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On the Water: Another week of up and down weather

January 27, 2016
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

So far the New Year has brought plenty of challenging days for anglers. On the water it was the same old song and dance again over the past week, trying to fish around undesirable weather conditions. Fishing reports were hard to come by for obvious reasons but there were a few decent catches reported.

Sheepshead is the one fish that responds well to cold and nasty weather and they were the best bet to target this past week. Fish to 20 inches were caught inside various Gulf passes, and around oyster bars, docks and piers throughout Pine Island Sound and San Carlos Bay. Sheepshead mixed with mostly undersized redfish were also caught from areas protected from the strong winds, including creeks in "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel and the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River.

Sheepshead have a small mouth that is full of big ugly teeth; therefore a small, thin, sharp hook is preferred to consistently get the hook to penetrate between all those teeth. And even then, a little luck comes in handy. Generally on my boat we rig one of two ways. First, with a #1 or 1/0 Owner Mutu Light circle hook tied to a couple feet of 20 to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and either a small sliding egg sinker or split-shot sinker. Use just enough weight to get it to the bottom. When you fish around oyster bars you will get hung up a lot; if you go with as little weight as possible it will greatly reduce hang ups.

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On one of the few good weather days this past week, Tim Valenti and his fishing buddies hauled in a nice catch of red grouper, mangrove snapper, grunts and porgies. They were fishing 30 miles west of Captiva with Captain Sean McQuade.


Second, and very productive, we rig an eighth or quarter-ounce jig head with a small shrimp. Fishing in deeper water with a strong current you may need to go with more weight. Pinch or bite the tail off and thread the shrimp tail first up the shank of the hook bottoming out at the head of the jig. A very slow bouncing retrieve works best but it can vary from day to day - don't be afraid to experiment. We usually fish both styles and see what works best; it changes from day to day and locations.

For bait, fresh shrimp is the go to bait. Many sheepshead anglers use various other, sometimes secretive baits, but we are going to stick with shrimp. Either a small shrimp threaded up the hook shank or if they are larger cut them accordingly. The smaller the piece you can get away with the better your hook-up success will be; sheepshead are notorious bait stealers, bring a lot of shrimp.

Despite all the weather ups and downs, there were a few good offshore reports. Captain Sean McQuade found limits of red grouper 20 to 30 miles west of Captiva, and mangrove snapper, grunts and porgy within sight of land. Other boats report big mangrove snapper plus false albacore, grunts, sheepshead and mackerel four to six miles west of Redfish Pass.

Our weather hasn't been great but watching what's going on to our north, we sure have no reason to complain. At least we are getting a few nice days each week and we are due for a stretch of nice weather. Pick the right day, get on the water and enjoy it!

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 238-283-7960, on the Web at or email:

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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