Summer is here with a vengeance.
It's very hot and humid, so be extra careful out on the water. With the heat, be sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen. Keep an eye on the sky for thunderboomers with a lot of lightning and sudden wind.
There is certainly a diverse list of species to target right now. A trip on Friday produced a number of grouper, mangrove snapper, a couple of big flounder, spanish macks and triggerfish on a small reef due west of Longboat pass in about 35 feet. We were not targeting tarpon but we saw numerous large schools right in Longboat Pass and out about a quarter-mile from the beaches of Anna Maria Island.
Heading back inshore to North Sarasota Bay, we encountered numerous spotted sea trout to 22 inches, bluefish, more spanish mackerel, redfish to 23 inches, and even a couple of good-sized gag grouper and mangrove snapper caught on an outgoing tide over deep grass of 5 to 6 feet. We saw some smallish cobia cruise by but they were apparently intent on something other than eating at the time.
As is usually the case this time of the year, the bait situation is in flux. Bait shrimp will be going to eyeballs and whiskers for the summer. The large spring pilchards will be harder to find, but there are plenty of fry pilchards available along with small pinfish and grunts. Scaling down to a quarter-inch mesh net is the ticket for the smaller summer bait.
The fry bait is of a fairly decent size for this early in the summer. These diminutive baits are candy for several species, especially mangrove snapper and mackerel. If you're looking for the makings for a quality fish fry over the next few months, the mangrove snapper are the way to go. The toothy panfish can be found on any kind of reef, wreck, rockpile or heavy dock structure from 40 feet of water in the Gulf all the way inshore to where the water starts sweetening up from the summer rains.
For pure sport there are numerous sharks, bonito, tarpon, snook and even some monster gafftopsail catfish all around the area.
Good luck and good fishing. Be careful out there!
Capt. "Zach" Zacharias
Docked on Palma Sola Bay at Parrot Cove Marina/Sunny Shores
115th Street West and 36th Avenue, Cortez, FL 34215
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