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On the Water: Make time for some holiday fishing

December 21, 2016
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

You have to love fishing and boating the waters of Southwest Florida in December, heading into Christmas and our daytime highs are well above 80 degrees. When we do get a cold front, it generally only lasts a day or two then the bright sunny skies are back.

Anglers report hooking into a few redfish in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Fish ranging from a small of 13 inches to larger fish pushing 29 inches were caught in sand potholes on the lowest of tides, tailing over the shallows on the rising water, and on oyster bars, creeks and mangroves shorelines on the higher water. Baits for catching the reds included shrimp, cut mullet, ladyfish and pinfish on the natural side, and weedless gold spoons, suspended twitch baits, Berkley Gulps and flies for artificial. On the mild days, snook are roaming the shallower water where fish to 30 inches were caught and released.

Trout reports improved slightly over previous weeks in Matlacha Pass as fish up to 18 inches were found south of the bridge. In southern Pine Island Sound, trout up to 21 inches were caught on top-water lures in the skinny water around mullet schools, and concentrations of fish from 13 to 19 inches were found in sand potholes and over mottled grass/sand bottom in 4 to 7-foot depths.

Article Photos

Sheepshead fishing is a good bet through the holiday season. Pictured are a couple of the sheepshead Tom And Ron Boltze  of Sebring, Fla., hooked on a cool morning in Pine Island Sound. They were fishing with Captain Bill Russell.


Schools of large ladyfish kept kids busy and happy in mid-Pine Island Sound as they gave non-stop action while drifting 4 to 6-foot depths. A few bonnethead sharks up to 3 feet were also hooked in the area. Schools of bluefish were in the same areas as the ladies, and schooling bluefish were also caught around the south end of Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia.

Sheepshead up to 4 pounds were caught around structure at the various Gulf passes and around the Blind Pass rocks and the Bokeelia and Sanibel Fishing Piers. Cut fresh shrimp fished on a small J or circle hook with enough weight to keep it on bottom, or small shrimp-tipped jigs were the preferred rigs. Whiting, snapper, flounder and pompano were also caught.

Offshore, great weather made for a week of good fishing. Good numbers of red grouper with many weighing double digits were caught in depths from 65-95 feet. Many boats report king mackerel to 25 pounds busting bait schools over depths from 40-60 feet and schools of black fin tuna were unusually close to shore as they were hooked in depths from 55-75 feet. Steady action with a mix of bottom and pelagic species was reported from many of the marked artificial reefs within sight of land.

The holiday season is here and many of us have friends or family visiting from out of state where they just don't have the beautiful holiday weather we come to expect in Southwest Florida. Make sure you take some time and treat them to a day on the water and show them what a paradise we live in.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information or to purchase a Holiday Gift Certificate, please contact us at 239-283-7960, on the Web at or email: Holiday gift certificates are available.

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.



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