Ring in the new year with great weather, fishing action

As we kick off the new year, fishing around Anna Maria Island is beginning on a high note.
With mild temperatures and fairly calm seas, fishing inshore and offshore are proving to be quite productive.
While offshore, anglers are boating catches of hogfish, snappers and plenty of grouper — as well as some amberjack, porgies and Key West grunts. Most of these catches are occurring on live shrimp as bait. For the amberjack and groupers, live pinfish are the bait of choice. Remember, gag grouper are catch-and-release until June 1.
Moving inshore, anglers are enjoying quite a variety of species depending on where they are fishing. Those working along the beaches are finding pompano, ladyfish and blue runners as well as some keeper-size whiting. Moving out into the Gulf, slightly deeper around the artificial reefs is yielding sheepshead, mangrove snapper and Key West grunts. Lucky anglers are hooking into hogfish in depths as shallow as 30 feet.
Fishing on the flats is producing some action but primarily on the deeper flats of 5-8 feet. In these areas, catch-and-release spotted seatrout are the most apparent, although catches of pompano, bluefish and ladyfish are also quite frequent.
Finally, fishing residential canals and docks is providing action on the windy days where calm waters are limited. Casting shrimp under docks and along sea walls is yielding plenty of black drum, sheepshead, flounder and catch-and-release redfish. Some catch-and-release snook are being caught in these areas during the warmest parts of the day.
On my Southernaire charters I’m patrolling the beaches. Casting live shrimp or jigs tipped with fresh-cut shrimp is attracting some pompano as well as sheepshead, black drum and whiting. I’m also seeing clients hooking into ladyfish and jack crevalle — especially when throwing the jig.
On days when the beach waters are too rough, I’m spending time fishing rocks and docks in Tampa Bay. Catch-and-release redfish are the most prominent bite. Black drum and sheepshead are in the mix, adding some variety.
Fishing deeper grass areas is producing action, especially on catch-and-release spotted seatrout.

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