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On the Water: Great weather kicks off new year

By Staff | Jan 9, 2019

J.D.Cox and crew boated a limit of red grouper, plus a bunch of mixed snapper. They were fishing in 90 feet of water with Capt. Sean McQuade. PHOTO PROVIDED

Southwest Florida welcomed the New Year with great weather for fishing, boating and other outdoor activities.

Favorable conditions allowed anglers to fish Gulf waters from near shore to a good distance off. Reports were good, with impressive catches coming from 80 to 120-foot depths. Big snapper, including mangrove, lane, yellowtail, vermilion and a few muttons, were boated, along with red grouper up to 31 inches, plus amberjack, scamp and porgy. The larger snapper was caught from a chum line on light tackle. Shrimp, squid and cut sardines were the baits of choice.

Closer to land conditions are improving and some life is returning to near shore areas. Sheepshead, grunts and snapper, plus some catch-and-release gag grouper, were caught within sight of land. Fish weren’t caught in great numbers, but this is great news that these waters are rebounding.

With a long stretch of warm days, the inshore sheepshead bite was up or down as they generally are more aggressive when it’s cooler. As a cool front pushed down on Friday, the bite heated up and was good through the weekend. Sheepshead were reported from all their usual locations – oyster bars, docks, piers, bridges and along the gulf beaches. Extreme low tides often had them concentrated in the deeper pockets of these areas.

Many of the redfish reports came from anglers targeting sheepshead, with fish running in size from 16 to 25 inches caught on shrimp rigs. A few reds up to 28 inches were also caught off the flats of northern Matlacha Pass and mid-Pine Island Sound on the eastern side. Cut mullet or ladyfish soaked on bottom got their attention. Redfish and snook are both closed seasons, catch and release only.

The million dollar question lately is “where are the trout.” It’s been a struggle for many to catch any numbers; some are striking out completely. The few reports with decent numbers came from south Matlacha Pass and across Charlotte Harbor around Bull and Turtle bays. Like many species, many seatrout were decimated from the summers red tide and water issues. I have seen trout get hit hard in the past with a fairly quick recovery. Let’s hope the numbers improve soon.

Large ladyfish provided big smiles and bent rods for anglers young and old to ring in the New Year. They have no food value, but they sure are fun to catch, especially when you find a school. They were reported between the Caloosahatchee River and St. James City, and in northern Matlacha Pass. Bonnethead sharks, another great fighter, were hooked along sand bar edges in Charlotte Harbor and around Captiva and Cayo Costa islands. Unlike most sharks, bonnetheads prefer eating shrimp over fish. An extra long shank hook or a short trace of light wire leader is a good idea if you really want to get one to the boat.

I cannot remember the last time I have seen as many boats on the water as witnessed over the holidays. The weather was great, and a lot of folks took advantage of it. Thankfully, the holidays are behind us and we should see the next few weeks a little less crowded on the water. Then our tourist season will kick in full swing for the next couple months.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, via the Website www.fishpineisland.com or email gcl2fish@live.com.

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.