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On the Water: Cold days force change in fishing tactics

January 22, 2014
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Several cold fronts over the week brought some windy days and dropped water temperatures bringing change to fishing tactics. Most anglers found during these conditions the best chance for success was targeting creeks, canals and protected areas.

"Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge on the sound side of Sanibel offers plenty of deep creeks and protected water for boats, kayaks and canoes. A variety of fish including redfish, snook, sheepshead, trout and mangrove snapper were caught, even on the windiest days from the area. Live or fresh shrimp fished near the bottom in the oyster-lined creeks or shrimp under bobbers in the deeper bays were top producers.

Similar results were reported from creeks and canals near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and St. James City with live shrimp or shrimp/jig combinations the top baits. Many of the redfish are "rats" running well undersize, but a few mid-slot fish were taken along with some big sheepsheads.

Although the bite was pretty slow, in between fronts as the wind settled down a few good size Spanish mackerel were caught just north of the Bokeelia Fishing Pier in Charlotte Harbor on either live shrimp under a popping cork or DOA shrimp worked mid-depth. A few pompano were also caught along the bar drop offs near Bokeela.

In Matlacha Pass, when the wind wasn't howling, redfish up to 28 inches were sighted north of the bridge on the back side of Indian Fields. Trout, mostly small, mixed with ladyfish, were common just east of the channel in the northern channel, and sheepshead, pompano, and jack crevasse were hooked from the Matlacha Bridge.

Decent sheepshead fishing was reported around Redfish and Captiva passes fishing docks and rocks. Although the weather often made it difficult for fishing, the sheepshead bite was often pretty good along with a few pompano.

If the air warms up this week remember the water temperature has taken a plunge. Just like us, when it's cold, a fish's metabolism slows down. They conserve energy and won't go out of their way to chase fast moving bait. Live or artificial, slow the bait way down for the best results, and keep it at or near the bottom. Shrimp have both those characteristics (slow & near the bottom) that's why they rule for winter time fishing.

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

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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