"The weather was sure beautiful, but the fishing was pretty slow", that was a common statement for anglers, including myself, late last week. The bite was fairly consistent early in the week but lost ground as the week progressed.
Trout was the most reliable target throughout the week, a large number of fish were undersize, but with some effort most anglers are filling the cooler with a limit of legal size fish. Shrimp and rattling or popping cork rigs are the top bait rigs followed closely by Berkley Gulp or DOA shrimp under the same corks. A slow drift on light wind days produced fish in south Matlacha Pass over grass flats in three to five foot depths east of marker 37. A few pompano up to two pounds were also caught. Trout were also caught in Pine Island Sound over grass flats south of Rocky Channel and off the north tip of Chino Island.
From shore sheepsheads and few pompano were taken from the bridges in Matlacha and also from Blind Pass on Captiva on live shrimp or a jig tipped with shrimp
From St. James, Captain George Grosselfinger reports good fishing early in the week. Working artificials in the southern Sound produced up to twenty-one snook, seventeen trout and three redfish per day. Captain Sean McQuade, working shorelines on the eastern side of the Sound, found plenty of redfish but found them mostly disinterested in eating. A few over and under size fish took artificials late in the afternoon, but most refused baits. Trout were more cooperative with some fat fish over twenty inches taken on top water baits in the same area.
Early in the week, Captain Cliff Simer found redfish on a decent bite in the morning hours. Slowing working shorelines with live shrimp and bobber combinations took redfish to twenty-two inches plus a few flounder and sheepsheads. Most of the fish were caught ten to thirty feet off the mangroves over hard sand bottom in north Matlacha Pass.
On my boat we put in a lot of effort for the fish that were caught. Early in the week wasn't too bad for trout and Spanish mackerel and a few redfish. At the end of the week there were stretches in the afternoon where we just couldn't buy a bite. I'm sure we could have caught some trout or mackerel over open flats, but we opted to catch our trout for the dinner table in the mornings then concentrate on redfish in the afternoons. The fish were there but just not interested, I believe one day we had about a two hour stretch where we covered a lot of ground and shoreline and couldn't even get a little bait stealer to take a shrimp off the hook. Then on our one last stop we lucked into four redfish with a couple keepers going twenty-one and twenty-five inches. So, even when the fishing is slow, it often pays off to keep working at it.
Should be back on some better tides this week and with mild days forecasted the fishing will improve. I have to keep reminding myself that although it feels like April and I want fishing to reflect it, that it's still only February in southwest Florida.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.