Marine Life in the Gulf of Mexico

| September 22, 2022

There is more to Anna Maria Island than beautiful beaches, great restaurants and gorgeous sunsets. The island sits in the Gulf of Mexico at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The waters of the Gulf are teeming with amazing marine life. While some of it is creatures you won’t see unless you are fishing or diving, there are some you may encounter while swimming, paddleboarding or just splashing in the surf.


Whether you charter a fishing boat or decide to fish from shore, there are plenty of opportunities to fish in the area. Fall is some of the best fishing action. Redfish and spotted seatrout are popular in the shallower water near your vacation home. These are both fun to catch and great to eat. Deeper water fish, like snook and tarpon, on the other hand, is less about eating and more about the sport. Tarpons are a bucket list item for some fishermen because of their fighting ability, but they are a catch and release. Snook requires a special stamp. Kingfish and Spanish Mackerel give both a great fight and a great meal at the end.


Nearly everyone loves dolphins. Their playful nature and graceful swimming are fun to watch. It doesn’t hurt that these highly intelligent marine mammals look like they have a permanent smile on their beak. You may spot them in the distance while sitting on your deck enjoying your morning coffee. Or they may come closer to you while you use the kayaks or stand-up paddleboards that come with your luxury vacation rental. Either way, watching them frolic will surely put a smile on your face.


Jellyfish can be beautiful creatures. These umbrella-shaped blobs move through the water with a pulsing, rhythmic motion. However, the trailing tentacles can provide a painful surprise for swimmers and beachgoers. The tentacles on jellyfish have stinging cells called nematocysts that contain venom and a painful sting. Contrary to what you may have heard (or saw on Friends), peeing on a jellyfish sting is not a real remedy. For more information about the stings and care, visit the Cleveland Clinic’s website.


Stingrays are beautiful marine life that glides effortlessly through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Our nearby Major League Baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays, is even named after them. Stingrays can also present a hazard to beachgoers. Rays lay on the bottom, even in shallow water. This allows them to be stepped on by people wading in the water. The stingray’s reaction is to use its long tail and put that barbed tip in whatever threatened it. They’re not aggressive, just trying to protect themselves. Usually, this results in a painful sting in the person’s foot or ankle. WebMD has some practical advice for first aid. The best way to avoid this is to do the Stingray Shuffle. Shuffling your feet stirs up the sand, letting the ray know you are coming and move out of your way.

Sand Dollars

When we think about marine life, we usually think of the other creatures we have discussed. But some are less mobile. Sand dollars are a species of flat, burrowing sea urchins. These can often be found in the shallow waters of the beach. They are unusual looking, but they are still living creatures. Sand dollars are popular for use in decorating and sometimes even jewelry after being dried out. Please be careful. Our island is in Manatee County and the county limits you to two sand dollars per person.

The Gulf of Mexico is filled with fun and adventure. The Serendipity staff will do everything they can to make your visit to our island a memorable one. Contact us at Serendipity and our local experts can help you plan your stay on Anna Maria Island. 

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