fishing Forecast

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  • 03/02/2017 6:24 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Freshwater or salt, take your pick
    By Capt. Tom Van Horn

    Fishing in Central Florida has shown some improvement in this past week with our best action coming from anglers fishing freshwater locations like the St Johns River.  Extremely low water conditions experienced this year are the complete opposite from last year, but last week’s rainfall has water levels moving in the right direction. The Haulover Cannel water gauge (https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?02248380 ) is showing an 8-inch increase and the St Johns River gauge near Lake Harney (https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=02234000) is showing a 7-inch increase. These increases should have fish on the move this week and make navigation a little safer.

    March is notorious for rough waters, but when conditions get bad on the open waters of the lagoons and offshore, it's time to shift gears and consider some of Central Florida's freshwater lakes and rivers.  The wonderful thing about living in Florida is there are always places to fish.  Although the weather conditions get windy and cold, we still managed to catch fish on both the St Johns River and the Mosquito Lagoon.  Fished with four different parties this past week with three on the St Johns River and one in the Mosquito Lagoon and in spite of the gusty winds we caught a mixed bag of American shad, sunshine bass, striped bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie and brim on the St Johns, and some nice black drum and redfish on the Mosquito Lagoon.

    In March, I always use my lavender azaleas as an indicator for the arrival of the cobia migration north through our near-shore waters. Their magnificent blooms favor the same temperatures and weather conditions, and when the azalea blooms peek the time is right. Currently my azaleas are blooming, but like the azalea’s delicate blooms, the cobia run will pass before you know it.

    The current water temperature in Port Canaveral is 71.4 which is ideal, so watch for the progression of baits schools (Atlantic menhaden and silver mullet) from warmer waters into the near-shore waters bringing the cobia and other predators with them. The warmer waters will also draw manta rays into the shallows shadowed by pods of cobia. Other notable species are tripletail around the buoys and under flotsam, heavy weight jack carvalle near the end of the month, large redfish, and sharks shadowing bait schools. Currently, the cobia have started showing up, and once the seas lay down, cobia mania will begin.

    Moving out into deeper water, the spring kingfish run should begin with the smaller kings showing up around the middle of March, followed by the smokers, 30 to 50 pounds in April on the near-shore reefs and wrecks like Pelican Flats and 8A reef. If the bait moves in close to the beach, look for the larger kingfish to follow them. Also, April marks the beginning of the fishing season for many of the blue water anglers with the start of the April/May northern migration of dolphin in 120 feet of water and beyond, and the early part of the run usually includes some of the largest bulls taken all year.

    In the inlets and along the beaches, whiting, pompano, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel should remain a staple with sheepshead and black drum holding on jetties and rock piles. As we move into the later part of April, watch for the snook and tarpon action to improve in Sebastian Inlet and then move north following the bait progression.

    On the lagoon, rising water levels will draw the slot size redfish schools up onto the shallow flats, with the larger breeder schools holding along the deeper edges and sand bars. On the cooler days, focus your attention on sand pockets or potholes, and once the afternoon sun warms the water, look for tailing fish on the shallow flats. Also, the end of March signals the return of silver mullet to the estuary, and the beginning early morning and late evening top water sea trout and redfish action.

    Last but not lease, mid-March brings largemouth, stripers and sunshine bass into the equation as schooling bass begin to form up in consistent patterns on the St Johns River. Last year, fifty bass days were not uncommon as schooling pre-spawn and post spawn fish push schools of menhaden to the surface at first light creating explosive top-water action. Additionally, the American shad run is showing signs of improvement, so give shad a shot while they are still here.

    As always, if you have questions or need information or would like to book a fishing charter, please contact me.

    Good luck and good fishing,

    Captain Tom Van Horn
    www.irl-fishing.com

  • 03/02/2017 6:15 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Late March begins Spring fishing
    By Greg Stamper

    March especially late March is the month when things start to warm back up. We look forward to watching the water temperatures begin to slowly warm and with that, the fishing gets better. Patients is still important early in the month as we wait for the water to warm up above 74 consistently. Spring is in the air which opens a bunch of options for fishermen.

