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On the Water: Make some time for holiday fishing

December 19, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

With the weather all over the place, fishing was still good for some while other anglers struggled. As we try to recover from the resent red tide, fishermen are discovering that areas they have fished in the past and done well may not be holding fish at this time. It's often necessary to move around and try different areas to get on a bite. Sheepshead fishing is good and getting better every day as our waters continue to cool down.

Anglers report hooking into redfish in Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and off the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor. Fish ranging from a small of 13 inches to larger fish pushing 30 inches were caught in sand potholes on the lowest of tides, tailing over the shallows on the rising water, and around 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, Voodoo shrimp and flies for artificial.

On the mild days, snook are roaming the shallower water where fish to 30 inches were caught and released. Snook, plus a few redfish, were also caught between Blind Pass and the entrance to "Ding" Darling. Redfish, as well as snook, are out of season and catch-and-release only.

Article Photos

Roger Long, Jacob and Mike Ferreha fished hard to catch these sheepshead for a family holiday fish fry. They were fishing near north Captiva with Capt. Bill Russell.


Trout were noted in Matlacha Pass both north and south of the bridge. To the north, fish were hooked while drifting live shrimp under popping corks in 3 to 5-feet of water northeast of the S-curve of the channel. To the south, trout were found between the powerlines and the Manatee Bay entrance. Working the perimeter of oyster bars with live shrimp and soft plastics fooled trout up to 20 inches. A little further south, a few big trout were reported near Shell Island in the mouth of the river. In upper or northern Pine Island Sound, trout up to 21 inches were caught on top-water lures in the skinny water on low incoming tide. Concentrations of small fish from 12 to 15 inches were found over mottled grass/sand bottom in 3 to 7-foot depths in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. Bluefish were also hooked with the trout in Matlacha Pass and in the Harbor.

The sheepshead bite was steady over most inshore waters. Fish up to 5 pounds were caught around structure along the bayside of the barrier islands from Sanibel to the north up to Gasparilla Island. Fish were also reported in creeks in south Matlacha Pass, the Caloosahatchee River, and "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge. Sheepshead and black drum were hooked around oyster bars in south Matlacha Pass near the powerlines.

From shore there were reports of some really nice sheepshead caught from the Matlacha Drawbridge, plus the Bokeelia and Sanibel fishing piers. A few large black drum were also caught and released from the Matlacha Bridge. For targeting sheepshead, small or cut fresh shrimp fished on a small J or circle hook with just enough weight to keep it on bottom or small shrimp tipped jigs were the preferred rigs.

The holiday season is here and many of us have friends or family visiting from out of state or country 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, please contact us Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, via the Website or email Holiday gift certificates available

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. 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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