Fishing Report May 17, 2023

Clear skies brings crystal clear water and variety of catches

With minimal amounts of rain, Anna Maria Island fishers are out enjoying the crystal clear emerald waters in the inland areas and in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing the artificial reefs and wrecks west of Anna Maria is beginning to gear up as migratory species — kingfish and bonito — are passing through our region. And following these fish are plenty of sharks if you fancy hooking into a large predator. 

Bottom fishing around structure in the shallower areas of the Gulf is yielding action. Mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper can be found in these areas. Try chumming to raise the snapper off the bottom for some great action on medium spinning tackle. And in the crystal clear water, you can watch the snapper as they frolic through the chum making them quite targetable.

Moving inshore, the deep grass flats of Tampa Bay south to Sarasota Bay are host to a variety of fish. Spotted seatrout can be targeted while free-lining live shiners or small pinfish on the edges of the sandy potholes. Mixed in are some large rogue Spanish mackerel as well as jack crevalle, ladyfish and bluefish. You may even encounter the blues following up the trout you have on the end of your line and fiercely biting off its tail. Targeting catch-and-release snook on the shallower flats is also worth looking at. I’m not seeing as many snook as in previous years for this month, although their numbers should be improving as we near June. Redfish are following suit with most being found around mangrove shorelines or around docks with deep water. 

Lastly, here’s a tidbit of advice — it’s probably time to dust off your tarpon gear. Numerous catches are occurring around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which means the “beach bite” is near.

On my Just Reel fishing charters, I’m fishing the deeper flats of Tampa Bay which is yielding great action on a variety of species. Spotted seatrout 14-22 inches are being caught fairly consistently, although on some days, the migratory species — Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and Jack crevalle are moving in and dominating the bite. For most anglers this is ok as all of these fish are worthy adversaries on medium spinning gear. And on many occasions they are a welcome sight as they add variety to the bite.

Targeting sharks around the sand bars in Tampa Bay is proving to be entertaining. And, with an abundance of jacks and macks available, getting bait for these toothy predators is easy. Sight-casting to these sharks as they patrol the shallow sand bars is most exciting. On many occasions, my clients and I are watching them eat the bait. It doesn’t get any better than that, ya’ll. For sheer excitement, this experience is a crowd-pleaser.