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On the Water: Cooler days bring some good fishing

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Dec 9, 2020

Fish are on the move with cooler temperatures. Pine Islander Shamu McGrew holds a big gag grouper he boated while returning home for a few days from Colorado. He was fishing with Capt. Scotty Darna of Saltyboy Fishing Charters. PHOTO PROVIDED

The week started off cool and windy as a cold front dropped into Southwest Florida disrupting fishing for a few days. By mid-week, the sun was out with good days of fishing reported. 

Drag-screaming action with bonito, Spanish, and king mackerel picked right up where it left off before the cold front. Schooling fish were located under birds in depths from 18 to 40 feet off the beaches from Helens Reef south to Knapp’s Point. Fish were hooked trolling spoons or shiny lures and freelining live baitfish or cast and retrieving silver spoons. Sharks up to 6 feet were hooked as well.  

Over the incoming tides, schooling mackerel were working bait schools in or just outside Captiva and Boca Grande passes. Fish were often seen rocketing from the water under feeding birds. Small spoons with a fast retrieve was the bait of choice. Also, in Boca Grande Pass, bottom fishing was good for grouper and snapper. While most were running undersize, dropping a shrimp to the bottom resulted in instant strikes and bent rods.  

Depths from 32 to 60 feet offshore turned out good mixed bag catches of mangrove and lane snapper, grunts, grouper and sheepsheads. Keeper-size grouper were hooked on live pinfish and grunts, with most other catches coming from shrimp or squid. Sheepshead are just beginning to show up around offshore structure and will continue to get better after each cold front. Several cobia and tripletail were also reported west of Sanibel. 

Sheepshead reports are slowly improving across inshore areas with the water cooling down. From shore, the Bokeelia Fishing Pier and Matlacha Drawbridge yielded several big fish plus undersized ones, while fishing near pilings with shrimp. Kayak anglers hooked into sheepshead plus small black drum and redfish fishing oyster creeks in “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. Around the gulf passes, sheepshead are beginning to arrive as fish were hooked around structure, including pilings, rocks and tree snags.     

Despite the cooler water temperature, the snook bite was good in Pine Island Sound. Fish up to 32 inches were caught and released around islands between Demere Key and Pineland, along the eastern side of north Captiva Island, and around Redfish and Captiva Passes.  

Pompano were caught in Pine Island Sound while fishing live shrimp on bottom or slow bouncing shrimp-tipped nylon jigs and pompano jigs. The best action came over the incoming tide in 5 to 8-foot depths along shallower drop-offs. Ladyfish, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and, of course, lizard fish, were also caught.  

Cool fronts are becoming more frequent and water temperature will continue to decline. This will push more fish down our coast from the northern gulf and give a jump start to our annual sheepshead run moving forward.  

Holiday gift certificates are available.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fish pineisland.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 South-west Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.