On the Water: Looking for some warmer days ahead
The week started out cold on the water but heading into the weekend Florida weather returned with temperatures reaching into the 80s. Brisk winds early in the week gave way to a slight breeze that resulted in excellent conditions for offshore fishing over the weekend.
From reports I received and from my trips on the water, I wouldn’t say it was a great week of catching, but it wasn’t terrible either. Some days were better than others, some anglers did well while other struggled, but that’s just fishing. Sometimes just being lucky enough to be at the right spot at the right time is the difference between fishing and catching.
With water temperature dipping into the upper 50s and low 60s, the inshore bite early in the week was often slow, with the exception of sheepshead. Fish to 5 pounds were hooked in their usual haunts, including docks, piers, drop-offs and deeper creeks with an oyster bottom. Many anglers reported that during the cooler days, even the sheepshead bite was slower than expected.
Sheepshead up to 6 pounds were boated later in the week as conditioned improved from artificial reefs and ledges in nearshore Gulf waters. Shrimp-tipped jigs or shrimp on knocker rigs worked for the sheepshead, plus white grunt, mangrove and lane snapper. Often it was difficult to get past swarms of tomtate or spot tail grunts to keep baits on hooks long enough for other fish. These little grunts are better bait stealers than sheepshead. If you are heading offshore bottom fishing, bring plenty of bait.
Small or “rat” reds continue in good numbers inshore in creeks, under mangrove overhangs and under docks. Most are running under 18 inches with an occasional fish pushing a couple feet. Black drum and, of course, sheepshead were caught from the same areas. A few sea trout up to 18 inches were hooked from the creeks on the cooler days. Live or fresh cut shrimp was the top bait, but Berkley Gulp’s, and other scented small baits also fooled a few fish.
Redfish up to 27 inches were caught while soaking cut ladyfish on bottom in troughs in south Matlacha Pass, and in deeper sand holes on the eastern side of Pine Island Sound on the morning negative low tides. A few trout over 20 inches also picked up the dead baits, and black drum to 26 inches were hooked on shrimp from the Sound.
Cold water made it difficult to entice snook to eat, however a few were hooked on slow moving lures in the deeper canals around St. James City. Snook and redfish are both out of season, handle both with care and quickly return them to the water.
For just fun fishing, schools of large ladyfish provided just the ticket. Schools were located in north Matlacha Pass, near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, and near Captiva Pass. About any bait or lure, small and fast moving got instant strikes. A few anglers had a blast with nonstop action while fly fishing schools of ladyfish. One good way to locate a school is to look for a pod of dolphin working an area and drift through making cast in all directions.
It looks like we may be getting a stretch of warmer weather. Although it really hasn’t been cold in comparison to the northern states, it was still pretty cold for us and our fishery. As the water temperature heats up, look for fishing to improve for a variety of species both inshore and off.
If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at: Gulf Coast Guide Service, 239-283-7960 or visit www.fishpineisland.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a safe week and good fishin’.
As a native of Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.