Consistently inconsistent I guess would be the proper way to describe fishing over the last full week of winter. There were some really good days followed by some not so great. As is usually the case, weather played a huge role in determining the good days from the bad.
Offshore, the bite is good when conditions allow boats to make the run. Red grouper, big mangrove snapper and above average size amberjacks were hooked in depths from 50 to 75 feet. Anglers are also noting an increase in decent sized king mackerel from the same depths. Also, from 30 to 50 feet, a mix of snapper, sheepshead, grunts and porgies were caught over hard bottom, ledges and structure with light tackle fishing with shrimp. Several boats found good fishing over the Edison Reef catching Spanish mackerel, snapper, sheepshead and a couple keeper-size cobia were also landed.
When weather allows, Spanish mackerel were caught a short distance off the beaches, just outside the passes, around the Sanibel Causeway and in Charlotte Harbor at Alligator Reef and from Cape Haze to Boca Grande Pass.
Fishing was good just ahead of the front last week. John Jannotti of Bokeelia scored with an inshore slam including a 34-inch snook, 24-inch trout and 28-inch redfish. He was fishing Charlotte Harbor with Capt. Bill Russell
Those with visitors from the north that were just looking for action fished the open water flats for a mix of bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and mackerel. Areas that produced included 3 to 6-foot depths from Tarpon Bay to the power lines on the back side of Sanibel, the drop-offs around Red Light Shoals, west of Demere Key and off Bokeelia Shoals.
In Matlacha Pass, anglers hooked the same mix of species north of the bridge, along the channel edges north of the S curve.
Reports of large trout continued over the week, fish to 22 inches were common with a few pushing 25 inches. Look for the largest fish around the same areas you target snook this time of year - oyster bars, sand potholes, deep shorelines. If you are an early riser, it's a great time to hit the shallow grass flats at first light with a top water lure for a trophy trout. Chances are good you also might hook into a big red or snook.
In Pine Island Sound, redfish were hooked on gold spoons and Gulp Baits at the southern end around "Ding" Darling and north of Galt Island. Many of these fish were over slot (above 27 inches). Further north, reds were caught on live or cut pinfish on the rising tide north of Demere Key, most of these fish were in the upper slot. Redfish were also reported on both the eastern wall of Charlotte Harbor and across around Bull Bay.
The snook bite is ready to turn on, but these weekly cool fronts are holding them back. Once the water temperature stabilizes at 72 degree and higher the bite should become much more consistent. Ahead of the mid-week cool front the bite was turning on with snook to 34 inches reported from islands around the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound and the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River.
So if you're wondering why the first paragraph states that fishing was good and bad, but the meat of the column sounds like it was all great, well, I don't think it would be very interesting reading about the miserable, windy, cold days when fishing pretty much stunk. But all in all, with the exception of a few days, fishing was pretty good. We leave winter behind with the beginning of spring this week, fishing is only going to get better!
Have a safe week and great fishin'.