    Early in the month we’ll still be fishing for the cold weather fish like sheepshead, trout, mackerel, etc. Sheepshead will continue to be found both in the backcountry as well as on the nearshore wrecks and reefs in good numbers. Trout don’t seem to mind the cooler water and should be consistent over the grass flats in 2 to 4 feet of water. Throwing D.O.A. shrimp either tied to a popping cork or thrown by itself to get your share of spotted sea trout. Redfish will certainly be available and can be plentiful, caught on everything from cut baits to top water artificials. Redfish can be really good on the right tides this time of the year, so plan to target them when the waters moving in or out of the backcountry well. Fishing the passes when the water isn’t silted up can also be productive in early March. Pompano, mackerel, jacks, baby shark and the last of the bluefish will be available on jigs tipped with shrimp worked aggressively.
    Later in the month assuming we don’t get any strong cold fronts, Spring time begins. This is the beginning of awesomeness for South Florida. Snook, redfish, permit, tarpon, and other fun things begin to show up as bait schools begin to travel from the South. Snook my favorite fish to target but not kill, get on the move this month. Snook will be fattening up as the water warms and be found in great numbers at times. The sure way to catch them is with live baits of several varieties. Baits such as pilchards, pinfish, threadfin herring, and pig fish all work excellent freelined on a 2/o or 3/o circle hooks with 30-40lb fluorocarbon leader. Fly fishing for them can be a challenging way to spend your day. Fly-fishing for the little ones isn’t too tough if your accurate with the cast. The big boys however can humble even a seasoned angler rather quickly at times.  Lastly throwing artificial lures both soft and hard can give an angler a fun day and other species as well.

    Tarpon being something South West Florida is known for, starts up now through December and can be targeted many ways in lots of areas.  The big fish typically move in to begin their spawn April through June, however fish in the 100lb class and below are showing up now. Tarpon will show up along bridges, in the rivers, and both near the beaches as well as out several miles. Targeting these fish can be done both day or night depending on what Mother Nature deals us. Depending on the size of the tarpon your targeting, leader size can go from 20lb for the juveniles “10-30lbers” all the way up to 80lb for the monsters. Hooks will vary depending on what your targeting but in general I move up to a heavier hook strength from size 4/0 up when I believe the fish will be at least 100lbs. We’ll target them with crabs, threadfins, grunts, and other small baits both freelined and corked at times. Tarpon will eat plugs, big jigs, and soft plastics as well. Standard heavy spinning gear is most popular and anything that can hold 400 yards of line is recommended for the big ones.

    Cobia, permit, tripletail, and a variety of reef species fishing just keeps getting better in March. Targeting all these species is doable, so having set ups all ready for them is a good thing. Cobia will usually just wander up to you while approaching wrecks so having a bait ready to go when coming off plain is important.  Tripletail may be spotted as you run out to somewhere, and permit can often be seen tailing in places as they feed on crustaceans.

    Tight lines
    Captain Greg Stamper
    239-313-1764
    Snook Stamp Charters

  • 03/02/2017 5:55 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Early spring transition
    By Captain Michael Manis

    Again, its transition time around the harbor, we’re heading into spring. The winter pattern of low tide sand hole fishing is about to change. We’ll still get to deal with the wind, but warmer air and water temperatures should begin to bring the bait in from offshore and the fish will get aggressive. It’s not unusual to see a good cold snap in March, but overall, it’s a big change from the past two months.

    Typically, I like to pick up where I left off last month, working outside shorelines adjacent to backcountry creek systems. Out of Punta Gorda, I’ll work south from Alligator Creek down to Pirate Harbor and it’s not out of the question working all the way down to Buzzard Bay in Matlacha. I’ll target snook, redfish, and spotted sea trout.  At the top of the harbor, the north end of the west wall and the shorelines at the edge of the western entrance to the Myakka cutoff can also be good spring snook spots.

