Last week's cold weather didn't last long with daytime temperatures ap-proaching 808 degrees taking over for the past week. Warmer weather and light wind made for good fishing opportunities inshore and offshore.
The sea trout bite is hit and miss; anglers report 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 and southeast of the drawbridge, grass flats and sand holes between Rocky Channel and Demere 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 a variety of soft plastics rigged on quarter-ounce jig heads.
The past 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, near the powerlines 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 draft skiff.
While bottom fishing for snapper and sheepshead, Tim Sanzi of Greenwich, Rhode Island, hooked into this great tasting hogfish or hog snapper. It was caught on a live shrimp west of Sanibel while fishing with Capt. Jason Ramer.
After the recent cool down, the sheepshead bite has really heated up inshore and offshore. Inshore, the best bet was targeting structure near the gulf passes. Likely areas included docks and piers around Punta Rassa, Sanibel and the rest of the barrier islands. Rock ledges around the passes also yielded fish up to 6 pounds. Shrimp was the top bait, either fished on a knocker rig, split-shot or jig head.
Nearshore structure also gave up good catches of sheepshead plus limits of mangrove snapper. Again the best baits were live shrimp. A few permit, cobia and hogfish were also reported in 30-foot depths.
Further offshore the weather has cooperated nicely for better than a week, a few mornings held a slight breeze, but usually flat calm by mid-day. Capt. Sean McQuade reports a steady bite on red grouper, mangrove and lane snapper, grunts and porgies in 60 to 90-foot depths west of Captiva. Still further offshore, near the 100-foot mark, a few boats found success with yellowtail and large 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 warm weather continues, we can expect fish to begin transitioning from winter to spring mode earlier than expected. 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 is warming each day. I've got to think we have a few more cold fronts ahead of us, but in the meantime enjoy the great weather.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.
As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.