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Tampa Bay / Sarasota Bay

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I'm planning a trip to Anna Maria Island and am wondering if the fishing is decent off the piers and beaches? What kind of tackle would I need? And what could I expect to catch?

Also how far (and where) would I have to travel to have a shot at a lunker bass from a shore/ community fishing hole?

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I was at Anna Maria Island week before Christmas. First thing you do is go to Skinnys and have a beer and a burger. The city bus works great to get around the island.

I didn't fish but saw alot of locals fishing. The ones I saw had medieum spinning tackle. They used slip bobbers and a shrimp. Lots of piers to fish from wish I had brought tackle.

One of the nicer places we have stayed for a long time.

Trout Lake fishing

Lonnie 218-780-3610

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Thanks for the input, I'll have to see if I can fit any of my 2 piece rods into the suit case. If not I'll just bring some reels and buy some rods. I think we will try off the piers at first. We may also get a charter/guide for some off shore fishing.

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For an inexpensive charter but a good day I recommend the Flying Fish Charters out of Sarasota Bay. I think it's called Mad Jack's pier....or something like that. They'll keep your fish and clean them for you too, if you want. You can come home with a nice red snapper dinner on a good day. I've always enjoyed their trips, more casual obviously, but still a well run operation.

I have a name of a guide at work I can send you tomorrow if you want, as I was looking at a 1/2 or full day chasing snook or redfish in Sarasota or Tampa Bays. Not cheap, but it seems too cool to pass on....more of a flat boat deal with just me on the bow....$450 range for a full day.

Thanks for the reminder, I gotta line a trip up.....

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Gear really depends on what species you're targeting. most Med to med-heavy will be able to handle most species. one thing to make sure is have a reel of good quality, with a good amount of line. Ocean fish just run,run and run some more. i've been spooled before.

instead of tryin to pack rods into a suitcase. id recommend to put them in rod holders in check it in. i couldnt find a decent one for the right price. so i made one from 6" pcv, a cap on one end and a thread cap on the other. all said n done cost me about $20.

then all ya gotta do is put your reels in your suitcase with sum basic tackle. hooks, sinkers, swivels, misc

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I usually save my rod tubes, when ordering from cab ela catalog. I think that is a better option.

Here is some more info I found on the web. I hope this helps anyone in the future looking for info. I copy / pasted useful bits onto a blank text document:

1. I was down there last April for five days and caught fish at two locations. The first was on Manatee ave just before you drive over the bridge to the island . You can park on either side of the road, I had my best luck on the left side where I could wade out and cast shrimp flies to the sandy holes. I took some nice seatrout this way. The second place is the cut between Anna Marie Island and Longboat Key at the southern end of the island where I caught ladyfish and jacks. There are also two fishing piers on the north end of the island. I hope this helps, and good luck !

2. Anna maria? Walk your butt out into the surf and cast a spoon. Then reel it as fast as humanly possible. Have fun ---- I gotta try the "fast as you can" approach sometime soon.

I go out to the city pier now and then. Caught a few macks and trout about a week or so ago. The trout bite seems to be tapering off. Macks probably best in early morning.

I second going to beach. Get out to Bean point if you can and try the spoon or Gotcha.

As for the pier, try on the right (as you're walking out) with jigs right around the "no cast netting" mark.

3. Anna Maria Island/Coquina beach park. Beach is beautiful. Has several picnic tables under large oak trees. Fish next to the Anna Maria draw bridge with cut shrimp on small hooks. Lots of sand perch in that area.

4. It really is hard to beat the Ft. Desoto area. If you want him to catch something before he gets board, take him to the campgrounds and fish off the north side of the small bridge. He can catch all the grunts he wants and there is ampule opportunity to catch higher quality fish. Then you can go to the beach and have a picnic.

