As we enter the second week of March fishing Anna Maria Island fishing possibilities can be endless depending on what you desire to catch.
Water temperatures are in the mid to upper 60s, which is prime to catch sheepshead. These fish are nearing the end of their spawn which lends me to believe that the bite will be over soon.
But not yet.
Plenty of sheepies are still feeding heavily, which means they are readily taking offerings of live shrimp, fiddler crabs or sandfleas as bait. Other species including mangrove snapper, black drum, whiting, redfish and pompano being caught on live shrimp, too. And if you’re lucky, you may stumble across a few snook that would like to have some shrimp for a meal.
Speaking of snook, the season to harvest these fish is now open and will remain open through April 30. Springtime fishing for linesiders is just beginning and so far they are cooperating quite nicely. These fish are venturing out of their wintertime haunts and onto the flats to feed. Casting live shiners as bait is working well. Artificials such soft plastics on a jighead or lipped plugs are producing action.
Another springtime opportunity not to be missed is spotted seatrout. These fish are starting to bunch up on grass flats and sandy potholes throughout the flats. Live bait such shiners and shrimp are working. Artificials such as MirrOlure 84 MR topwater are proving to be deadly especially for larger trout.
Soft plastics on a jig head are a good option when targeting trout over a large expanse of water. Drifting and jigging enables an angler to cover a wide area thoroughly until fish are located.
Schools of Spanish mackerel are being seen entering Tampa Bay in search of bait. Look for diving shorebirds such as gulls and terns as they are dead–giveaway that some kind of activity is occurring. You might even see the macks busting the surface or skyrocketing clear out of the water. Try casting spoons jigs or live shiners on a long shank hook to get in on this action. And, be ready as you never can tell when there might be a stray king mackerel lurking among the macks. Then you’re really in for a thrill.
On my Just Reel charters, I am concentrating on the sheepshead bite before it ends in the next week or two. Sheepies 2–5 pounds are being caught frequently by my clients. Mixed in are some mangrove snapper and Key West grunts when fishing over structure.
While fishing sandy shorelines for sheepies, I am seeing some black drum, redfish whiting and pompano in the mix. I’m also carrying some live shiners as bait which are being eaten by snook and spotted sea trout.
On a final note, the long-awaited harvest of goliath grouper has now been approved in state waters. A recreational harvest of 200 goliath grouper per year has been issued by FWC. This season for harvest will occur starting March 1 and run through May 31. A total of 200 permits will be issued by a lottery system. The cost will be $150 for Florida residents and $500 for non-residents. This will limit harvest of one fish per person with permit and tag. Allowable gear will be hook and line only. A slot limit of 24–36 inches will be in place. Don’t forget harvest is limited to state waters. Harvest in federal waters is prohibited.