Freshwater still flowing into Gulf, fish still taking the hook

The catch-and-release redfish bite in local waters is the highlight around Anna Maria Island this past week. 

Millions of gallons of fresh water flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Manatee is pushing these fish toward the mouth of the Manatee River, as well as the adjacent waters of Terra Ceia Bay, Miguel Bay and Anna Maria Sound.

Finding schools of these reds is achievable and ideal, although you can find foraging fish spread out along the mangrove shorelines and oyster bars present in our waters. 

Both natural baits — live shiners and pinfish — are producing, as well as dead baits — fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish. 

If you’re using lures, you can use Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jig head or the ever-faithful gold spoon. 

Most catches, especially the schooley fish, are over-slot breeding fish — 28-35 inches. Remember to handle these fish with care. They’re the ones that ensure our future fishery.

If you’re fishing the mangrove edges and oyster bars, you’ll probably encounter slightly smaller fish, but don’t rule out the chance of catching a big one.

Fishing offshore in the Gulf of Mexico a top producer for anglers in search of dinner.

Mangrove and yellowtail snapper are being reported in healthy numbers. Red grouper are an option.

If you’re offshore, sport fishing for permit is another good bet. Limits on these are pretty tight, but they’re worth a look-see. Hooking into one of these fierce-fighting fish is something you’ll never forget.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m targeting catch-and-release tarpon and redfish along the banks of the Manatee River and its surrounding waters. Both are responding to live shiners and live pinfish as bait. Targeting catch-and-release spotted seatrout is proving to be worthwhile on the deeper grass flats of Tampa Bay. Mixed in with the trout are Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish — all of which provide quite a battle on light spinning tackle. 

Lastly, for anglers who would like some fish for the frying pan, I’m targeting mangrove snapper on wrecks and reefs in Tampa Bay.