First let me start by saying Happy Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for. For example, the last two years at this time, the weather was COLD, but right now it is in the low to mid-80s and the fishing can prove it.
The past two Novembers, we were using shrimp and going for reds and sheepshead around docks and freezing in the process. Just this past week, we were having great catches of snook up to 36 inches, redfish up to 32 inches and all the big gator trout you want.
Bait is still very plentiful and there are Spanish mackerel and nice kingfish just off the beach. I was offshore this past Tuesday for the last day of grouper season and finished out the season with a 30-inch gag.
I was really kind of bummed out that the season was closing just as the grouper were really starting to take off.
But then I learned they have kept red grouper open and as of sometime in December the limit will go from two to four fish per person.
I was also seeing the lesser amberjacks starting to work their way in to the closer spots where they hang out for the winter. This is really great news as I have not seen them for the last two years with the water being so cold. I know that some of you have caught these fish with me before and have been asking when they would show back up, so I am happy to report these strong fighting, great tasting fish are back.
I also have been getting all the greater AJ’s up to 50-60 pounds just about every offshore trip I have run.
They also have changed the rules on trout and are keeping them open all year now. This is really something to be thankful for. I am trying to find out if they are going to reopen it this year or if we will have to wait until next fall for the changes to kick in on the trout. As soon as I find out I will let you all know.
Either way, this is a really good change for us all.
I know a lot of you have been asking me if I will be here the week of Thanksgiving and I haven’t been real sure but after seeing the 10-day forecast I think I will be staying right here and will be taking advantage of this beautiful weather and the great fishing that is going on right now.
The other fish I am really surprised to be seeing is the flounder. They have been everywhere, and I have had some days where I had to clean more flounder than any other fish we had. They are also all sizes from 10 inches all the way up to 23 inches.
I really don’t know what more we could ask for, but for now I am just happy we aren’t freezing out there and still wearing shorts and short-sleeve shirts this late in the year.
Capt. Shawn Crawford
Action was good in Sarasota Bay and in the coastal gulf during the week of Nov. 14. Anglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff, the Snook Fin-Addict, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, caught and released trout, reds, flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and albies (little tunny) on DOA and CAL lures and flies.
“What is an albie?” a couple of people have asked recently. They are little tunny, known as false albacore or albies to anglers from the Carolinas to New England and called bonito in Florida. There is a pilgrimage of fly anglers every fall to Harker’s Island, N.C. (Cape Lookout), where hundreds of anglers gather to fly-fish for false albacore or albies, which is where I was introduced to fly-fishing for them. They are one of my favorite fish to catch on a fly, and we also have a great fishery for them here in the fall and spring. Unlike some other areas, we also have good options for bay and flats fishing if sea conditions in the coastal gulf are rough.
Tony Ryan, from Osprey, and Rich Carroll, from North Port, fished Sarasota Bay with me on Nov. 12. Following a front the day before, it was cool to start but it warmed up quickly. They caught and released trout, blues, flounder and a nice red on CAL jig with shad tails and DOA Deadly Combos at Stephens Point and near Buttonwood Harbor. Bill Moore and his son, Mark Moore, from the Chicago area, fished the same areas with me the next day. They had good action with trout, blues and Spanish mackerel on CAL jigs and DOA Deadly Combos.
Wes Demmon, also from the Chicago area, fished Sarasota Bay with me on a foggy morning early in the week. We caught and released trout on CAL: jigs with shad tails near Bird Key while we waited for heavy fog to lift enough so we could go into the coastal gulf. He caught and released a few mackerel on flies and Diamond jigs and had some shots at albies. Wes also had a shot at a big tripletail as we ran a crab trap line on our way back.
Denis Clohisy, from Wisconsin, and Pat DeCastro, from Ohio, fished several days with me from Nov. 17 through Nov. 19. With an approaching front, we were still able to get out into the coastal gulf on Thursday. They had good action with Spanish mackerel and ladyfish on Ultra Hair Clouser flies in Big Pass and then we went and hunted albies in the coastal gulf. We located some feeding fish but they were still being picky like they were earlier in the week. We stuck with them and they had 3 hookups, one on a Clouser, one on a Crease fly and one on my Snook Minnow fly and landed one that day. The action ended that day with two or three big bait balls being crashed by mackerel, albies and sharks. An awesome sight!
Friday was very windy and we weren’t able to fish the gulf that day so we fished the east side of Sarasota Bay. Despite winds gusting more than 20 mph they still had decent action. They caught and released numerous trout, 4 reds and a couple of flounder on Ultra Hair Clouser flies and CAL jigs with shad and grub tails. Conditions improved on Saturday and we were able to get back into the coastal gulf. Albies were plentiful and in a better mood that day, staying up longer and giving us a chance to get a fly in front of them. They hooked six fish and landed four, all on a tan Grassett Snook Minnow. The fish were mostly in the 10-lb class and went deep into their backing. A good day!
Conditions should be good this week for more of the same. Tides will improve toward the end of the week as we approach a new moon Friday, so deep and shallow flats of Sarasota Bay should also fish well.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.