Fishing this past week one would never know its January. It wasn't just unusually warm, but bordering hot at times, conditions we don't expect for another 3 or 4 months. For the most part the bite was often slow, but if the weather pattern continues it should pick up soon.
Inshore, warming water has brought swarms of bait schools into Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish were often found feeding under the bait in 4 to 10 foot depths. Sharks are also returning, blacktips were reported a short distance offshore, at least on bull shark was landed from the beach after the sunset, and I have noticed a few bulls going over 5 foot cruising the shallow grass flats over the eastern Sound.
Like much of the fishing last week the trout bite was pretty slow, most anglers reported a few here and there but nothing steady, at least for fish of any size. A few places where fish were hooked included the flats south of marker 72 in Matlacha Pass, grass flats and sand holes southwest of Cabbage Key, and just outside the idle buoys outside Tarpon Bay. Fish were caught on a variety of baits including live shrimp or DOA shrimp under popping corks, silver and gold spoons, Mirrolure Mirrodines, and live sardines.
Last week brought some extreme low morning tides and fairly light winds, the perfect combination for hunting redfish in the shallows. Fish were often scattered, but a few small schools of reds were also located. A few locations worth noting, In Matlacha Pass, the Mud Hole area south of the bridge, in the Sound, the flats south of Pineland, and also off the southeastern shore of Buck Key. The best action was over the first hour or two of the incoming tide while wade fishing, from a kayak, or a very shallow raft skiff.
With the unusually warm water temps snook are out prowling many of their warm water haunts. This is good and bad. It's good in that their metabolism is greatly influenced by temperature, when it's warm they can have a heavy appetite and give us some great action. However, when the mild temperatures put them in areas that are a long way from their deeper sheltered winter areas, it could spell trouble. If we have a sudden cool down, and it's a moderately severe cold front, it could catch the snook in shallow areas where the water gets cold really fast. Snook can't tolerate cold water, that's why they head for the shelter of deeper protected areas in the winter. We all remember the severe snook kill in January 2010; let's hope we won't see a quick cool down like that again.
Offshore, the weather has cooperated nicely, a few mornings were a bit breezy, but usually settling down by mid-day. Captain Sean McQuade reports a steady bite on red grouper, lane snapper, grunts, and porgies in 55 to 70 foot depths west of Redfish Pass. Most fish were caught drift fishing while bouncing a jig tipped with squid or mullet, the morning were slow, but the bite picked up late morning as the seas calmed down. Further offshore, near the 100 ft. mark, a few boats found success with yellowtail and mangrove snapper. The snapper were caught on live shrimp, free lined or on a jig head dropped back into a chum line while anchored up current of structure.
If the unusually warm weather continues look for fish to begin transitioning from winter to spring mode pretty quick. They don't have a calendar to look at, they just go by how much daylight is in a day and water temperature, and the water temperature is warm. As long as we don't have a quick, hard, cold front, it's not a bad thing, we could see some great fishing early this year.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.