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Adjusting to colder weather

December 7, 2011
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL - On the Water , Pine Island Eagle

In last week's report I was talking about the long stretch of warn sunny weather and hoping it would hang around awhile, and it did through the Thanksgiving Holiday. Well, over the past week change was in the air, colder weather was about to arrive. Granted, not a severe change, but enough to change our fishing tactics and fish behavior.

As the water temperature drops it should give a big boost for catching sheepsheads, big fish will move inshore with the lower temperatures. Look for fish, with many scaling over five pounds hanging around structure, including dock and bridge pilings, rock jetties along the beach and on oyster bars. Most anglers opt to use shrimp; however some of the real sheepshead experts that target only big fish catch their own bait including fidler crabs, tube worms, or sand fleas. If you don't mind fishing in the cold, then this is your fish, the colder the better for sheepsheads.

As the cooler water begins to push the white bait (shiners) and pinfish south for a few months' anglers will turn to shrimp for live bait and shrimp imitations will be the artificial of choice. Pompano catches will increase as more fish arrive for the winter and more fishermen begin using crustaceans for bait. Pompano are similar to sheepsheads in the fact that they will not eat any type of baitfish, but feed primarily on small crustaceans including shrimp, crabs, sand fleas, etc.., Small nylon jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp can be deadly on pompano when properly bounced across the bottom. Popular colors are white, pink and yellow. Silly Willy jigs have also gained a lot of popularity recently. In recent weeks pompano were caught from the Sanibel and Bokeelia Piers and off the beach on Cayo Costa near Captiva Pass. Both sheepsheads and pompano have relatively small mouths so it is important not to use to large of a hook, if you are unsure of the size stop in at your local tackle shop and let them hook you up.

Article Photos

photo provided
While visiting her grandparents over the Thanksgiving Holiday Kristen Dougall from Bloomington Illinois was treated to a day of fishing with her grandfather, Jim Dougall. On a beautiful Florida day Kristen out muscled this big 35 inch snook. It was caught and released in Matlacha Pass while fishing with Captain Bill Russell

Trout remains closed until the first of the year, no doubt if you spend much time fishing inshore this month you will catch trout and some big ones whether you are fishing for them or not. Pay attention to where you catch them, they will more than likely still be there when season opens, in the meantime handle them with care and release them quickly.

In between the cold fronts after a few sunny days should be a good time to get on the flats in the early morning or late afternoon with calm water and work top water lures for redfish, trout and snook. Captain Gary Clark has reported in recent weeks catching all three (snook, redfish & trout) on Skitterwalks in the morning hours in south Matlacha Pass near Eight Avenue of St. James.

I get laughed at a lot as what I consider to be cold weather our friends from the north call mild. I'm sure when the next cold front arrives a few readers will think cold, this isn't cold, what's he talking about. Like our fish, those of us that have been around here for a long time move a little slower and have to adjust to the change when the thermometer drops. There is still good fishing, you just need to change a few tactics, remember when the cold slows you down, it will most likely do the same for many of our fish.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact Capt. Bill Russell at 239-283-7960 or visit the Web at



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