Winter Florida fishing in my back yard here in Manatee County is hard to beat. I complain when It’s 54-degrees out, but when some of my favorite Snow Birds fly in to fish with me we compare notes. My Massachusetts friends arrive talking about the 12-degree weather and snow drifts they left, while I complain that I suffered through a low of 54 today. With an average high of 70 and a low of 54-degrees in January, this is my kind of winter. It’s all relative, but we take for granted where we live. Seriously, this is some kind of place in which we have to live and fish.
It’s a good time to relax and take a boat ride, explore, and do a little fishing in our own back yard. From Longboat Key to Miguel Bay, spotted seatrout ease up on the flats with the incoming tide on sunny days. Working themselves up into skinny water barely deep enough to cover their dorsal fins, specks bask in the warmth of the sun baked sauna provided in hidden coves surrounded by lush vegetation. Lee sides of islands near deep channels provide still waters that rise in temperature, molding their habitat into a toasty clime that’s comfy for all.
It’s no surprise that trout will have company in these areas, as redfish and snook seek these same waters. Areas exposed to the sun on the south, east, and west sides of islands are prime spots to locate trout and redfish in a feeding mood. The ultra clear waters that surround areas like Jewfish and Sister’s Key’s just outside of Cannon‘s Marina- Tidy Island on the East side of Sarasota Bay, and Buttonwood Harbor on the west side are prime habitat for snook, redfish, and trout that ease along the edges of the mangroves looking for small potholes to lay in waiting for small prey to enter into their feeding zones.
The Cortez Fishing Village at the north end of Sarasota Bay lies nestled amongst the mangroves and Australian pines. A quaint village with a fishing heritage founded deep in the soul of Manatee County thrives where fish find the surrounding waters of “The Kitchen” a cozy habitat. The clumps of barrier mangrove islands are nesting areas to dozens of varieties of birds that make their home in “my back yard”.
Cruise under the Cortez Bridge north into Anna Maria Sound to the fertile flats just south of the Bulkhead. This is where the Gulf meets Tampa Bay, and the bay meets the Manatee River. Terra Ceia and Miguel Bays toast the serenity of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve. Scores of fishy-looking areas seem to call to your lure, “fish here, fish here.” These are the crossroads, where journeys begin but never end, in My Back Yard.
Guest Writer & photo credit: Capt. Ray Markham runs the Flat Back II out of Terra Ceia and may be reached for charter at (941) 723-2655 H, (941) 228-3474 C, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.