Get out an enjoy the spring-time fishing conditions before winter settles in

Although it is the middle of January, fishing around Anna Maria Island is resembling springtime fishing for yet another week. 

Many anglers are still using live shiners as bait to target flats dwelling species such as snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. And with the water temps hovering in the low 70s, these fish are responding quite positively to the offerings of live shiners. 

Don’t despair if you don’t have shiners. Live shrimp are working well for not only the snook, reds and trout. Black drum, sheepshead, snapper and pompano are frequenting inshore waters and generally won’t pass up a tasty shrimp if you can get one in front of their nose. 

Live shrimp are also coming in handy when fishing structure in the Gulf of Mexico. Artificial reefs, wrecks and hard bottom areas hold plenty of fish that can’t resist an offering of live shrimp. Mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, flounder and hogfish are just a few of the species you may encounter while fishing in the Gulf. You might even find some hungry jack crevalle or Spanish mackerel that’ll eat a shrimp too. 

For anglers who don’t care to mess with using live bait, many species are responding to artificials right now. Try casting top-water or suspending plugs over your favorite trout holes in the backcountry for some explosive action. MirrOlure has a great selection of both. Soft plastics on a jig head are also deadly for trout right now. Carry an assortment of colors to experiment with to see which color works best according to where you’re located. You may also find the snook and reds will respond to these jigs, too. 

Lastly, the winter clock is ticking so take advantage of the mild weather now because it’s going to to get cold eventually and the bite will change. 

On my Just Reel charters, I am patrolling the Gulf beaches in search of a bite. Using live shrimp as bait is yielding a wide range of species including black drum, redfish, sheepshead, pompano and permit. The pompano and permit are requiring a little persistence to find, so I’m using jigs tipped with shrimp to cover larger areas of water. As for the reds, drum and sheepies, live shrimp on a small knock rig is getting the job done.