers and trying to put away a Sysco order. After our hellos, he got right to the point of the fishing report. I followed him around as he recited to me what was being caught. Aside from the normal action of Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper, he mentioned anglers are catching plenty of big snook.
As he was so busy, I left him to his job and walked around the pier to have a look. Upon rounding the corner, I recognized a good buddy, Keith Martin from Chicago. He was there snook fishing. We sat and made small talk until he acquired a large mojarra from one of the other anglers on the pier. Mojarras — especially ones 12-inches long — make excellent snook bait at the pier. Within seconds, Martin stabbed a large 6/0 hook through the nose of the bait fish and lowered it under the pier, where the tide would push it back along the pilings. This is where the big snook lay in wait to catch an easy meal.
We talked a little longer about this and that and, as the bait swam under the pier, not knowing that it soon became lunch for a big snook.
All of a sudden, Martin stopped mid-sentence, “I just got bit,” he whispered. After a slight pause to let the fish eat the large bait, he reared back and set the hook. The rod bent over double, with the tip going under water. He pulled up with all his might and the fish surfaced. He was still under the pier so there was no visual confirmation, but there sure was a lot of splashing and commotion going on. In fact, water splashed upwards through the planks on the deck. A crowd of spectators gathered, suddenly, the hook pulled out.
Bummer, right? “That’s all part of catching big snook,” gasped Martin as he shrugged it off. “If I get one on the deck out of five, it’s all worth it.”
Well, he finally did get one on the deck, in fact he got plenty — ranging from 36-40 inches. Not bad for spending a morning relaxing at the best place on Earth — the Rod & Reel Pier.
On a side note, remember that as of July 1, there are changes to tripletail and sheepshead size and bag limits. Tripletail minimum size limit increased to 18 inches total length, while sheepshead recreational bag limit is lowered to eight fish per person. To learn more about tripletail, sheepshead and other fish regulations, go online to MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing.”