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On the Water: Holiday season is a great time to go fishing

By Staff | Dec 3, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Fishing a live shrimp on a jig head, Laurie Russell of Matlacha hooked this sheepshead in 30 feet of water off Captiva Pass. She was fishing with her husband, Capt. Bill Russell.

As we move into the holiday season, it’s a great time to spend a relaxing day of fishing with friends or family on the waters of Southwest Florida. The weather is often great with fish hungry as we move into cooler days. It’s a great time to enjoy a simple day of fishing — just grab some bait, hit the water and see what you catch. To me, it’s fun and exciting when you do not know what the next fish on your line might be.

There is no doubt that shrimp are the all-around best and most productive bait for inshore and nearshore fishing. Apart from mullet, everything eats them. Plus, they are readily available at most bait shops and tackle stores. You do not need to throw a heavy net and get the boat messy to start the day as with catching your own live bait.

Fishing with shrimp you never really know what you may hook next — it may be 3 inches, or it may be 3 feet, but chances are very good you are going to hook something. One of the most popular methods is fishing the bait under a popping or rattling cork, suspending the shrimp between the surface and bottom of the water column. This works great over inshore grassy bottom in depths from 8 to 8 feet. Drifting is most popular to locate the bite then you may choose to anchor the boat.

If you are in a fishy area you should catch a variety that may include a dozen or more different species. That’s the fun part, especially with kids and the women, every time the bobber goes under and the rod doubles over you have no idea what’s on the other end. If you make a drift with no or limited bites, fire up the engine and make a move. It’s common to start slow then drift into an area where the bite heats up.

t’s not possible to list all the fish you may catch, but some of the popular ones may include sea trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, redfish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and sharks.

As mentioned, you may catch small fish such as pin or pigfish, these are great baits to drop behind the boat on a heavier rig. If on a drift, fish these under a float. Along with the few fish mentioned earlier, you may also hook into a grouper, cobia, tarpon, big shark or snook. If you really want to get a shark to the boat, fish with a couple feet of wire leader to prevent their razor-sharp teeth from parting the line.

As the water cools, it’s a great time to bottom fish around structure both inshore and nearshore. Again, live or fresh shrimp are the top bait. Two popular baits are knocker rigs with an egg sinker free to slide above a small hook and bare jigs heads rigged with shrimp. Both combinations work great inshore and over nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottom. Sheepshead will become the target of many anglers over the cooler months, but you will hook into a wide variety of fish that may include red and black drum, pompano, permit and snapper just to name a few.

These are simple methods of fishing, but also fun, relaxing and very productive. It’s a great way to get someone new to the sport on lots of fish and hooked. Of course, it’s great for kids, they love action and catching a lot of different species. If you choose to go with shrimp for bait, you will go through a lot more than you think. I generally take at least double the amount I think I might use, nothing more frustrating than getting on a hot bite and running out of bait. Give it a try, pick a nice day, go catch some fish, and have fun!

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you get to enjoy time over the holidays on the water. If your looking for that perfect gift, we have gift certificates available for the holidays.

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 gcl2fish@live.com.

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.