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On the Water: Cooler weather arrives in Southwest Florida

November 20, 2019
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

After a long stretch of above average warm weather, back-to-back cool fronts dropped down into Southwest Florida. Fishing was good ahead of the fronts and a drop in temperature should boost the bite moving forward.

Offshore, with the winds brisk all week, there wasn't much to report from Gulf waters.

Inshore, ahead of the cool down over the weekend, the snook and redfish bite was very good. Fish were caught and released in good numbers in northern Pine Island Sound and in the southern Sound near Blind Pass and further south. Fish were reported in south Matlacha Pass, the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor and the Bokeelia Fishing Pier.

Article Photos

Cooler weather is a plus for catching sheepshead. Paul Ormsby of south Fort Myers hooked this big one while fishing this past weekend's cool down. Paul was fishing Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.


Snook, redfish and jack crevalle were hooked around oyster bars and creek mouths near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River as well. Most fish reported were hooked on live or cut bait including pilchards, pinfish, shrimp, ladyfish and mullet.

Grass flats at the very north end of Pine Island Sound and across Charlotte Harbor held a mix of fish including sea trout, bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and a few small sharks. The best bite came while anchoring or drifting 4 to 6-foot depths. Shrimp or small baitfish under a popping cork worked best with shiny spoons also getting attention.

Shore-bound anglers continue to catch a mix of fish from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier. Snapper, sheepshead, grouper, snook, black or red drum and jack crevalle are a few of the species you may hook into. I believe there was also a report of a big tarpon landed from the pier over the week.

With the cooler weather, it's that time to start targeting sheepshead. Larger fish become more abundant inshore and nearshore over the next few months. They have a small mouth overloaded with teeth. Not sharp like mackerel but designed to crush barnacles, oysters and crabs. Fishing a small, sharp hook is very important, generally a 1/0 or smaller. Shrimp is the most commonly used bait, and like the hook, small is better. Sheepshead are notorious bait stealers; with a big shrimp they generally just rip it off the hook. I prefer to fish a small shrimp or cut the big ones up into smaller pieces.

The change of weather with cooler days will change the way we fish. Warm water temperature has kept large amounts of baitfish around, but as the mercury drops most will move away in the near future.

This is the time of year when shrimp or artificials that appear as shrimp are top baits. For many of us, that's a nice change up from throwing the cast net at daylight catching bait fish every morning.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at; or via email at Holiday gift certificates a available.

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.



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