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On the Water: Up and down fishing over the holiday week

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Dec 30, 2020

Sheepshead fishing is heating up around the island. The Eisley family brought home a fish dinner for the holidays while fishing near Cayo Costa State Park with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

The holiday week was a week of low tides, unpredictable fishing, changing weather conditions and a few very cold days. Fishing was all over the place — good for some and terrible for others. That’s often the case with wintertime fishing, but you won’t know if you don’t try if luck is on your side on any given day.  

Anglers looking for a workout played tug a war with sharks up to 6 feet in and around the gulf passes and nearshore reefs. Blacktip, spinner and sand bar sharks were caught with mullet, ladyfish and jack crevalle as bait.  

Extreme low tides presented good opportunities for pursuing tailing redfish throughout Pine Island Sound. Shallow technical skiffs and kayaks with the ability to get super skinny found fish up to 28 inches on the eastern side of the sound around Forty Acre Bay and Panther Key. Baits included shrimp pattern flies and live shrimp rigged weedless. Sea trout and small snook were also caught from deeper sand holes in the same areas.  

D & D Marina reports anglers catching black drum from the Matlacha Drawbridge and canals near the marina. Drum were hooked with shrimp or crab as bait with larger drum preferring blue crabs. Sheepshead were also reported from these locations.  

Those looking to put fish on table targeted sheepshead across Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and along the gulf beaches. Fish were caught around structure, deeper mangrove shorelines and cruising the surf along the beach. Numbers improved over the week and the average size also stepped up. Black drum up to 17 inches, a few flounder, snapper and redfish were mixed with the sheepshead. Most were caught on live or fresh shrimp and fiddler crabs.  

Except for a day or two, the wind was just strong enough to keep most boats inshore or close to land.  A few keeper-size gag grouper were brought up from 40-foot depths west of Captiva Pass on live pinfish. Mangrove and lane snapper, plus grunts and a few big sheepshead, also came from depths between 30 and 40 feet. Spanish mackerel, blue runners and jack crevalle were caught around Helen’s Reefs along with sharks and a few sheepshead.  

Spanish mackerel were caught while trolling silver spoons in Boca Grande Pass between the lighthouse and first set of bell buoys to the west. Steady action with small grouper and snapper was good over the slack tide over ledges in Boca Grande Pass while dropping shrimp on a knocker rig to the bottom. Spanish mackerel were reported off Oyster Shoals near Bokeelia and just outside Captiva Pass as well.  

Finally, we’ve reached the last week of 2020. It’s been a crazy year that’s for sure, one that many would like to forget. Despite all that’s wrong in the world, fishing remained good throughout the year in Southwest Florida. No one knows what the new year will bring, but I hope everyone makes more time to get on the water and enjoy or back yard.

Happy New Year and thanks for taking the time to read our column.     

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.