For yet another week, tarpon are the main attraction for anglers who live in or are visiting West Central Florida.
The surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island, being a prime destination for both the anglers and the tarpon, are getting much attention as of the past few weeks.
Schooling tarpon are being spotted along the beaches, with most schools containing 20-40 fish, although larger schools of 100 or more silver kings are being found.
Fishing in the passes around Anna Maria Island, Egmont Key, and Longboat Key is also quite popular especially during the hill tides that occurred during the full and new moons. The passes can be a good bet as long as you don’t mind the crowded conditions.
If fishing around 30 or 40 boats isn’t your cup of tea, try patrolling the beaches to find schools of fish that aren’t so spooky. These fish may be more apt to eat as less pressure is on them.
Moving to the flats, catch-and-release snook fishing remains consistent in areas where the water quality is good. Clear water and swift tidal flow, combined with some mangroves, lush grass and even some oyster beds, is the perfect recipe when hunting snook. Put all of these together and you should find some fish. Casting live shiners is working well in these areas. Catch-and-release redfish are found in these same areas and if you’re lucky maybe a couple will stumble across your bait.
Fishing deeper grass areas is providing good action on spotted seatrout. It seems like the tail-end incoming tide is producing the best bite. Free-lined shiners are working well, especially if you find an area with a large concentration of fish. If you’re struggling at finding this, switch to a soft plastic on a jig head and drift so you can cover more area. The fish are there — You just need to find them.
On my Southernaire charters, I’ve been leaving the tarpon alone and bringing clients to enjoy the tranquility of fishing the backcountry. With the tarpon craze happening everyone has cleared out of the shallows to pursue bigger and better things. I see this as an opportunity to relax a little without having to beat the crowds to the snook and trout spots and with less pressure back there, the catch-and-release snook and trout fishing is pretty darn good. Both species are cooperating nicely on most days. Snook catches are between 20-30 inches. As for the trout, I’m catching a lot of slot-size fish and actually quite a few over slot, too. I guess the closure is working.