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On the Water: Make some time for holiday fishing

By Staff | Dec 25, 2019

While targeting sheepshead, David Nixon, visiting from Alberta, Canada, had fun landing several hard-fighting bonnet head sharks. They were caught and released on shrimp-tipped jigs while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell in Matlacha Pass. PHOTO PROVIDED

Over the past couple weeks on the waters around Southwest Florida, we had many great boating days followed with not so desirable cool, windy and, at times, rainy weather. The weather forecast looks much improved as we head into the holiday week.

Offshore, the better grouper bite continues in depths from 90 out past 100 feet. Red grouper up to 30 inches were boxed with various live baits and large jigs tipped with whole squid the preferred baits. Lane and mangrove snapper also were caught from the same bottom, and a few cobia were sighted or hooked.

In closer to land, over depths from 30 to 50 feet, anglers report a mixed catch of sheepshead, snapper, grunts, flounder, small grouper and lots of blue runners. Some areas were good and others slow, often requiring boats to fish several areas to get on a bite. Redfish, barracuda and sharks were caught and released from artificial reefs in these depths as well.

Shallow water anglers report hooking into redfish in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Fish ranging from a small of 12 inches to larger fish over 30 inches were hooked in sand potholes and deeper creeks on the lowest of tides, tailing over the shallow flats on the rising water, and around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines on the higher water. Baits for targeting reds included shrimp, cut mullet, ladyfish and pinfish on the natural side, and weedless gold spoons, suspended twitch baits, Berkley Gulps, Voodoo shrimp and various fly patterns for artificial.

On the mild sunny days, snook were roaming the shallower water where fish up to 28 inches were caught and released. Snook, plus sheepshead and redfish, were also caught from under the Blind Pass Bridge and nearby docks up the channel and in “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. Redfish, as well as snook, are out of season and catch-and-release only.

Sheepshead fishing is good and getting better every day as our waters continue to cool down. Fish up to 4 pounds were caught around structure along the bayside of the barrier islands from Punta Rassa to Sanibel Island all along the way north up past Gasparilla Island. Sheeps-head were also hooked in creeks in south Matlacha Pass and the Caloosa-hatchee River. From shore there were reports of sheepshead caught from the Matlacha Drawbridge, plus the Bokeelia and Sanibel fishing piers. Black drum, redfish, flounder and pompano were also hooked from many of these areas.

For targeting sheeps-head, 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 heads are preferred rigs.

If you are just looking to get in on the action, keep an eye out for feeding birds. Inshore it often indicates a school of ladyfish and in Gulf waters it could be mackerel. Both are great fun and hard fighters. Also, bonnet head sharks to 3 feet are abundant inshore. They prefer shrimp over fish-type baits and fight hard and fast for their size.

Many people mistake them for a hammerhead as they look very similar. A whole shrimp under a popping cork with a long shank hook, or a short trace of light wire leader is a great rig for hooking and landing them. Like all sharks, they have a mouth full of small teeth, so be careful when handling.

The holiday season is upon us and many have friends and family visiting from out of state or country where they just don’t have the beautiful weather we come to expect in Southwest Florida over the holidays.

Fishing or just enjoying nature and outdoors, take some time and treat them to a day on the water and show them what a paradise we live in.

Wishing all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Looking for that perfect gift? We have holiday gift cards available.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fishpineisland.com; or via email at gcl2fish@live.com.

Have a safe week and good fishin’.

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.