February generally means clear skies, pleasant temperatures, rare rainfall, and low humidity near Anna Maria Island, but the wind and cold can come at any time. Inshore canal and residential dock fishing is usually the way to get around the fronts when they do occur, and species such as redfish, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, or snook can still be caught when the weather turns sour. Live shrimp free-lined or bounced slowly along the bottom on a jighead is the best way to approach winter dock fishing. If the weather gets fair, a deeper grassflat (6-8 ft) will usually host seatrout and the occasional pompano school.
Nearshore hard bottom, ledges, rocks, or public artificial reefs will hold mangrove snapper, sheepshead, and both red and gag grouper in February. Hogfishing also heats up as the weather cools and a small live shrimp on a small hook with light line is the ticket to catching these tricky fish. During winter, always keep an eye out for tripletail hiding underneath crab trap buoys when you are 1-3 miles off the beach.
Offshore journeys are not as necessary in the winter months as many species come in close, but if you do make it out, you will likely be rewarded with larger snapper and both red and gag grouper. Frozen shiners, shrimp, or squid can all be used, but the ultimate grouper bait is a live pinfish. Artificial reefs, wrecks, and deep ledges are where these species will be, but a depth finder and GPS will be needed to find the hideouts.
Hiring a local fishing charter service at Keyes Marina can help to ensure a successful and enjoyable fishing trip. A charter captain can provide insight into local fishing spots, techniques, tackle, regulations, tides, weather, and gear.