On the Water: Warmer weather closes out the year
Weather leading up to the New Year was relatively mild, often perfect for visitors from the North. However, it’s becoming really hard for anglers, and fish for that matter, to establish a winter pattern with stretches of unusually warm weather. Heading into the New Year we have more 80 degree days in the forecast, but eventually we should see slightly cooler temperatures to get fish into their winter habits.
It’s that time of year that many anglers target sheepshead – fish to 20 inches were taken from under docks around Punta Rassa, Useppa and Captiva Islands.
Other areas worth noting for sheepshead included the Matlacha Bridge, Sanibel and Bokeelia Piers, plus the oyster bars in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass.
Cut shrimp was the most popular bait, however fiddler or the small stone crabs found in oyster clumps proved deadly bait for a few anglers. Quarter-ounce white jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp also worked well when lightly bounced across bottom.
Trout fishing has been sporadic, at times good, at times disappointing. As we head into the New Year the water is relatively warm and baitfish are plentiful. Eventually the water should cool to the point that baitfish is no longer their main diet; shrimp and small crabs will be their primary meal through the winter months.
Remember, when the water is cold their metabolism is slow, it very important to slow the bait down and get it near the bottom. A small jig or soft plastic jerk bait is a good choice and even better when tipped with shrimp. Allow the bait to sink to bottom then slowly bounce it along the bottom, change your retrieve until you find the speed the fish like. This will vary with the different conditions.
Over the past week it was a toss-up between shrimp or pilchards; both worked equally well for trout.
Many redfish reported over the past week were running above or below the legal 18 to 27-inch slot. Many of the smaller fish were taken in creeks in southern Matlacha Pass and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. Shrimp or shrimp-tipped jigs worked best in the deeper creeks with good tide flow. The larger fish were scattered in sand holes in Pine Island Sound during the lower stages of the tide and moving onto the shallow grass as the tide came in.
Cut baits, including pinfish, ladyfish and mullet, plus a variety of lures took reds up to 31 inches, plus a few large trout. Try to fish flats where mullet schools are active.
Over the weekend, light winds and calm seas made for good action around the passes and near shore. Near shore artificial reefs are producing a mix of snapper, sheepshead, mackerel, grunts, small sharks and a variety of other species. Most anglers are anchoring slightly up current of structure and dropping live shrimp to the bottom, either on a jig head or with a small hook and enough weight to get the bait down.
Drifting live shrimp across the bottom of Captiva and Boca Grande passes during the slower tides was good for mangrove snapper to 15 inches, plus a few catch and release grouper.
For a New Year’s resolution, it’s a good idea to go over your safety equipment and update your fishing rules and regulations. Check the condition and expiration dates of all safety equipment and replace if necessary. Obtain the latest updates of state and federal fishing rules and regulations.
Our fishery regulations are constantly changing; it’s an ongoing process to keep up with current rules. Of course, there are phone apps to get the updates, but that won’t do you any good if the smart phone doesn’t work on the water. It’s a good idea to keep a hard or paper copy onboard just to be sure, plus it comes in handy when you catch one of them oddball fish you don’t see every day.
If you have a fishing report of for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, www.fishpineisland.com or email email@example.com