The sheepshead bite is near full swing for anglers fishing the waters around Anna Maria Island. As of now, fishing structure in Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico is producing good action on sheepies of all sizes. Try to pick the calmer days — with light breezes from the east — if you plan on venturing into the Gulf. This allows for a thorough examination of spots on the reefs until you find a good concentration of fish.
On breezier days, there are options available. Fishing docks, seawalls and residential produce sheepshead action. Plus, you may find some redfish and black drum in the mix.
Another option is fishing along the sandy beaches. This bite may require a little more searching as you need to find areas of beach that are not frequently renourished.
An abundance of sandfleas brings the sheepshead to the beaches. Most beaches that are renourished frequently seem to be void these little crustaceans. Do your homework and you should find success. And, if you’re lucky you may find some pompano or black drum foraging in these areas as sand fleas are favorite in their diet, too.
Anglers wishing to target something other than sheepshead, the warmer days in between the cold fronts are triggering spotted seatrout to move out of their winter-time hunts onto the deeper grass flats to feed. When the waters are colder in the winter, spotted seatrout tend to find deep water in canals or in the open water in the Gulf or Tampa Bay to find a more steady, tolerable environment. In these waters, food for the trout may not be abundant, if it exists at all. This being said, when water temperatures become favorable once again, these trout will move back to the flats to feed. This creates an opportunity for the angler to not only find large amounts of trout but very hungry trout, which can create the perfect recipe for anglers. Many hungry fish means plenty of action. This will also apply to the snook bite in the upcoming weeks, as long as we don’t experience a cold March.
On my Just Reel charters, I am finding the sheepshead accommodating for my clients. Large spawning fish, 5-6 pounds are being caught frequently as well as numerous smaller fish in the 2- to 3-pound range. I’m finding the best action on calmer days when I can spend time thoroughly working the artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and in Tampa bay. On windier days, I’m finding myself fishing inshore around docks and canals. I’m finding fish in these areas, although the bite is not comparable to the reef bite.