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On the Water: It was a cool week of fishing in Southwest Florida

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Jan 20, 2021

On a cool sunny day, Lori Reupert of Fort Myers caught this big pompano in Pine Island Sound while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

It was a cool week on the water, in fact it’s been a while since we’ve seen 80-degree highs. Cooler days made good fishing for some and not so good for others.

Sheepshead fishing was hit or miss across the inshore waters. Often a good mess of fish was located one day only to be gone the next. Sheepshead, plus redfish, black drum, small snapper and a few pompano were caught along the western side of Pine Island Sound and the barrier islands. Deep shorelines and creeks, rocks, pilings and oyster bottom were the best bet while fishing live or cut bait on or near the bottom.

With cool days, many anglers chose to fish in and around creeks and canals. Often creeks were only accessible with very shallow draft vessels due to low tides. A variety of fish, including redfish, sea trout, snook, sheepshead, black drum, mangrove snapper and jack crevasse, were hooked. Baits included live shrimp, jig head shrimp combination, shrimp tipped jigs, DOAs in a shrimp pattern and small sub surface lures. With the cool water, fishing slow and low returned best results.

Catch-and-release seatrout reports were good across Pine Island Sound. Fish up to 22 inches were caught around sand holes or potholes between Pineland and Bokeelia, and southwest of Cabbage Key. Ladyfish, jack crevalle and a couple pompano were boated as well. Baits included live shrimp or gulp shrimp under a popping cork, suspended twitch baits and paddle tail plastics. Similar results were found with smaller run of trout on the east side of the channel from marker 68 to 72 in north Matlacha Pass.

Anglers looking for redfish found good numbers, but found they were often reluctant to eat. Schools of up to 25 fish were sighted around island points and depressions in the Sound north of Demere Key, yet perfectly placed baits seldom got a reaction. Redfish were biting across the Sound, as fish up to 28 inches were caught and released around Blind and Captiva passes, and shoreline drop-offs on the outer islands. Several big redfish were hooked from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier as well.

Season remains closed for snook, spotted seatrout and redfish in waters of Southwest Florida from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. You can visit www.myfwc.com for all current regulations.

Nearshore reefs and hard bottom were a good option over the light wind days. For the cooler, sheepshead, mangrove and lane snapper, plus grunts, were caught on shrimp and squid in depths from 28 to 45 feet of water. Out of season gag grouper and triggerfish were caught and released. Triple tail up to 12 pounds were hooked with live shrimp from the same depths.

Further offshore, red grouper were boxed over hard and live bottom in depths from 80 to 110 feet. Baits included live pinfish, squid and heavy slow pitch jigs. Often only a fish or two would come from a spot, then relocate with similar results, and repeat over and over. It took a while, but the effort often resulted in a limit of big grouper. Mangrove and lane snapper, plus porgy were boated from the same area while fishing lighter tackle.

For now, weather looks pretty good for the upcoming week. A gradual rise in temperature each day, maybe getting back to 80 degrees for the weekend. That’s the forecast as of now, of course we all know how accurate a weather forecast can be. Let’s hope it’s right! 

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 Southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.