On the Water: More warm weather to end the year
Christmas week brought us daytime temperatures well into the 80s and it looks like we will close out the year with well above average temperatures. Boaters and anglers continue to enjoy warm weather fishing but I have to think eventually we will get into a more typical winter weather pattern.
It’s that time of year that many anglers look forward to targeting sheepshead. They are in their prime when the weather is cold and nasty but some respectable fish were caught over the warm days. Fish to 18 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 oyster bars in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Cut shrimp was the most popular bait, however fiddler or the small 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 close out December, the inshore waters are relatively warm, actually very warm for the time of year. With the water temperatures running in the mid-70s, baitfish are still abundant and the primary diet for many gamefish, including trout. Trout to 21 inches were targeted on low water over sand holes near Buck Key and Galt Island in lower Pine Island Sound and in north Pine Island Sound over 3 to 6-foot grass flats. Also grass flats and sand bar edges held trout between Captiva and Redfish passes.
With warm weather and strong full-moon tides, red fishing was good for many anglers over the Christmas week. Reds averaging 16 to 21 inches 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. Reds from 20 to 26 inches were scattered in sand holes and troughs in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor’s eastern shore during the lower stages of tide and moving onto the shallow grass, along shorelines and oyster bars as the tide came in. Cut baits, including pinfish, ladyfish and mullet, live baits (pinfish, shiners, and shrimp), plus a variety of lures took reds up to 29 inches, plus a few large trout. Try to fish areas where mullet schools are active.
Also with the warm days, catch-and-release snook fishing was good for many anglers. Snook were caught in the same areas as the redfish and on the same baits, plus several were hooked around structure near the gulf passes.
Over the weekend, relatively 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, cobia, catch-and-release gag grouper plus a variety of other species. Most anglers are anchoring slightly up current of structure and dropping live shrimp or pilchards 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 14 inches, plus a few catch-and-release grouper.
Spinner sharks plus king and Spanish mackerel were found in good numbers around large bait pods west of Boca Grande Pass and tarpon schools were reported in 18 to 22-foot depths off Sanibel’s Knapp’s Point.
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 those odd ball fish you don’t see every day.
Thank you for taking the time to read our column and for sending us pictures of your catch and reports. My family and I wish everyone a safe and “Happy New Year.” Hope to see you on the water in 2016.
If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 238-283-7960, on the Web at www.fishpineisland.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a safe week and good fishin’.