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On the Water: Fishing up and down like the weather

By Staff | Jan 29, 2020

While catching snapper and sheepshead, Steve Rebeit of Estero, Florida, got a nice surprise, landing this tasty5-pound flounder. It was caught over a nearshore reef while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Like the weather, fishing was all over the place over the past week. We experienced beautiful sunny days with light winds as well as our coldest days in a couple years with strong gusts. Good fishing reports came from offshore in Gulf waters as conditions allowed, and inshore, the drop in temperature heated up the sheepshead bite.

Offshore, the target was grouper and snapper from deeper depths as red grouper up to 28 inches were boxed as well as mangrove and lane snapper. The larger red grouper came from depths between 80 and a hundred feet.

Anglers fishing reefs out to 45 feet hooked into a mix of bottom fish including mangrove snapper, sheepshead, grunts, flounder and out-of-season triggerfish and gag grouper. Fishing over the man-made reefs, anglers also hooked into Spanish mackerel, bonito, cobia, barracuda and sharks. A few tripletail up to 9 pounds were reported from depths out to 30 feet west of Redfish Pass.

Warm days ahead of the cool down turned on the appetite for snook, sea trout and redfish with good numbers of fish caught and released. Trout were located south of Cabbage Key in 3 to 6-foot depths and throughout the southern Sound. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and bluefish were often in the mix. Small swimbaits, paddle tails, spoons, and live pilchards were the baits of choice.

Snook and redfish were hooked around docks and piers around the gulf islands from Sanibel up to Cayo Costa State Park and from sand holes and trenches throughout Pine Island Sound and southern Matlacha Pass. Live shrimp, pilchards, and pinfish along with Berkley Gulps were the favored baits. A good number of redfish also fell for a small chunk of ladyfish.

Mild weather heated up shark fishing with blacktip, spinners, bulls and bonnet head reported in mid Pine Island Sound south of Rocky Channel and around Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. Small sharks were hooked on shrimp and pinfish under a bobber and the larger sharks up to 6 feet went for cut mullet and ladyfish soaked on bottom. Several stingrays were hooked as well.

Bouncing small shrimp-tipped jigs and pompano style jigs resulted in hook-ups with pompano and permit. Fish up to 15 inches were caught along the back or east side of Cayo Costa State Park, the Gulf side off the spoil island on the Sanibel Causeway and Matlacha Pass. Hook-ups were also noted on live shrimp under popping corks, as well as ladyfish and trout.

The inshore sheepshead bite was slowing down with the warm weather, but reports were good with big fish after the cold fronts pushed through. This is normal for targeting sheephead, the larger fish generally thrive when its cold and the smaller guys are more active as the water warms.

It was nice to have a little stretch of great weather with light winds to venture offshore last week. Of course, the wind returned with this recent cold front but once the weather settles back down, good fishing offshore should resume. Make sure to stay up to date with all current fishing regulations by visiting www.myfwc.com.

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.