Striking fish invade local waters
rusty chinnis | submitted
Ed Chiles caught and released this little tunny on a fly
off mid-Longboat Key.
Anglers fishing the waters off Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key have been experiencing some terrific action on schools of Spanish mackerel, kingfish and little tunny (false albacore) just off the beaches. October and November are traditionally the best months to find these pelagic fish, which can be targeted using many different methods.
Live baiting is the most common technique followed closely by trolling. All of these species are also great targets for fly fishers and spin anglers using spoons, jigs and top water plugs.
There are a lot of reasons that these seasonal predators are so popular, chief among them being that presentation is not so critical and that they feed in frenzies that make finding and hooking one relatively easy.
Finding action is as easy as looking for birds hovering over fish feeding on schools of small baitfish. When there isn’t any surface action, it’s possible to find fish over structure like artificial reefs, ledges and dredging holes left from beach nourishment. Live baiters can chum fish using live shiners, while spin anglers and fly fishers will find top water plugs and poppers great fish finders.
When fishing for all three species. keep it simple and fish with light tackle. For the fly rod angler a light 8-9 weight outfit with a small Clouser style fly is a perfect for little tunny and mackerel. Attach a small 6- to 8-inch trace of light wire to a 30-pound butt section of leader using an Albright special for mackerel and kings
An alternative method for fly anglers is to tie flies on long shank hooks. Light spinning tackle is also effective. Try the same light wire leader with small white buck tail jigs or silver diamond jigs. Long shank hooks and long diamond jigs can be substituted if fish are leader shy. Top water plugs and flies are my favorite, as I like to see the action when a fish explodes on the surface.
If you’re targeting kings, work the edges of the bait schools and feeding frenzies with a bit heavier tackle. I would recommend 20-pound spinning tackle and a 10-weight fly outfit. Kings love top water and a big plug and or popper can produce some heart stopping top water action.
If you’re trolling, don’t make the mistake of running your boat right through schools of feeding fish. Approach cautiously, making wide circles around the action so that your lure and not your boat passes through the action. A better option is to calculate wind and current, positioning your boat for a drift. Cutting the engine will keep the fish and bait from sounding, and give you a much better chance at success.
Those anglers who don’t own a boat can still find excellent action on Spanish mackerel. The local piers, the edges of the passes and the bridge spans provide a great vantage point for targeting mackerel. The areas near the main span often tend to be the best due to the increased water depth and current flow. If you need distance to reach feeding fish ,use a torpedo weight ahead of the lure.
The passes are also a great place to target mackerel from a boat. An early morning outgoing tide seems to be the best, but a good incoming tide can also provide great action. Local piers also generate some spectacular mackerel action.
No matter what your angling method always bend down the barb on your hook. It’s unlikely that you’ll lose a fish if you keep a tight line. Mackerel, little tunny and king mackerel are all fast swimmers and kings and mackerel have extremely sharp teeth. You need to release them quickly if you don’t plan on eating them. You’ll also stand a better chance of keeping your fingers and a clean boat if the hook can be easily removed. The fish will have a much better chance of survival if you practice the quick launch release. Propel the fish into the water at a high rate of speed head first.
When the waters have calmed and cooled down after the current front, the action on the beach should peak. Don’t miss what is arguably one of the best fishing opportunities of the year. Access the bridges and piers on foot and explore the inshore waters by boat or kayak. You might also want to hire one of the many excellent guides advertised locally who can get you on the fast track to some great action.