Migrating tarpon begin to arrive in May and when the weather and tides cooperate, Anna Maria becomes one of the best tarpon fishing destinations on the planet. The best time to catch a tarpon is in the morning or evening when the tide is strong. Beaches, sandbars, and deep channel passes are where tarpon tend to school and live threadfins, pass crabs, or pinfish make the perfect baits. Further inshore, Sea trout can be found by drifting over grass flats and oyster beds – a live shiner or shrimp under a popping cork will entice a strike. Mangrove shorelines will be holding snook and redfish in healthy numbers. Chum with a handful of live shiners to create a feeding frenzy, then follow with a live, free-lined shiner when approaching these species.
Nearshore reefs and structure will usually have plenty of mangrove snapper, porgies, grunts, Spanish mackerel, and kingfish. Occasional gag and red grouper can also be caught here. Hanging a chum bag and adding cut sardines is a good way to excite anything in the area. Live shiners, shrimp, and pinfish can catch any bottom species and a blue runner or threadfin herring on a wire leader will usually get the attention of any kingfish or cobia that wander by. Also, be sure keep a crab or two ready when fishing nearshore structure in case a school of permit show up.
Offshore fishing in May is unique and some years, large schools of blackfin tuna will come within range. These are a pelagic species and are not normally something that can be targeted. Tuna are a prized game fish characterized by their delicious meat and strength when hooked. Gag and red grouper, mangrove and red snapper, plus kingfish, amberjacks, and cobia can also be frequently found when fishing offshore in May. Whitebait, squid, shrimp, and pinfish are key baits for these situations.