Fishing Report February 8, 2023

Calm days and slick waters perfect ingredients for trophy catches

With a string of calm days, Anna Maria anglers are finding themselves venturing into the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of finding some nearshore and offshore action. 

Those fishing nearshore around the artificial reefs, wrecks and ledges are experiencing a variety of species while using live shrimp as bait. Snappers – mangrove, lane and yellowtails — are frequently being caught. Other species — Key West grunts, porgies and sheepshead — are being found as well as numerous juvenile red and gag grouper. Lucky anglers with the right numbers are also finding an occasional hogfish.

Those venturing out 20 miles or more are finding plenty of action, too. Bottom fishing is yielding respectable-sized red grouper as well as a variety of snappers including vermillion, mangrove, yellowtail and lane. And for anglers wishing to pull on some big fish, African pompano are topping the list followed by amberjack and cobia.

If fishing in the Gulf isn’t your thing, backwater opportunities are available. Redfish are being caught on artificials and live baits. Casting live shrimp under docks is working well while using soft plastics on a jig head is working well on the flats during the negative tides. And, while you’re rigged up with a jig, hit the deeper flats to find spotted seatrout and maybe a couple of pompano — if you’re lucky.

On my own Just Reel charters, I’m trying to get into the Gulf on the calm days. Fishing depths of 40-50 feet of water is proving to be good when using live shrimp as bait. Species such as Key West grunts and porgies are prevalent in these depths with a nice mix of other fish such as sheepshead, mangrove snapper, hogfish and triggerfish. 

On days when the Gulf is stirred up, I’m staying in the backwater which is yielding redfish, spotted seatrout, sheepshead and black drum — all of which are taking live shrimp offerings although the seatrout seem to respond to jigging with soft plastics more enthusiastically.