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Trout, redfish and sheepshead

January 4, 2012
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL - On the Water , Pine Island Eagle

With the New Year, sheepshead, trout and redfish are the primary target for inshore anglers. You can also throw Spanish mackerel in the mix as long as the weather remains mild.

Anglers are locating good numbers of sheepshead, but the bite was pretty slow for most. For whatever reason fishermen found it difficult to get on good steady sheepshead action. We had the same results on my boat over several days; we found plenty of big fish in Matlacha Pass and northern Pine Island Sound, but never could get a solid bite established. We would catch a few nice ones thinking, here we go, then nothing.

Sheepies were reported along the docks inside Captiva and Redfish Pass and the old phosphate dock at Boca Grande Pass. We found ours on oyster bars in Matlacha Pass and hard bottom island shorelines and structure in the sound.

Article Photos

Photo provided
Matlacha resident Jack Orzalli boated this nice sheepshead as a cold front came through last week. It was caught in Matlacha Pass on a half shrimp while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.

Those fishing from land reported sheepshead under the draw and third bridges in Matlacha, the Bokeelia fishing pier and the Sanibel fishing pier. Unlike most of our fish, sheepshead thrive when it's cold; look for the bite to improve when the mercury drops.

Trout season is again open with fish reported along the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Capt. Gary Clark reports steady trout action in sand potholes four to six feet in depth north of the power lines in the sound and near Fishermen's Key east of St. James. Live shrimp under a bobber and Redfish Magic soft plastics in white were the favored baits. These fish were averaging 14 to 16 inches with a few near 20 inches mixed in.

Capt. Shawn McQueen also reports good trout action at the end of the week in the southern sound. He was working potholes on the shallow turtle grass where he found a good number of fish near 20 inches. On my boat we caught trout up to 20 inches in south Matlacha Pass and around Bokeelia. In Matlacha Pass a free-lined live shrimp was the ticket and in the sound near Bokeelia, they quickly inhaled a shrimp under a popping cork but ignored both free-lined shrimp and soft plastics. Each day the bite was slow coming early then really turned up by late morning.

We caught a wide assortment of other critters, including mackerel, cobia, bluefish, flounder, lizard fish, blowfish, ladyfish, catfish, crabs and lots of little redfish. This time of year it's fun just to guess what the next fish is going to be.

Mackerel fishing was very good last week in Charlotte Harbor just of the channel north of Bokeelia and also just outside the north entrance to Pelican Bay. When you find them they are running in good size schools. We chummed with live baits over several days to draw them in for some great action. Cobia up to 30 inches were also around the mackerel schools and, of course, way too many ladyfish.

Shallow draft skiffs, canoes and kayaks continue to report consistent redfish action on the turtle grass flats and potholes near Pineland in the sound and also in Matlacha Pass. We had plenty of low water, all day, last week, making for perfect shallow water fishing. The bite was best from mid morning on after the Florida sun warmed things up. Redfish to 25 inches were caught on live shrimp, DOA shrimp and Gulp shrimp in new penny and natural colors. Some of the potholes were loaded with nice trout and a couple flounder and snook were also caught.

Fishing in January is dictated by the weather, maybe more than any other month. As I write this report we really have been blessed with beautiful weather to close out the year and bring in the new one. Let's hope this trend continues!

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information please contact us at (239)283-7960 or e-mail:



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