On the Water: Better weather brings better fishing
Local media has painted a pretty dark picture for our inshore and nearshore waters. Yes, we had a record amount of rainfall, yes, very strong winds churned up gulf and bay waters, and yes, we all know that a long-term solution is needed for the discharge of excess rain water from Lake Okeechobee. However, over the past week fishing Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and north Matlacha Pass I did not see one dead fish anywhere. Water clarity is actually pretty good in many parts of the Sound, while tannin stained Matlacha Pass and the Harbor, but it’s still pretty clear. And, we caught fish and many other anglers are reporting the same.
Many anglers around the Island reported a boost in trout fishing, in both number and size. Trout up to 24 inches were caught across Pine Island Sound and the western side of Charlotte Harbor. Over the super low morning tides, the best trout action came while targeting 4 to 6-foot deep sand holes around shallow grass flats or drift fishing over 3 to 7-foot depths with grass or mixed grass/sand bottom. Also, on the rising tide, some of the larger trout were hooked off shorelines and bar edges with a steady depth decline. The best baits for trout included live shrimp under popping corks, free-lined shrimp, soft plastics in white, pearl and raw penny colors and, of course, DOA shrimp.
The week started out good for big sheepshead inshore but kind of fizzled as the weekend approached. It’s possible many moved to the Gulf passes and headed off shore to spawn with the full moon approaching. The usual areas gave the best chance including docks and structure along the east or inshore side of the barrier Islands. Nearshore in the Gulf waters, respectable catches of sheepshead were reported from the Causeway Reef off Sanibel, Pace’s Place Reef and limestone ledges west of Captiva Island. Several anglers targeting sheepshead offshore also reported landing mangrove and lane snapper.
Redfish continue to be sketchy for many anglers who are just not finding them in their normal places. A few areas where redfish were caught included creeks and shoreline inside Sanibel’s “Ding” Darling Wildlife Sanctuary and up the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor near Pirates Harbor. I expect as the weather stabilizes the reds will become more prevalent.
Spanish mackerel are around inshore but not in big numbers just yet. Mack’s to 24 inches were caught on gold spoons and white shad tails north of Bokeelia’s Shell Cut, near marker 76 in Matlacha Pass, between Part and Useppa Island and east of Captiva’s Foster’s Point near the channel.
A few pompano were caught over the past week inside Captiva Pass, north of the Phosphate Dock at Boca Grande, and off the flats on the Gulf side of Sanibel Causeway’s A-span. Most were either caught while fishing for sheepshead around structure or slow bouncing small white or yellow shrimp tipped jigs.
Last week inshore water temperatures averaged between 63 and 68 degrees. For me, 70 is the magic number, get to that number and keep it there or above for a week and the transition to spring fishing will begin. That’s when bait fish arrive in good numbers, snook get hungry, the biggest trout of the year show their presence – lots of good thing happen. Despite the negative picture the media is painting from an unusually wet winter, fishing is getting better each day and I see no reason for the trend to change.
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Have a safe week and good fishin’.