Targetable species vary as much as recent temps
With temperatures ranging from the mid 40s to the mid 80s, trying to figure out what to target from one day to the next has Anna Maria Island Fisher’s heads spinning.
With days in the 80s, some anglers are using live shiners as bait to target, snook, redfish, and trout on the flats. Although this bite isn’t frequent in February, it’s not unheard of.
Most action is occurring during afternoon tides when the shallow waters on the flats have had their full warming potential for the day. That being said, if you’re fishing the normal tides, you’ll need to switch tactics.
For the snook, it’s best to leave them alone until later in the day. As for the trout, drifting and jigging with soft plastics is working well. It seems as if getting the jig down on the bottom, right in front of the trout is triggering a strike. And for the redfish, casting live shrimp in sandy potholes or around docks, seems to be preferable during the cooler morning hours.
And after a string of warm days, a front arrives bringing temperatures in the 40s to our area causing drastic sudden drops in water temperatures which changes everything. The snook you were catching, aren’t eating now, and even the trout may shut down for a day or two until the conditions level off again. As for the reds, they seem to be fairly tolerant of colder water, although the sudden change may trigger them to have lockjaw, too.
If you just have to go fishing, no matter what it’s best to stock up on some live shrimp and target fish such as sheepshead and black drum. Both of these species don’t mind the cooler water temps and will generally feed right through the cold front.
On my own Just Reel charters, I am fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay on days when the air temps are warm and the winds are calm. Drifting and jigging with soft plastics works well for spotted sea trout. On some mornings I’m seeing 20-30 fish caught on a jig and sizes are anywhere from 12-20 inches with most right in the 15-inch range.
Targeting redfish and sheepshead is producing some action when using live shrimp as bait. Most reds being caught are 15-22 inches — some fish exceeding 30 inches are being caught by lucky anglers.
As for the sheepies, fish in the 2-pound range are the norm.