Fish plentiful in local waters, keep only what you need to keep it that way

Springtime fishing is in full swing in waters surrounding Anna Maria Island. You may find small interruptions in the bite due to strong March winds and an occasional unexpected late cold front although most days on the water are proving to be successful ones.

Fishing the flats in Tampa Bay south to Sarasota Bay is resulting in many of these successful days. Using live bait such as shiners is working well for spotted seatrout, redfish and snook and limits of these fish are attainable. You may find catching keeper-size snook slightly challenging but if you’re an avid angler in our local waters you know that’s usually the case. In fact, many local anglers even when they do catch keeper-size snook are opting to release these large fish to live another day. 

For the redfish and spotted seatrout I feel many are finding their way into the cooler. Spotted seatrout are a good choice for harvest as they seem to regenerate their numbers quite sufficiently. And with the redfish regulations limiting anglers to one fish per person per day in the slot of 18-27 inches, these fish seem to be remaining sustainable at the moment. 

Ultimately, the best scenario is catch-and-release although keeping enough fish for a meal is adequate to keep our fishery at sustainable levels. Especially in the inshore waters when targeting sportfish such a snook, trout and redfish. 

The days of filling the cooler are over and actually seem to be frowned upon by many anglers. My family and I like to eat fish as much as the next but only keeping what you would for dinner ensures we will have a fishery in the future. And with our little sleepy island of Anna Maria becoming an ever-increasing top destination on the Gulf coast of Florida, you can bet regulations will become tighter in the future. If this isn’t an indicator I don’t know what is. 

Moving offshore, the bite is resembling the inshore bite with it spring time abundance. Inside depths of 120 feet of water, red grouper are dominating the bite around hard bottom areas and ledges. Live pinfish as bait on a bottom rig sent to the bottom is quickly being engulfed by large red grouper. Live shiners are also working well for grouper, and since they’re smaller in size are also attracting many snapper such as mangrove and vermilion. 

Amberjack are on the prowl taking baits fished toward the surface in mid-depths in the water column. Lastly, permit are a favorite right now and are being found around wrecks and reefs.

On my Just Reel charters my clients are enjoying great action on snook and trout. Both species are cooperating nicely as water temperatures are settling into the mid 70s. I’m seeing many large trout in the 20-plus inch range been caught as well as twice as many slot-sized fish measuring 15-19 inches. Most snook being caught are ranging 20-26 inches with an occasional larger fish mixed in, which is fine with me as I don’t care to harvest snook. Mixing in other species — jacks, mackerel and bluefish — is working well to round out the day. These fish put up a great fight and are quite abundant throughout our waters.

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