    Towards the end of the month, it’s even possible to see some tarpon show up in the upper harbor. These are resident fish that come out of the rivers. Generally, April is prime for this bite, but if it’s warm enough, late March could be good. Cobia will also begin to appear around the bars that surround both the east and west walls. I like to pole or run the trolling motor down the outside edge and look for groups of cow nose rays as it’s not unusual to find the cobia close behind. In addition, these bar structures also should still be holding some pompano. Hard bottom is the key and I’ve found them up and down both the east and west walls on any given day. I’ve also run into them inside Boca Grande Pass just across the intracoastal on the Cayo Costa side.

    The sheepshead bite should still be strong anywhere there is structure. The Boca Grande and Placida trestles are very popular as is the artificial reef off Alligator Creek. On windy days, some live shrimp thrown up under any canal system dock can make for a good time. The Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte canals hold good numbers.

    Until next month, good tides.

    Captain Michael Manis

    Punta Gorda Fly Charters
    (941) 628-7895
    mike@puntagordaflycharters.com
    www.puntagordaflycharters.com

  • 03/02/2017 5:26 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Wind may dictate March fishing
    By Capt. Charlie Conner 

    March has arrived on the Treasure Coast and, traditionally, we can expect windy conditions along with some rain clouds most days.   It might dictate where and when you can get on the water, but at least we aren't cutting holes in the ice to fish!  Water temperatures will continue to rise and the fish will be actively feeding on the flats.  Winter was a little cooler and windier for us in February.  March brings the transition into Spring and things will warm up again. Take advantage of the good days and get out fishing soon!

    As the sun warms up the water again, look for fish to travel into the shallows to feed. Trout will continue to be most prevalent in the deeper grass flats in two to four feet of water. Those anglers using live shrimp on popping corks, Deadly Combos, CAL jerk baits and top water will have the best chance at hooking up with a trout. I like to fish the edges of the shallows where the water drops off to these depths. You can find trout in four to six feet of water and they will move onto the shallower flats to let the sun warm them as the day goes on. Depending on weather conditions, there are many areas to fish.  Round Island, Bear Point and Harbor Branch are always popular to fish in March.

    Redfish will get more active this month and you can find some tailing on the flats in early mornings.  Top water, DOA shrimp, CAL grub tails or gold spoons are good choices for finding a spot tail on the flats.  Don't forget to fish around the mangroves also.  So far this winter, there has continued to be a good redfish population around the river and the fishing has been fantastic for them. I tend to like the east side of the river for redfish, but you can find them on the west side also.  Work your baits slowly along the bottom for best results.  This has been a good winter to allow us to enjoy a terrific redfish bite around the docks and mangroves with nice sized slot fish.  Learn to read the water so you don’t miss what is happening around you.
    Anglers will continue to target snook around the inlets, docks and bridges on the Treasure Coast.  Live bait always works best, but feather jigs, TerrorEyz and DOA Bait Busters can also get you hooked up. Most of the action will be at night with best results on the high ends of the tides. As the water warms up around the area, the snook action will liven up also. Those fishing the flats can also find snook feeding early or late in the day. Fish the mangroves during the rest of the day. There has been a very good juvenile snook population on the flats this year.  Top water, twitch baits, TerrorEyz or CAL jerk baits can do the trick in March on the flats.

    The pompano bite has been better this year with the cooler weather bringing them into the area.  Whiting, Bluefish and pompano will be hanging around the beaches this month. The inlet will be holding Spanish mackerel, jacks and bluefish. Jack Crevalle and ladyfish continue to haunt the river and provide fun catch for all. Bridges should give up catches of sand perch, sheepshead and black drum on live or dead shrimp.

    Spring is just around the corner on the Treasure Coast.  It won't be long!  Take some time to check all your equipment now and be ready as the weather improves to get out on the water. Make sure your reels are in good working order.  Check your rods for broken or cracked tips and guides. How old in that line??  Get ready now on some of these windy days ahead, so you will be ready to head out to the water soon!  Have a great March in 2017!

    As always, remember, fishing is not just another hobby....it's an ADVENTURE!!

