You have to love fishing in Southwest Florida in December, here it is a few days before Christmas and sunny warm weather continues.
With the above average temperatures Spanish mackerel that often have migrated south this late in the year are still hanging around and hungry. Look for them a short distance off the beaches (watch for birds), in Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound over grass/sand bottom from 6 to 10 feet in depth, and in the passes or around the Sanibel Causeway. If you can net up a live well of pilchards or herrings, you can get on some fast action with the macks. Live shrimp, silver spoons and white jigs should also find plenty of action. Eventually when the temperature drops, the mackerel will move further south but in the meantime, enjoy.
I've heard a lot of good reports on redfish over the past week, both in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Fish ranging from a small of 16 inches to larger fish pushing 30 inches were caught in sand potholes on the lowest of tides, tailing over the shallows on the rising water and on oyster bars and mangroves shorelines on the higher water. Baits for catching the reds included shrimp, cut mullet, ladyfish and pinfish on the natural side and weedless gold spoons, suspended twitch baits and Berkley Gulps for artificials. With the mild days snook are still roaming the shallower water where fish up to 32 inches were caught and released while targeting reds.
catch and release trout fishing continues strong with less than two weeks until season reopens. Fish up to 24 inches were caught on top water lures in the skinny water around mullet schools and large concentrations of fish from 13 to 20 inches were found in sand potholes and over mottled grass/sand bottom in four to seven foot depths. Shrimp under a popping cork, white swim baits, and Mirrolure MirrOminnows were a few of the effective baits used.
Sheepshead up to four pounds were caught around structure at the various gulf passes and around the Blind Pass rocks and the Sanibel pier. Cut fresh shrimp fished on a small J or circle hook with enough weight to keep it on bottom was the preferred rig. Whiting, flounder and pompano were also caught.
Most of the week was pretty windy but it did lay down a few days allowing boats to get offshore. Red grouper were reported in 70 to 80-foot depths over hard bottom. Large red jig heads with white curly tails and live pinfish took the bigger fish. Bill Schwaim of St. James was fishing about 40 miles west of Sanibel looking for king mackerel when they appeared to hook into a nice one. After a strong battle they were surprised when a big 44-inch dolphin (mahi-mahi) came to the gaff. Bill has logged many trips into the gulf and to date that is by far the largest dolphin hooked on his boat from this area.
The holiday season is here and many of us have friends and family visiting from areas out of state where they just don't have the beautiful weather we come to expect in Southwest Florida. Make sure you take some time and treat them to a sunny day on the water and show them what a paradise we live in.
Have a Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas