The most unique aspect to the Photo All-Release fishing tournament that the Sarasota Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is holding April 21 is that everyone competes on a level playing field.
Although anglers can fish anywhere in the southwest Florida coastal area, the only lures or flies that can be used in the tournament are the ones provided as part of the entry fee.
“That alone is worth more than the entry ($100 now until the tournament begins),” said Brian Gorski, one of the event chairmen. “Then add in two meals, a T-shirt and the free beer and wine—plus the fun of fishing in the tournament itself—and it’s a great deal.”
The tournament kicks off with a mandatory Captain’s meeting 6pm April 20 in the Potter Building at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds. Fishing begins at 7am on the 21st, with check-in at New Pass Grill & Bait Shop between 2 and 3pm.
Anglers are required to provide their own digital camera, and submit the removable memory card to qualify for the Grand Slam, Largest Fish, Fly, Ladies, or Youth divisions.
Last year’s Grand Slam winner was Mike McDonald, of Sarasota, who registered a 27-inch snook, 24 ½-inch redfish, and 24-inch trout.
“The snook was the species I was concerned about,” McDonald said. “I knew I could catch redfish and trout. So I went looking for snook around the docks first thing in the morning, but that bombed out. I just couldn’t find anything worthwhile.
“I got my trout near the Ringling flat at about eight o’clock, then my snook and redfish a half-hour apart in mid-morning up near Buttonwood Harbor. I saw a lot of really large redfish, but Eddie Arsenault, who was fishing with me, caught a 33-inch red (the biggest that was turned in during the tournament) and that blew out the one I was hoping to catch.”
Gorski said profits from the tournament go to CCA Florida “to help fund our advocacy efforts on issues that effect anglers throughout the state.” He said 85 anglers were entered last year, and expects a similar number this month.
WHERE THEY ARE BITING
Look for redfish amid schools of mullet in Palma Sola Bay, sea trout at the mouth of the Manatee River, and pompano near passes and around the Cortez Bridge, according to Jim Eliason, of Discount Tackle. Keeper-sized red grouper are on hard bottom beginning at 80 feet, and King mackerel are between 7 and 10 miles off Anna Maria Island.
Jim Mitchell, of Longboat Key, son Todd Bruce and granddaughter Ruby (8) caught snook to 25 inches, snapper to 15, trout and ladyfish on pilchards in Robert’s Bay with Capt. Jim Klopfer, of Adventure Charters out of CB’s.
Tom Dobbins and sons Mike (9) and Joey (7), of NH, caught Spanish mackerel to 5 pounds, pompano to 3, sea trout to 26 inches, silvers and flounder to 15 on Mirr-O-Dine lures and CAL jigs at Big Pass, Robert’s Bay and Marina Jack with Capt. Jack Hartman, of Sarasota Fishing Charters.
Joe McCurrin, of MD, and Stan Ross, of VA, caught trout, and reds to 24 inches, on CAL shad tails near Bishop’s Point with Capt. Rick Grassett, of Snook Fin-Addict out of CB’s.
Joe Garibaldi IV and sons Joe V (13) and Matt (10), of New Jersey, caught Spanish mackerel to 4 pounds, trout to 15 inches, ladyfish, snapper, and large sailcats on live shrimp and chartreuse Mirr-O-Lures at Bishop’s Point and the Middleground with Capt. Tony Petrella, of Tight Loops.
Tom Dailey, of Mahi Mac’s, says anglers are reporting good catches of king mackerel inside the M-reefs off Casey Key in 25-30 feet of water.
Capt. Jack Ryan, of the Sea Dog out of CB’s, reports cobia to 36 inches and red grouper to 21 on pinfish in 45 feet of water off Venice, along with scamp to 15, Key West grunt, porgies and small gag grouper.
Bill Crisafulli, Ed Nettles and Bob Ouderkirk, of Sarasota, and Tom See, of CO, caught red grouper to 14 pounds, mangrove snapper to 4, porgies, Lane snapper and triggerfish on cut sardines and pinfish in 106 feet of water off Nokomis with Capt. Ed Johnson, of FishFactor out of Dockside Store.
Randy Powell and Nick Gibbons caught trout to 8 pounds and snook on live shrimp and DOA Deadly Combos after sunset near Blackburn Point.
Ed Irons, of the North Jetty Fish Camp, says snapper and sheepshead are active around the rocks on bits of shrimp. Also look for mackerel, pompano and some snook.
JD Donohue, of Hobie Kayak, says reds to 28 inches, trout to 24 and snook to 25 are taking Heddon One Knocker Spook topwater lures on shallow grass flats on the west side of Lemon Bay.
Dale Myers, of Clearwater, and Bruce Patrick, of MI, caught trout to 17 inches with chartreuse Mirr-O-Lure shallow water plugs in grass flats on the east side of Pine Island.
Capt. Jack Pearson, of the Reef Raider, reports catches of red grouper to 8 pounds, along with Lane and mangrove snapper, grunts and porgies 17 miles off Stump Pass of cut threadfin and squid.
Tabor and Olin Grindrod, of Geneva, FL, caught slot-sized trout on Gulp! shrimp while wading northeast Lemon Bay, according to Capt. KO Corl, of Englewood Bait House.