    Good Fishing and Be Safe,
    Captain Charlie Conner
    http://www.fishtalescharter.com
    email: captaincharlie@fishtalescharter.com
    772-284-3852


  • 02/01/2017 11:27 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Wind will dictate February bite
    by Capt. Greg Stamper

    February is the hump month for fishing in Southwest Florida. Although we may be lucky enough to see mid 80’s a few times, temperatures in the 70’s are more like the reality until we get into March. During February’s coolest periods, anglers need a bit of lucky timing in regards to cold fronts. Wind, especially that which comes driving down on us from the North or Northwest, will dictate how successful the fishing days will be.
    Northern winds will silt up the backcountry waters, and mess up the tides as they’re usually brisk. As strong fronts cool the water down, it can create tough conditions for a day or two. East to Southwest winds will bring us the warmer weather and better fishing. Fishing at the doorstep of these cold fronts is always the best-case scenario.
    When fishing after a cold front has just passed, it will be tough as barometric pressure will be rather high for a couple of days following. Likewise, fishing right up to the moment when those long Southwest to Northwest cold front cloud boundaries come rolling in, the fish will be chewing. So, now that we have the wind thing figured out what are we going to fish for?
    On days when it hasn’t been windy for a while, anglers may find that the water gets rather clear. During days like this you will have the possibility of sight casting to redfish, snook, and even sheepshead. Since it does take a few days for the water to clear up, try using shrimp or cut bait around the oyster bars and points when the water is still dirty.
    Sheepshead will be a big target through February as the big fish spawn both inshore and on the reefs and wrecks. Snook will continue to stay in their winter haunts certainly until March so stay in and around the creeks, river mouths, canal systems with deeper water, and docks.

    Trout fishing will be good, and it won’t be uncommon to catch on every cast. You’ll find the trout in 3 to 5 feet of water in good numbers and occasionally find big ones or “gators” up on the flats while red fishing.

    Flounder will show up from time to time, usually hitting small swim baits or jigs tipped with shrimp. It’s not easy finding a big flounder around here, so if you get one close to 20” you’ve done well. Pompano will still be plentiful both along the beaches and passes as well as on the nearshore reefs.
    On those beautiful days, when we can run around out in the Gulf of Mexico; tripletail, kingfish, grouper, sheepshead and the occasional flounder will all be fair game.

    On the days we have light winds it usually means clean water, especially since we tend to get very little rain during the month of February. Taking this into consideration, you will find that tripletail can be a great fish to target nearshore along the crab trap buoys. You can look for tripletail as you troll around for grouper or kingfish at times, since crab traps are usually on hard bottom, the same areas grouper and kings will be in.

    If you don’t want to move around a lot, you can always anchor up near your favorite reef or wreck and give them a go that way. When bottom fishing this time of the year, flounder and sheepshead will be around the same areas as the groupers, so rig up accordingly for both.

    I prefer dropping two rods that can handle a serious grouper, cobia, kingfish, etc... and have two lighter rods with simple jigs to get the action from snappers, sheepshead, flounder, pompano and such.

    Tight lines,
    Capt Greg Stamper, Snook Stamp Charters
    239-313-1764

  • 02/01/2017 10:55 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Low tides and sand holes
    by Capt. Michael Manis

    Typically, February is an extension of the previous two months in that the weather is dominated by cool north winds and low tides. With spring on the horizon, I like to venture out of the creeks to adjacent shorelines to take advantage of some backcountry sand hole opportunities. This is where snook, redfish and spotted sea trout drop into shallow depressions on the lower tides waiting for water to come back onto the flat. The flats are full of these depressions and they come in all shapes and sizes.
    Places like Gasparilla Sound and Bull Bay hold good fish and are easily accessible from close by ramps. In particular, Bull Bay fishes real well on these tides. Small shallow draft boats can also take advantage of some exceptional fishing in Pine Island Sound as well as Lemon Bay. In the sound, I like fishing out of Pineland or the Bokeelia boat ramp and hanging tight to the western edge of the Pine island Shoreline to hide from the wind. In lemon Bay, I like the flats adjacent to and north of Buck Creek.

