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On the Water: Fishing up and down like the weather

January 15, 2014
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

As our first real cold front of the season settled in, the inshore water temperatures fell from the lower to mid-70s down to around 60 degrees, then a few days later the air temperature was back into the 80s. Couple that temperature variation with some pretty miserable weather days and some very slow tides, and fishing was a struggle at times.

A few calm days just ahead of the cold front offered a good chance at offshore fishing. Reports were mixed, but overall anglers found decent to good grouper fishing in depths between 50 and 90 feet. The deeper the water the bigger the fish, with red grouper pushing 20 pounds boated at the deeper end. Grouper were hooked on various baits including live pinfish, sand perch, grunts, blue runners, jig/squid, and jig/mullet combinations. Often the bite was slow then turned on for a few hours, most often early afternoon.

Fishing reefs, anglers caught mangrove snapper, sheepshead and grunts in depths from 25 to 50 feet. Shrimp was the top bait and at least one permit was taken on a live crab.

Article Photos

On a recent sunny day, George Riser
of Washington, D.C., landed this nice trout while fishing live shrimp around oyster bars on the incoming tide. George was fishing south Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.

Photo provided

Inshore, sheeps-head fishing was consistent immediately following the cool down, but tapered off with warming days and poor tide movement. Fish to 4 pounds were caught around various type structures inside the gulf passes, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound. Cut shrimp was the top bait fished with a small hook and just enough weight to keep it near the bottom. A few pompano were hooked while targeting sheepshead, and also along bar drop-offs in Charlotte Harbor and the Sound.

I, and most anglers I spoke with, found trout fishing difficult much of the week. The combination of the sudden temperature drop, quick warm-up, and slow tides made the bite very inconsistent. The areas where fish were hooked included the "Ding" Darling area, potholes west of Galt Island and south of Cabbage Key and north Matlacha Pass. Many of the fish were running small but fish to 20 inches were reported.

Spanish mackerel and bluefish were caught in 5 to 9-foots depths in Charlotte Harbor north of Bokeelia and off the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway Islands. Live shrimp under bobbers and small silver spoons were the top baits. Mackerel and sheepshead were also caught by shore-bound anglers from the Sanibel Pier.

Most snook have relocated to the protection of canals and creeks where several were caught and released around St. James and in "Ding" Darling. Slow moving artificials and live shrimp were the top baits. Remember snook season is closed, handle them gently and quickly return them to the water.

Give the fish a few days to adapt to the change in water temperature and some good moving water and fishing should pick up. It's not so much that the cold weather affects the fishing, but the fact that it goes from hot to cold, then right back to hot again. This makes it difficult for the fish to adapt and get into a pattern resulting in inconsistent fishing.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960; or email:

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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