Capt. Josh Fritz, 352-345-9304: Capt. Josh hit the shallow grouper rocks in 8 to 12 feet of water west of Aripeka on the opening day of gag grouper season Monday and quickly limited out on them. Water temperature over the hard, limestone bottom areas in those depths was about 83 degrees. He suspects the fish will remain in the shallow water this month before rising Gulf temperatures send the fish offshore to cooler, deeper water. Live sardines is a good bait choice, though live pinfish work, too. Inshore anglers stand a good chance with redfish around the rocky-bottom areas of points and small islands. The fish are over the rocks and hard bottom around the last of the incoming tide and the first part of the outgoing. Live sardines are a top bait, but don’t rule out cut mullet fished on the bottom. The scent of the oily cut bait can attract reds from long distances.
Capt. Mike Manning, 727-243-8918: Capt. Mike provided an update on the tarpon bite in Boca Grande, where he’ll be fishing through the summer before returning to our local waters. More and more fish are taking to the beaches north and south of the Boca Grande Pass, which is fine by Manning, as he likes stalking the silver kings along the coastline. Live pass crabs are the bait of choice. His clients are hooking up a dozen or more fish every trip, so the action is hot and heavy. Between the beach, the deep waters of the pass, the hill tide bites and fish in the back country and sound, there are lots of options right now. He estimates there are tens of thousands of fish and right now there is not better place to score a trophy tarpon.
Tackle shop roundup
The Tackle Box, 727-819-3783: Capt. Buck says the snook are all on the outside now, on the beaches and off the Gulf points as they prepare for the summer spawn. They will be feeding heavily to fuel up for the spawn, so it’s a good chance at a trophy fish. The season is closed, so it’s sport fishing only. Reds are a good bet up and down the coast over rocks, oyster beds and along flooded mangroves. Keep moving, keep looking. Trout are on the grass flats, along with good numbers of cobia, though anglers are reporting the cobia have been on the small side. Warming water is seeing more sharks in the area. The shallows will be holding lots of 2- to 4-footers. Anglers fishing around Anclote Key at night are targeting fish to 6 feet or more. The pier at the north Anclote Park is another good night-fishing spot for sharks.
One Stop Bait and Tackle, 727-842-5610: Joe reports anglers in the shop Monday were buying bait and tackle to head offshore for the opening of gag grouper season. By this time next week he’ll have a good idea of how the fishing is going, though reports over the last couple of weeks by anglers scouting ahead of the season were that there are plenty of fish and they are running large. Many offshore anglers are taking live shrimp along to go for hog snapper on the bottom or to tempt triple tail, which they often spot offshore near the surface around floating buoys and markers. Anglers are reporting tarpon rolling off the creeks and channels between the Cotee and Anclote Rivers. Fish, from 20-pound juveniles to some well over 100 pounds, are not unusual this time of year. Many anglers look for them early in the morning when the water is calm and they can be seen running in schools and breaking the surface.
J&J Bait and Tackle II, 727-940-7928: James says his anglers have been mixing it up, taking trout on the grass flats off the Anclote River and along St. Joseph Sound to the south. There are some cobia over the shallow grass and more and more sharks are showing up as the water warms. Snookers are finding fish on the island beaches, where they will be through August for the summer spawn. Some are reporting tarpon rolling. Typical places to find them are around the points and cuts at the barrier islands, including the north and south ends of Anclote Key. The flats off Fred Howard Park are another historically good place to find schools surfacing early in the mornings.