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On the Water: 2020 off to a windy start in Southwest Florida

By Staff | Jan 8, 2020

Tom Kress, a winter resident of South Fort Myers, with a nice redfish he caught and released on a windy day in Pine Island Sound. Tom hooked this redfish along with several others plus sheepshead on live shrimp while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

We opened the new year in Southwest Florida with steady winds over most days. Inshore anglers fared well despite conditions, however conditions offshore in gulf waters were not as accommodating.

Anglers fishing Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass report a steady bite with a variety of fish. Just as last year closed out, the new year began with great redfish reports. Reds ranging from 16 to 32 inches in size were caught and released around the gulf passes, along shorelines and oyster bars, plus sand potholes on the lower tides.

Many fishermen found sea trout action hot across the sound with fish ranging from 13 to 21 inches. This is great news as the trout stock was hit hard from water quality a few years back. They are coming back strong. Most fish were targeted over grassy bottom in 4 to 8-foot depths or in the same sand holes as mentioned for redfish. Good numbers of Spanish mackerel and ladyfish were hooked over the same grassy bottom from Cabbage Key south to Redfish Pass.

Mild weather to bring in the new year slowed up the sheepshead bite a tad as they are far more aggressive when water temperature drops. The best bite came from structure along the gulf islands, including the Sanibel Fishing Pier and Blind Pass Bridge. A few pompano, mangrove snapper and black drum were also caught from these areas. With a cool front that moved in over the weekend ,we can expect sheepshead fishing to heat up.

Above average water temperature allowed anglers to target warm weather species, including snook, tarpon and sharks. Snook were found along channel edges and structure inside the gulf passes, and along island points or holes along the eastern shore of the sound. In Matlacha Pass, snook were hooked around oyster bar and creek mouths south of the bridge.

Several tarpon were boated or lost in Pine Island Sound while soaking cut ladyfish or mullet on bottom. Most reports came from south of Rocky Channel. While targeting tarpon, sharks, including blacktip and bulls up to 5 feet, were also hooked on cut bait.

The Bokeelia Fishing Pier gave anglers a mix of fish including redfish, sheepshead, snapper, mackerel and sharks. If you are on or near Pine Island without access to a boat, the fishing pier is a great alternative. The Matlacha Drawbridge and Sanibel Fishing Piers are other good options.

A day or two that winds weren’t overly strong, boats targeted nearshore artificial reefs with success. Spanish mackerel were hooked on silver spoons, often with large sharks in hot pursuit. Bottom rigs brought up sheepshead, snapper, redfish, a few flounder and undersize grouper.

Going into the new year, make sure you are up to date on current fishing regulations for the area you fish. In our area, snook, redfish and sea trout seasons remained closed. That means catch and release only. Gag grouper also closed on the first of the year. Please go to www.myfwc.com for current rules and regulations.

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. Holiday gift certificates are available.

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.