Fishing Report July 18, 2018

Summertime fishing pattern finally settles in

Fishing around Anna Maria Island has finally settled into a good summertime pattern.

Light breezes from the east combined with morning high tides are producing some stellar inshore fishing. The deeper grass flats of Tampa and Sarasota bays are loaded with post-spawn trout. You may have to catch 20-30 of these trout to make your limit of four slot-size fish, but who cares? You just caught 20-30 fish.

And while targeting the trout, you’ll probably catch some mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish, which makes for some great variety and action. While you’re at it, don’t forget to save a couple of these bluefish for shark bait. The abundance of sharks in Tampa Bay right now is nothing short of phenomenal. Whether on the flats, wrecks or beaches, you’re going to see sharks. I’m mostly seeing blacktips, although I have seen some bull sharks up to 8 feet in length and some hammerheads topping out around 12 feet.

Getting back to the flats fishing, aside from the trout, the catch-and-release snook action is still going strong. Now is the time to patrol the beaches and passes in search of these popular fish. Live shiners are the ultimate bait, but artificials will work, too. White buck tail jigs or crank baits such as Yo-Zuris will attract a bite, especially at night.

Fishing offshore is producing good summertime action, too. Permit, cobia, groupers and snappers are all on the menu while fishing offshore structure such as reefs, wrecks and ledges. Migratory fish such as Spanish mackerel, bonito and a few kingfish are being caught in these areas.

On my Just Reel fishing charters, I’m cashing in on the post-spawn trout bite. In some areas, the bite is nothing short of every cast. Now, most of these trout are 14-16 inches so if nothing else, its great action. Plus, bigger trout up to 22 inches are mixed in. The big ones are always slightly more rewarding when you have to work for it a little. Spanish mackerel and bluefish are mixed in which are always good for cutting off a few hooks.

Catch-and-release action on sharks is hot right now for my clients. Blacktips 4-6 feet are the norm, although we’ve had a couple of bull sharks in the 8-foot range. I’m also seeing large hammerhead sharks up to 12 feet in length. While targeting sharks, my clients are hooking into an occasional barracuda. These fish are great when on the line as they perform acrobatic jumps high in the air and drag-screaming runs while in the water.