It's hard to believe, but another week is in the books and the warm weather continues. Water temperatures well above normal for the first week of February have put many of our fish in an unusual pattern and also have thrown many anglers off their game.
Many anglers I spoke with over the week found that catching fish wasn't a problem; however getting a good bite going with anything of size was often difficult. One reason was poor tide days with long periods of slow or no water movement. When the water was moving fishing was good for trout, sheepsheads, redfish, and other species.
Trout catches were wide spread, from the skinny shallows where anglers targeted tailing redfish to the deeper grassflat near the Gulf Passes. Over the low morning tides trout up to twenty-two inches were taken on small mullet imitating top water lures in Pine Island Sound near Panther Key and also off the eastern wall of Charlotte Harbor near Burnt Store Marina. Trout were also caught in the northern portion of Buzzard Bay in Matlacha Pass, off the flats east of Part Island, and north of Galt Island at the southern end of the Sound. Fishing live shrimp or Berkley Gulp Shrimp under popping corks or cast and retrieving Gulp or DOA shrimp in three to five foot depths took trout to twenty inches, plus steady action on under size fish. Near Redfish and Captiva Passes trout were caught in five to eight foot depths with a marbled sand/grass bottom. A few pompano were also caught on live shrimp over the same bottom.
Big Spanish mackerel are back in Charlotte Harbor. On Super Bowl Sunday, Ed Green of Cape Coral with a fat mackerel caught on a live pilchard while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell
Early and late in the day, that seemed the best time to target redfish last week. The early morning lows presented the perfect opportunity for chasing fish in the skinny water, then the higher water in late afternoon yielded fish on the mangrove shorelines. On the morning lows fish from little sixteen inchers to larger fish pushing the top of the slot were sighted and a few were caught in very shallow water on the flats around Panther Key, south of Useppa Island, and off the eastern shore of the Harbor near Burnt Store Marina. Captain Shawn McQuade found the redfish bite heating up on the late afternoon high water, with hungry fish prowling the mangrove shoreline for tasty morsels. Handpicked shrimp under custom made rattling bobbers took a number of fish up to twenty-six inches on the Sounds eastern side. Also, Jim Frock from Seven Seas Bait and Tackle in Matlacha reports plenty of action on smaller (rat) reds in creeks in Matlacha Pass. Most are undersize, but with a bucket full of shrimp you can find a school or two for nonstop action.
With the warmer weather the better sheepsheads fishing came from areas in or near the Gulf Passes and on near shore reefs. Sheepsheads up to four pounds were reported at Redfish and Boca Grande Pass, anchoring and fishing cut shrimp on bottom around pilings and rocks was the favored method. Near shore reefs in twenty-four to thirty-eight feet are also holding good numbers of striped porgies, with sheepsheads up to five pounds caught on live shrimp fished on bottom. Snapper and small grouper were also caught from the reefs.
Spanish mackerel, bluefish, cobia, sharks, all fish that we don't typically catch this early in the year, were all caught on inshore waters this past week. In fact, on my boat we caught all four mentioned in Charlotte Harbor in less than an hour. If you want some fast action and good fishing get out over deeper water with areas of grass bottom, often just off the channels, watch for birds and dolphin working the water. Bottlenose dolphin must really love the taste of mackerel, when we are catching macks there are always dolphin around. Although there are bait fish around we are catching more fish with shrimp or shrimp imitations than live pilchards. If you are planning on fishing with shrimp, bring plenty, one downside to the warm water is the return of those annoying bait stealing pinfish.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.