Gulf of Mexico
January is primarily a bottom fishing month for Gulf of Mexico anglers. Red grouper and lane snapper are scattered on patches of live bottom in 60 to 100 feet of water. Fishing for mangrove snapper is good on small nearshore ledges and on artificial reefs in as little as 20 or 25 feet of water, and those same spots are starting to hold sheepshead now that their spawning season is getting underway. Grunts, triggerfish, porgys and hogfish are on ledges in 30 to 50 feet of water and are so cooperative that a shrimp dropped anywhere near one of these spots usually doesn't last long. Even though most anglers will be thinking bottom fish, even in mid-winter it's possible to have a surprise school of Spanish mackerel or drag-burning bonita show up under your anchored boat.
Trout, sheepshead, mangrove snapper and redfish are popular winter fisheries in Charlotte Harbor, but remember that trout and redfish seasons are currently closed so they are catch-and-release only. Trout will be found in canals, boat basins and waterways during cooler weather, but they move out onto nearby flats if we get a few days of temperatures approaching the 80 degree mark. The old standby shrimp/popping cork rig is hard to beat for catching numbers of trout, but skilled anglers can sometimes catch larger fish on jigs. Redfish can be found in mangrove creeks and canals and are starting to appear upriver. Sheepshead spawning season is now ramping up and these tasty zebra-striped fish are schooling around pier and dock pilings and on the artificial reefs in the harbor. Mangrove snapper can be caught around bridge and dock pilings and canal rip-rap as well as at the mouths of tidal creeks. Black drum are being caught in the PGI canals, around the highway bridges, and at the artificial reef off Alligator Creek.