Peering on a Pier in Anna Maria
You’ll need to get up early if you want to hang out with the “in” crowd in the city of Anna Maria, Florida.
This crowd is not a group of overtanned wear-sunglasses-at-all-times youngsters downing pancakes at IHOP at 4 a.m. after a night of clubbing. Those in the “in” crowd in the Gulf Coast town of Anna Maria (population, 1,831; the island is popular with snowbirds, has no high rises, and is often promoted for its Old Florida feel; “Maria” is pronounced like the name Mariah) carry buckets, tackleboxes, knives, bait, and other assorted goodies to snag the catch of the day at Anna Maria City Pier.
On a recent morning visit to Anna Maria City Pier, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, a crowd was already gathering at about 6:30 a.m., when the sun had not yet risen. Some fishermen (and fisher-women and children) were trolling with a type of lure called a spoon, while others had live shrimp, jumpy in their containers and trying to escape the impending doom of being an early breakfast for a fish. At first the catching was slow, but occasionally, a ladyfish or pinfish (called “garbage” by one seasoned fisherman there because they are used as bait fish) was hooked. Nearby boaters threw out large nets used to catch a large number of bait fish at once. Only 10 feet from the the city pier, a gaggle of dolphins were performing jumps that looked worthy of a show at Sea World, sometimes jumping straight up in the air at once, their full bodies visible. Egrets, comerants, pelicans, and herons added to the nature show as they watched for fish or stood guard at the top of the pier.
Around the pier, most people were quiet at first, concentrating on their lines. However, as the sun came up (with a sunrise view often underappreciated on the Gulf side of Florida, which is better known for its sunsets), the crowd became more chatty. A group of older men with Long Island accents–perhaps retired firemen?–talked about who might join them later in the day. A group of tattooed 20-something men fishing off the walkway of the pier said they had caught lizardfish–named because they, well, look like lizards–and were using them for bait. A British couple chatted with a tall man with a Spanish-speaking accent who gave them an impromptu tour of the pier.
Many there talked of what was biting–and not biting–on that day; flounder were hard to come by as were red snapper, they said. However, another group caught a nine-inch red snapper and two yellowtail snapper not long after they had arrived. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge stood tall in the background.
If you come to Anna Maria City Pier during the day, you can also eat fresh seafood at the restaurant on the pier as you watch the view or just watch others fish. On one recent visit, we watched someone catch a two-foot hammerhead shark. There is occasional live music, and there’s also a jewelry stand most days on the pier. The pier also has a bait shop that opens at 7 a.m.
For another pier experience in quaint Anna Maria, you can visit Rod & Reel Pier, which also has fishing and a restaurant. You pay $2 to fish at Rod & Reel. Fishing on the city pier is free. Both piers are open 24 hours for fishing.
A piece of interesting random trivia about Anna Maria: One of Anna Maria’s founders was the inventor of the Fig Newton cookie.