So far November has remained a month with mild weather, a few slight cool fronts but nothing more. With no reason for bait fish and migratory predators to move south for warmer water, a variety of good fishing continues around Southwest Florida.
After several weeks with stiff winds, the seas finally settled down offshore. Captains report catches of grouper from as deep as 110 feet to as shallow as 45 feet, plus a mixed bag of snapper, grunts and porgies, plus a few tripletail a short distance off the Sanibel Beach. A few keeper sized grouper were caught from Boca Grande and Captiva Passes while drifting live pinfish over rocks and ledges.
Inshore, anglers are reporting big trout with many closing in on the 24-inch mark. Trout over 20 inches were frequent hook-ups in sand potholes over the lower stages of the tides on the skinny grass flats. Floating twitch baits, Gulp shrimp and live shrimp all caught the trouts' attention as well as a few large flounder from the sand holes. On the higher water, the largest trout were caught around schooling mullet near oyster bars.
Saving the best for last, Jim Dougal hooked and landed this dandy 32-inch snook on the last cast of the day. Jim was fishing Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.
Low tides over the past week brought plenty of shallow water opportunities inshore. If you enjoy low water fishing, this is the time of year to get excited about. When you think of skinny (shallow) water, the first fish that comes to mind around Southwest Florida is redfish. This is a favorite time of year for anglers that like it skinny - the daytime tides are low allowing for plenty of opportunities. If you fish from a canoe, kayak, shallow-water skiff or leave the boat in deeper water and take off on foot, it's time to hit the shallows for redfish.
In northern Pine Island Sound, reds were caught in potholes surrounded by extremely shallow turtle grass flats by anglers wade fishing. While Gulp shrimp hooked a few, the best bite came on cut baits including ladyfish steaks and mullet strips. Potholes with mullet activity gave the best redfish opportunities. Redfish were also reported on the east side of Buck Key near Blind Pass in potholes and off oyster bars.
In Matlacha Pass, kayak anglers also took advantage of the low water and scored with both waking and tailing reds. Live shrimp rigged weedless and jerk shad in glow colors took fish up to 25 inches in Indian Fields at the north end and along the eastern shoreline north of McCardles Island south of the bridge. Trout and a few nice flounder were also caught with the reds.
It's shaping up to be a decent winter for flounder. Without really targeting them, many anglers are putting a couple in the cooler daily while fishing for other species. They have been caught in the shallows along the edges of potholes, on the deeper grass flats over sandy areas, around docks and oyster bars and on the beaches. They come unbuttoned from the hook really easy, if you have a good one on; get that landing net under him before lifting out of the water. They are one of the best eating fish in our waters and their numbers appear on the rise.
From shore, pompano, sheepshead, mackerel, redfish,and flounder were taken from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier, the Sanibel Pier and off the rocks at Blinds Pass on Captiva. Trout, snook and Spanish mackerel were reported from the Matlacha Bridge.
Thanksgiving is upon us followed by that dreaded day, "Black Friday," the kick off to the crazy shopping season. I never have, and never will, understand how people can actually tolerate the shopping mayhem and enjoy it. What I do understand, with all crowds on the roads and shopping at the stores, it will be a great time for a peaceful day of fishing.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Holiday.