Just Reel Fishing Charters: Anna Maria Island Fishing Report January 18, 2023

Seize the moment — head out in the Gulf for a variety of species 

Anna Maria Island anglers are seizing the moment by venturing out to the nearshore ledges in the Gulf of Mexico on days between cold fronts, when the Gulf waters are tame and tranquil and the warm sun above gently shines down off the emerald green waters below.

Most of these treks range anywhere from a mile from the beach out to 10 miles. This seems to be the comfort zone for a majority of fishers who own smaller boats in the 20-30 foot range. For those willing and equipped to venture further out — 30 miles or more — the rewards can be slightly greater, although much more planning and dedication is required.

For those anglers fishing nearshore within 10 miles, live shrimp as bait works well. Many species that dwell in these waters are quite happy to eat an unsuspecting shrimp if it crosses their path. In fact, many of the tropical looking species — triggerfish, porgies, hogfish and sheepshead — solely rely on crustaceans. Key West grunts, mangrove snapper and red and gag grouper that inhabit these areas also find a meal of shrimp quite exquisite.

The ledges and reefs can also be host to a variety of exotic species. Batfish, scorpion fish, toad fish and lizard fish may also be reeled up at any given moment which adds to the plethora of experiences to be had while fishing these areas.

Speaking of exotics, anglers venturing further into the Gulf in the 40-mile range are catching large African Pompano. These fish truly are a slight to be seen when reeled up boat side. With their long tassels hanging from their dorsal and anal fins, streaming in the current lit up to a neon blue alongside their broad silvery body reflecting the sun, these fish are capable of putting up a memory that will last a lifetime.

So when the timing is right, don’t miss out on getting in some time in the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes it’s nice to get off the flats and see some different fish besides snook, redfish and trout.

On my Just Reel charters, I’m spending time in the Gulf. Fishing ledges and reefs in depths of 20-45 feet is proving to provide plenty of action for my clients. Using live shrimp as bait is yielding hogfish, Key West grunts, mangrove snapper, porgies and sheepshead. If that ain’t fish fry material, I don’t know what is. I’m also seeing a lot of juvenile red and gag grouper in the 16-18 inch range being reeled up.