5. Be careful at LB pass. A lot of swift current there when the tide is ripping. Also drops off deep just off the shore line right at the bridge and the sand under the water is like quicksand. Have him where a PFD. Rod n Reel pier is also a good place at the north end of the island....Russ

6. Put in your yak at the south/east side of the Cortez bridge and fish the spoil island just south of the launch location. I caught 2 reds on the most northern spoil island of the three islands. the spoil islands are about 3/4 of a mile away. I used cut pin fish. That is all the luck I had that day. Or,You can launch all around the 64 bridge and Kingfish Ramp. The flats on either side of the bridge are great for reds and trout. The previously mentioned Kitchen Key is a good spot too.

7. So, if you intend to wade fish, you would wade out around 25 yards to a shallow bar. Cast straight out. Live bait is the best but artificials can be used. As far as Sharks, I have been wading there for 20 yrs and never had one come up. I would shuffle my feet to scare off stingrays as there are small ones in the area. On the pier you will probably be limited to catching an occasional Mackeral and maybe some Whiting or Sheephead. You may get lucky and catch a Flounder occasionally, but not very big. Redfish do pass by, but it's not that frequent they are caught. As far as tackle, if you are fishing on the pier, I would use a braided line to help the line from being cut on pilings. I would use a mono leader around 30 pound test, and small sinker and a #1 or 2 circle hook is fine. As far as artificials, I would use a silver spoon for Mackeral, and maybe a jig head with a grub to try for the Reds or Flounder. As for Tides, I like the outgoing in the late afternoon.

8. There are some nice grass flats that can be waded nearby. You can try the Manatee Ave bridge (Anna Maria Bridge) just as you come on the island. The east end, south side is very wader friendly. Also, if you don't mind a 30 min drive, the south pier at the Skyway bridge is doing really well right now.

As far as boat rentals, try Canon's Marina on Longboat. It's a lot closer and near to great flats fishing and Sarasota bay. Here's the link. There great people.

9. As far as lifting fish when fishing on a bridge or pier, depending on how close you are to the water, some people use a drop net which is a circular net on a cord that is lowered and the fish is moved over it and then its lifted. On large fish, I have seen some people actually use a large treble hook on a line that they use to snag the fish and then lift. On the lower piers, they use dip nets to land the fish. The unfortunate thing is that most people don't have the correct equipment available and decide to lift with the line and in many cases the hook pulls or the line breaks.

As far as crowds on the piers and tangles, it does require actively watching your line and other peoples lines. That is probably the best way but all bets are off when a fish is hooked and decides to run. Then you just deal with it the best you can.

As far as waders, I don't use them. I do hear lots of guys do wear waders, but it's mostly in the winter time when water temps are cold.

10. Hey there been fishing the Rod and reel since I was 4, great place to fish and just hang out.

Here is what I do and I seem to far pretty well. Get yourself a cooler with two or three of the cheap air machines from walmart. Go to Annies right there off the cortez bridge and get your self a few dozen of the largest shrimp they have along with a few pins (less than a dozen should be fine).

Go back to the rod and reel pier on the outgoing tide and get a spot the right side to the pier and free line those large shrimp (add a small split shot weight if needed) under the pier the tide should take them right back under the pier.

You should get reds, black drum and there are some resident grouper there. As far as the pins do the same as with with shrimp but just let that rod sit in one of the rod holders.

Anyway if u hit the pier on a incoming tide go to the left hand side there are two pilings that come up through the floor ( kinda skinny but u can fish it and land fish)freeline a larde shrimp there as well.

Those are my honey holes on that pier and I do well when I go.

11. Moving over to the beaches, anglers are catching a variety of species. Spanish mackerel and ladyfish are cruising the beaches chasing schools of bait. “Silver spoons, white jigs and Gotcha plugs are the lures to carry if you’re beach fishing,” Keyes says.

Also on the beaches, fishers are catching pompano and whiting using live shrimp and pompano jigs.

Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says pier fishers are catching Spanish mackerel on crappie jigs and silver spoons. On these same lures, fishers are reeling up ladyfish and blue runners. Fishers opting to use cut bait on the bottom are catching plenty of small bonnethead and black tip sharks. Live shrimp fished on the bottom are producing pompano.

