Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Home RSS

December, and cooler temperatures, bring fishing changes

December 5, 2018
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL - On the Water , Pine Island Eagle

December brings cooler days around Southwest Florida and the islands, and a change in the way many of us fish. As temperatures drop, it will push small baitfish offshore and south to warmer waters. As this occurs, shrimp becomes the primary diet for fish through the winter months. There are not many fish in our coastal waters that won't eat a shrimp; in fact, shrimp is the mainstay for most inshore species' diet, especially through the cold months.

We are getting to that time for targeting sheepshead as big pre-spawn fish move inshore with the lower temperatures. Unlike the northern species with the same name, our saltwater sheepshead are excellent on the table. Look for fish, with many scaling over 5 pounds, hanging around structure, including dock and bridge pilings, rock jetties and fallen trees along the beach, and on oyster bars. If you don't mind fishing in the cold, then this is your fish - the colder the better for sheeps-head. After our first cold front last week, sheepshead catches were on the rise with fish reported around Sanibel, Captiva, and the barrier islands, and from the Bokeelia and Sanibel Fishing Piers.

Pompano are similar to sheepshead in the fact that they will not eat any type of baitfish, but feed primarily on small crustaceans, including shrimp, crabs, sand fleas, etc. Quarter or eighth-ounce nylon jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp can be deadly on pompano when properly bounced across the bottom. Popular colors are white, pink and yellow. Silly Willy-style jigs have also gained a lot of popularity since introduced. Live shrimp suspended near the bottom under a popping cork is also a great offering. Both sheepshead and pompano have relatively small mouths, so it is important not to use a large hook. I prefer number 1 or 1/0 Owner Mutu Light circle hooks.

Article Photos

Photo provided

Stan Reese and Wes Pfeiffer hooked into some good sheepshead during last week's cool weather. They were fishing near north Captiva Island with Capt. Bill Russell of Gulf Coast Guide Service.

Pompano were hooked last week in south Matlacha Pass, plus a couple permit were caught with them around oyster bars. Pompano were also caught off the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor.

Sea trout fishing should remain steady to close out the year. Trout were affected in some areas by the summer red tides more than others. The better fishing reports recently came from mid to northern Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Look for fish moving off the shallow grass flats to deeper protected areas as temperatures drop. Deep areas around oyster bars, creeks, canals, channel edges and sand holes are good areas to target. Live shrimp or shrimp imitations are the best baits.

Redfish and snook have a closed season, this was put in place due to the number of fish that perished due to the deadly red tide of this past summer. So, for now and the foreseeable future both are catch-and-release only. The past few months have been good for playing with snook, so it appears they are on the rebound. Snook will transition to deeper protected waters over the month where they spend the winter. In season or not, snook are always a blast to catch, just make sure and release them quickly.

Nearshore reefs are another option to take advantage of on good weather days. Many of these near shore areas were hit hard with the red tide, some may bounce back sooner than others. It seems there is still red tide looming off the beaches, so this could affect fishing these areas in the near future. If the water quality clears and fish return, you may hook into an assortment of fish of all sizes that could include snapper, sheepshead, grunts, grouper, permit, barracuda, cobia, tripletail, and many other species. These reefs are a blast to fish if conditions are right.

As the craziness of the holiday season builds, there is no place like a day on the water to get away from the madness. There will be good fishing opportunities as we end the year, plus if you enjoy wildlife and nature, this is as good as it gets. Even if the fish aren't biting, I still can't think of a better place to spend a day in December in Southwest Florida than with nature and tranquility on the water, and away from the crowds.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, via the Website or email Holiday gift certificates available

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. 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.



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web