Native and migratory species taking the hook

Fall fishing around Anna Maria Island is shaping up to be quite good when targeting native and migratory species.

On the flats, numerous catch-and-release snook are on the feed in attempts to fatten up for the winter.

Catch-and-release redfish are arriving on the flats in good numbers and are equally eager to take a bait in preparation for winter. 

Slightly deeper grass areas in 5-8 feet of water are host to catch-and-release spotted seatrout, as well as numerous other species, including ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and many juvenile gag grouper. 

And still deeper, the artificial reefs and wrecks in Tampa Bay promise good action on Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper. 

So, yes, inshore fishing is good and getting better as we move through fall.

Moving offshore, reports of yellowtail snapper and mangrove snapper remain consistent for another week. Respectable sizes of both are being taken around offshore wrecks, especially hard bottom areas. And speaking of bottom, red grouper are present offshore, readily eating offerings of frozen and live baits. 

On the surface, migratory species — blackfin tuna and kingfish — ravaging bait schools and whatever else crosses in front of their noses.

On my Southernaire charters, I enjoy watching my clients reel in mackerel. These high-speed voracious predators are quite fun when caught on light spinning tackle. Long drag-screaming runs followed by a head shaking fight to the end keeps anglers coming back for more. 

When in search of dinner, Spanish mackerel are sufficient is if prepared right and eaten the same day. For those who have an aversion to mackerel, I’m targeting mangrove snapper. Limits of the sweet-flavored fish are being reeled up from their sanctuaries in the wrecks and reefs. Most are being caught while bottom fishing, although during slack tides they can be taken while swimming high in the water column, especially when a chum slick is present.

On the shallow flats of Anna Maria Sound, during swift moving tides, I’m finding good action on catch-and-release snook. Free-lining live shiners is attracting the hungry linesiders to the hook. Mixed in with the snook are some random catch-and-release redfish. On the deeper grass, catch-and-release spotted seatrout are a mainstay. Mixed in with the trout bite are ladyfish, bluefish and mackerel, adding variety.