Angler Rich MacNeil loves to fish at the Rod and Reel Pier near the northern tip of Anna Maria Island. About once a week he drives from Hillsborough County to visit what he calls one of the best land-based fishing spots around.
“It’s worth driving past the Skyway Bridge, Pass-a-Grille and a bunch of other spots to get to the best spot,” MacNeil said. “I have a buddy who grew up on the island that introduced me to the pier and I’ve been going ever since.”
MacNeil chronicles his fishing trips on his YouTube channel Show Me The Snapper. In his most recent episode titled “Redfish frenzy at empty Fl pier post hurricane Dorian,” he visited his favorite pier once again Thursday morning.
“That was the least amount of people I’ve ever seen there. The building was closed for three days, and I think we showed up the day after. Between the closed pier and the hurricane there was no one else out there,” MacNeil happily explained. “On a normal weekend it’s usually elbow to elbow and absolutely full of people.”
Snook and snapper are MacNeil’s normal targets from the pier. Occasionally pelagics like tarpon and cobia also swim by so MacNeil stays prepared for everything. On Thursday he started his excursion by catching lizardfish for bait.
“I use a tandem spec rig, like Love’s Lures or trout tots. Let it hit the bottom and jig it. The lizards are super aggressive. I’ll catch about 10 or 12 and put them in a barrel with a bubbler on it.”
With a few lizardfish acquired, MacNeil tossed one out for bait. It was inhaled by a big redfish, and after a quick fight on the first one, MacNeil tried to lift it up by the leader, but the redfish was so big the line broke.
After re-rigging another lizard fish was tossed out for bait. He hooked up again for a second redfish, but this time a net was at the ready after a short fight. “That’s a strong fish,” he can be heard saying on the video.
The redfish, which MacNeil estimated to be around 20 pounds, was quickly unhooked and released.
He was able to land another two before calling it a day.
“The redfish are definitely hit or miss out there. There’s either a ton or none. You need to fish it before you know,” MacNeil said. “The best time is really early and with moving tides, preferably outgoing. By the middle of the day there’s usually too many anglers, and the fishing is slower in the heat.”