Gulf of Mexico
Gulf anglers can focus primarily on mixed-bag bottom fishing this month. The fish often aren’t huge but the action is usually steady on almost any piece of hard bottom from 10 to 35 miles out into the Gulf.
Mangrove snapper, triggerfish, grunts, sheepshead, porgys, hogfish, and other reef fish regularly keep anglers busy on rock ledges and on artificial reefs 8 to 10 miles out.
Patches of flat limestone rock in 60 to 90 feet of water typically produce red grouper, vermilion snapper, porgies and lane snapper. Fishing on wrecks or artificial reefs in about 80 feet or deeper provides a shot at yellowtail snapper and possibly an amberjack, but amberjack are often catch-and-release only: visit MyFWC.com for current dates and regulations before targeting.
Beside the reef fish on the menu, January often offers a few early-arriving schools of Spanish mackerel off the coast as they start thinking about making their spring runs. Bonita usually come and go all winter. It's usually a good bet to look for sharks to show up along the beaches and around anchored shrimp boats toward the month's end.
Most of the fishing effort in Charlotte Harbor in January will target trout, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, and redfish.
Look for trout on the flats when the weather's warm, and in canals, creeks and boat basins when it's chilly. In January, the winter sheepshead spawning season is usually in full bloom this month so docks, rocks, pilings, and other hard structures are likely to be holding schools of these tasty, hard-fighting fish.
Bigger structures such as the El Jobean bridge, the bridge reef in Charlotte Harbor, the Placida pier, and the Boca Grande dock are all usually loaded with fish, but smaller private docks and stretches of riprap along seawalls can also produce good numbers of sheepshead.
Redfish can regularly be taken in the tidal creeks when the tide is low and along outside mangrove shorelines when the water is high. Remember to check on the dates of redfish season at MyFWC.com. When in doubt, don't target or strictly catch-and-release on the reds.
Other fish usually hanging out in the harbor in January include cobia and bonnethead sharks. Mangrove snapper, pompano, flounder, Spanish mackerel, and a surprise bluefish or two are likely be caught this month as well.