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ON THE WATER: Sheepshead, redfish and trout found inshore

By Staff | Jan 5, 2011

While most of the redfish are running small, there are some big ones out there. This one went 26 inches and was mixed in with the little guys. It was caught on a live shrimp in Matlacha Pass while fishing with Captain Bill Russell.

After a cold end to 2010, warmer weather welcomed in the new year… just in time for the reopening of trout season.

As the inshore water temperature dropped below 60 degrees, the best bite during the cold was on sheepsheads and redfish, with the trout bite beginning to heat up with each warming day.

Anglers are reporting lots of redfish being caught throughout Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound. While the numbers are good with catches of several dozen a day, common the size has been on the small side — most are “rat” reds averaging from 14 to 17 inches. While these juvenile fish are undersize to invite home for dinner, they still put on a great fight for their size.

In Matlacha Pass, the fish were caught under the mangroves in the washouts of some of the deeper creeks and around the perimeter of oyster bars. In the Sound potholes, deep mangrove shorelines and creek mouths from Blind Pass down to Tarpon Bay on Sanibel held good numbers.

For baits, a live shrimp fished under a popping cork or on bottom with a small split-shot sinker was hard to beat. Shrimp tipped quarter ounce jigs and Gulp shrimp also got their attention.

For larger redfish, those measuring from 20 to 26 inches, the best reports came from anglers fishing the shallower flats in north Matlacha Pass, between Pineland and Panther Key in the upper Sound and near Buck Key behind Captiva. Gold weedless spoons, handpicked shrimp, Gulp Shrimp and cut ladyfish produced bites on both tailing and waking reds after the mid morning sun warmed the shallows.

Inshore sheepsheads fishing was red hot immediately following the cold front, then tapered off with many days of very slow tide movement. Large sheepsheads were reported in south Matlacha Pass around deep oyster bars, under docks in St. James City, Tarpon Bay and Roosevelt Channel. Then on the slower tide days, better action was found over structure near Redfish, Captiva and Boca Grande Passes.

Fresh shrimp cut in half and threaded on a small sharp j-hook with a small sliding egg sinker and a couple feet of 20 to 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is one of the most popular sheepsheads rigs. The bite should pick back up considerably with stronger tides.

Trout are beginning to move from the deeper protected water where they found shelter from the cold and move back out into open water, this should continue until our next big cool down. Fish up to 18 inches were caught on DOA shrimp in a natural color with a rattle in three to five feet of water in north Matlacha Pass, the best bite was during the warmest part of day in mid-afternoon.

In Pine Island Sound, trout were caught in potholes averaging about five feet in depth, from the power lines to Galt Island on the eastern side and on the Sound side of captive near Foster’s Point.

On the lower tides, anglers found the best action while casting live shrimp suspended under a popping cork, DOA CAL jigs in a shiner pattern and shrimp on a jig head. Several flounder were also caught from the potholes.

Barring another dose of extreme cold (at least for Southwest Florida standards), we should have good fishing for sea trout and some of the largest sheepsheads of the year. If you have the opportunity, pick the days with the strongest tide movement, sleep in and let the sun warm things up and then hit the water by late morning for your best chance at good action. With a little luck, you should have a bucket of fish for dinner by mid-afternoon. Good luck!

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’.