ON THE WATER: Anglers adjusting to the cold
In last week’s report, I was bragging about the long stretch of warn sunny weather and hoping it would hang around awhile. Well, about the time the last edition of the Island Reporter hit our driveways, a change was in the air: the cold was about to arrive.
Several cold fronts over the past week have put fish into their winter patterns, and with cool, breezy days, there wasn’t too much to report on the water.
The drop in the water temperature should give a big boost for catching sheepsheads; big fish will move inshore with the lower temperatures. Look for fish, with many scaling over five pounds, hanging around structure, including dock and bridge pilings, rock jetties along the beach and on oyster bars or deep oyster bottom creeks.
Reports of big sheepsheads have come from the past week from shore-bound anglers fishing the Sanibel Pier and the rocks along the beach on the Gulf side of Blind and Redfish Passes. Most anglers opt to use shrimp, however, some of the real sheepshead experts that target only big fish catch their own bait including fidler crabs, tube worms or sand fleas. A few black drum have also been reported with the sheepsheads. If you don’t mind fishing in the cold, then this is your fish — the colder, the better for sheepsheads.
Now that the cold has pushed off the white bait or shiners for a few months, anglers will turn to shrimp for live bait and shrimp imitations will be the artificial of choice. Pompano catches will increase as more fish arrive for the winter and more fishermen begin using crustaceans for bait. Pompano are similar to sheepsheads in the fact that they will not eat any type of baitfish, but feed primarily on small crustaceans including shrimp, crabs, sand fleas, etc. Small nylon jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp can be deadly on pompano when properly bounced across the bottom. Popular colors are white, pink and yellow.
In recent weeks, pompano were caught from the Sanibel and Bokeelia piers and off the beach on Cayo Costa near Captiva Pass. Both sheepsheads and pompano have relatively small mouths, so it is important not to use to large of a hook. If you are unsure of the size, stop in at your local tackle shop and let them hook you up.
Trout remains closed until the first of the year. No doubt if you spend much time fishing inshore this month, you will catch trout — and some big ones — whether you are fishing for them or not. Pay attention to where you catch them. They will more than likely still be there when season opens. In the meantime, handle them with care and release them quickly.
I get laughed at a lot as what I consider to be cold weather our friends from the north call “mild.” I’m sure when this week’s cold fronts arrive a few readers will think, “Cold? This ain’t cold! What’s he talking about?” Like our fish, those of us that have been around here for a long time move a little slower and have to adjust to the change when the thermometer drops. There is still good fishing, you just need to change a few tactics. Remember when the cold slows you down, it will most likely do the same for many of our inshore fish.
If you have a fishing story or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960 or www.fishpineisland.com. Have a safe week and good fishin’.