Be in the know — Avoid the red tide to find the fish

Despite being overtaken by red tide, Anna Maria Island fishing can still be productive.  Fishing the outer boundaries of the red tide or traveling north to where there is no contaminated water is key to finding the bite.

The highest levels of red tide seem to be remaining from the Manatee Bridge south to Sarasota Bay and along the beaches of Anna Maria and Longboat Key. Fishing north in Tampa Bay as well as its connecting waters such as the Manatee River, Tara Ceia Bay and Miguel Bay is proving to be productive for anglers that just have to be on the water.

For visiting fishers who are only here for a short time, these areas are providing them with enough action to bend a rod for the morning and possibly even take a few fish home for dinner. Although this outlook is promising, remember fishing in these conditions is day to day. You might do good in an area one day but if the red tide sweeps through there the next day, you may not catch a thing.

Ultimately, the key to producing a bite during the red tide is being flexible and willing to travel. You may end up in waters you never fish running from the red tide, but that’s a good excuse to do a little scouting in some new waters. You never know, maybe you’ll learn something.

On my excursions with Southernaire, I’m staying north of the bad water by fishing Tampa Bay. Mangrove snapper action around rock and docks is nothing short of exceptional. Limits of snapper are being caught usually within an hour of targeting them. The key is to find the fry bait. Where this bait is present you should find the mangrove snapper in tow.

I’m also finding a decent redfish bite. Due to the vast amounts of fresh water flowing out of the Manatee River, I’m starting to see many fish enter Tampa Bay. Mixed in with the reds are catch-and-release snook. Fishing deeper grass areas is yielding many spotted seatrout. Most are just short of being keepers, but if you’re persistent, limits of trout are attainable. You just might have to catch 20 or 30 to get a keeper fish.

Lastly, fishing around wrecks and rock piles in depths of 10-20 feet is producing excellent action on Spanish mackerel. Chumming heavily with live shiners is key to keeping these fish in the mood.