Moving inshore, Girle is catching redfish up to 30 inches. Select shrimp and shiners are working well for the bull reds. Also on the flats, Girle is catching spotted sea trout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on white bait.

12. Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says fishing is getter better by the day. Fishers using live threadfins are still reeling in keeper kingfish. “We had a 32-pound king and a 35-pound king landed within 10 minutes of each other the other day,” Medley says.

Keeper-size gag grouper are still being caught on large pieces of cut bait fished on the bottom. Both pompano and jack crevalle are being caught consistently around the pier using Love’s lures tipped with pieces of shrimp. The pompano have been on the smaller side, but the jacks are averaging 4-5 pounds. Bonito are beginning to appear but have not yet made a strong showing. He recommends using small jigs and spoons to catch these football-shaped cousins of tuna.

If you’re into night fishing, try targeting mangrove snapper using small pieces of cut bait under the pier. “You can’t throw your bait far enough under the pier,” Medley says. “When you get your bait under there, hang on. There’s some nice-size snapper down there.”

13. BAIT - if I want shrimp on the island, where the best place to go? Whenever we go I always try catchers, but I get shrimp at gandy bait that are bigger for less than what they charge. Does anyone else sell bait or is catchers the monopoly for it on the island? Both piers on the island sell shrimp, as well as, Annie's which is on the Bradenton side of the Cortez Rd. Bridge. also on your way out you can go to the 59th st shell station on manatee ave

Also, pier fishers are targeting blue crabs on the incoming tide. Get a 20-foot handle and attach a decent-size net in order to target these tasty crustaceans. You can just keep scooping and fill a 5-gallon bucket.

14. I do a Lot of fishin just south of The Cortez Rd Bridge.

Lots of great flats and mangrove lines with structure immediately just south the Cortez bridge. Just north of it on the east side of the ICW is some good 3ft flats, and further north some grass in 8ft that we have hammered the trout on.

15. I am no expert, but I was just there for a week and I can comment on the shore spots. First is the Skyway. You can get there in about 15 minutes from Bradenton. There are two good piers I found on Anna Maria island. The Rod and Reel and the AMI City Pier. Thats about 15-20 minutes from Bradenton. On the way out to AMI on 64 you will cross Palma Sola Bay. There is some good shore fishing (wading) opportunities there. There is an excellent pier in Palmetto called the Green Bridge. It's on the Palmetto side of the 41/45 Bridge over the Manitee River. Thats about 10 minutes or so from Bradenton. Then there is Sarasota and Siesta Key. In Sarasota, check out the pier called Harts Landing. It's on the land side of 789 as you head out to St Armands Circle. In Siesta Key I did well on both ends of the north bridge (Siesta Drive). There is a great tackle shop at the south bridge (Stickney) called CB's Outfitters. They can give you further help and some up to date information. Siesta Key was about 20 minutes fron Bradenton. I only scratch the surface of places to fish, but I tried all of these and caught fish. Jigs and plastics (or Gulp!).

16. Find some grass in 3-5 ft of water and just drift accros flat. I usually throw out 2 baits one live, one cut, under a float and then cast a third rod with top water plugs. Zarra spooks, Mirromullet usually work well. If there is a lot of floating grass I go to DOAs and jerk baits. I've had some big sharks and cobia hit the drifted baits...........Russ

17. I like to fish around the Longboat Key Bridge on the South end of Anna Maria. there are always Snook crusing the rock at the cement dock but I have only had them bite in the evenings just after sun down. snook are so frustrating you can see them but they are nobodys fool.

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I stayed on Anna Maria a couple times during March college spring breaks...great area. I caught convicts and macks off the piers, got a bunch of stuff on party boats (grunts, snapper, grouper), flounder off the beach, and went out one day with a guide and got into the redfish and snook. You could also do shark on the beach and there are limitless options in the area.

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