Just Reel Fishing Charters: Anna Maria Island Fishing Report January 4, 2023

New Year, new species to target

With temperatures back on the rise, Anna Maria Island fishers are finding themselves back out on the water in search of a bite.

Although air temps are hovering in the mid 70s during the day, the water temps are in the upper 50s to mid 60s which is triggering the sheepshead to start gathering up in preparation to spawn. 

Fishing depths of 25-50 feet of water is proving to provide the most consistent action for not only sheepshead but a host of other species including mangrove snapper, Key West grunts and hogfish. Live shrimp as bait works well, especially when combined with a bottom rig such as a knocker, fish finder or a hog ball.

On windier days — which we have quite a few of throughout the winter — anglers not wishing to brave rough seas in the Gulf of Mexico are resorting to staying inshore to target black drum, redfish and flounder. 

Fishing residential canals and docks is an ideal way to target these species as well as a great option to stay comfortable by escaping the wind and the waves. And don’t be surprised to find a few sheepies lurking in these areas. 

You may not consistently encounter the larger sheepshead as you would in the Gulf, but you could manage to put a few keepers in the cooler. And depending on which canals you’re in there’s always a chance on finding some large snook that spend the winter in the warmer waters that the canals provide. Try free-lining large shrimp or working a DOA shrimp slowly around the docks. You may get quite a surprise.

On my own Just Reel charters, I’m seeing a respectable amount of sheepshead being reeled up when fishing structure and ledges in the Gulf of Mexico. Most sheepies are coming in at 14-16 inches with some larger ones mixed in. While targeting the sheepies, I’m also seeing some mangrove snapper and Key West grunts. 

Fishing residential canals and docks is yielding redfish and black drum as well as a few sheepshead. On warmer days, jigging the flats of Sarasota Bay is offering action on spotted seatrout and pompano with some jack crevalle and ladyfish mixed in.