Change It Up

Capt. Philip Watson

February is a transitional month when fishing offshore of Anna Maria Island. Gag Grouper are closed, Red Grouper are deep and the water is still too cold for Kingfish and other pelagic fish. There is still plenty of bottom fish available between hogfish and mangrove snapper, and others like porgy’s and Key West grunts in the mix. Most of the fish are moving slow, so make sure to use smaller baits like cut threadfin or sardines, as well as shrimp. Some days I break them in half and some I leave whole. You’ll just have to feel the fish out and decide from there. Wintertime is also time to scale down that leader, going down to 20 or 25-pound test can be a day saver.

This months highlighted trip was with the McNamara crew. We had a ton working against us between a full moon, the back side of a cold front, and some rough conditions. The first drop was in 45’ fishing shallow ledges for gag grouper and the bite was slow. We had small mangrove snapper and small gags coming up, not exactly what I was looking for. The crew seemed sturdy even with the bumpy water, so I headed father west. The next stop being in 85’ we started getting some bigger gags to eat, even though they were breaking us off in the rocks we knew we were in the range where we needed to be. Once the bite finally started, we had mangrove snapper and hogfish coming in, along with a keeper gag at 27”, the box finally started filling up!

Once the bite slowed a bit, we moved a couple miles to a ledge in 90’ where we had some monster mangrove snapper to 25” and more hogfish coming up. On the last bait down James hooked up with a beast of an amberjack that ate a frisky pigfish. James finally landed this monster 60lb Jack! We had to work for our fish, but all in all it was an amazing trip. I can’t wait to fish with this crew again.

Captain Philip Watson

Just Kickin Back Charters

Anna Maria Island, Florida