    On those rare calm days, the open harbor and adjacent bar systems also hold potential. Pompano are still on the bars like the one that runs the length of the West Wall and down onto Cape Haze Point. Spanish mackerel are scattered throughout the harbor and will be mixed in with lots of ladyfish outside the bars working schools of glass minnows. The Cape Haze and Alligator Creek artificial reef systems hold good numbers of sheepshead. Both of these reef systems are well marked. In addition to the reefs, sheepshead are still at the Boca Grande and Placida trestles in good numbers and are great spots to fish with or without a boat.
    Lastly, area canal systems can also be good. In particular, because of good tidal flow, the perimeter canals of both Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte hold lots of species. Redfish, black drum, spotted sea trout, and snook hang close to the cement seawalls that hold heat from the afternoon sun. Corner spots are prime as that is where current moves the fastest. Until next month, good tides.

    Captain Michael Manis
    Punta Gorda Fly Charters
    (941) 628-7895

    mike@puntagordaflycharters.com

    www.puntagordaflycharters.com


  • 02/01/2017 10:45 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Fish Deeper in the winter
    by Capt. Tom Van Horn

    As winters go here in Central Florida, we certainly can't complain about the great weather we’ve experienced thus far. With the exception of a few cold days, gorgeous fishing conditions have prevailed and we’ve experienced so excellent fishing as well.

    Inshore on the flats, water levels have fallen to our winter lows, and water clarity has starting to clear up quite a bit. These low water levels force the redfish, black drum, and sea trout into the deeper pockets on the flats where they become trapped in some cases. These concentrations make for tight schools, but shallow conditions also make access both difficult and sometimes dangerous for those not familiar to the area. Also on colder days, falling water temperatures force most fish to seek deeper locations in search the warmest water they can find and they become very sluggish. As the sun warms the water, all it takes is a degree or two of change, and the fish will begin to move and feed in the shallows.

    On the sunny mornings, it is not uncommon to find redfish and trout holding in the sand pockets or potholes within the shallow flats where water temperatures raise faster. Additionally, warming water temperatures combined with sunny spring days and clear water make February one of the best months to sight fish for redfish, large sea trout, and black drum on the lagoon flats. Also, now is the time to target tailing black drum in the Banana River Lagoon "No Motor Zone". For larger sea trout, fish at first light, sunset, or at night with natural baits, and target areas where mangrove edges, docks, and other structure are adjacent to deep water dredge holes, sloughs, or canals.

    These same areas will also hold concentrations of small trout which can be caught throughout the day on small jigs and shrimp imitation baits like DOA Shrimp fished very slowly along the bottom. Also, when fishing in deeper darker water try using nightglow colors.

    Offshore, kingfish will be active along the inshore reefs and wrecks, and they will remain there as long as the water temperature stays above 68 degrees. When targeting kingfish this month focus your efforts on the areas of 8A Reef, Pelican Flats, and Bethel Shoals to the south for best results. Look for cobia and amberjack to be present on the inshore wrecks like the Carol Lee, Dutch, and Sub Wreck out of Port Canaveral. Additionally, live bait is tough to find this time of year, so always carry a box of frozen Spanish sardines (spinning minnows) with you as backup.

    Near-shore, look for tripletail concentrations to improve greatly along the Port Canaveral buoy line and under floating weeds and structures, and for cobia to move in shadowing manta rays if the surface water temperatures reach the upper sixties. Now is also the time for shore fisherman to target pompano, bluefish, weakfish, small black drum, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel and whiting in the surf and larger redfish and flounder around the inlets and jetties.

    The freshwater bite on the St. Johns River for crappie has been very good, with excellent catches of crappie and catfish being reported, but the American shad, sunshine and largemouth bass catches have not materialized in comparison to previous seasons. On the St Johns River water temperatures have been warmer this year (still in the 60’s), water levels are extremely low with little or no current.  Hopefully the current cold snap will cool the water temps down and improve the influx of American shad, striped and sunshine bass.

    WARNING: Flood waters from Hurricane Mathew have changed the locations of the sandy shoals, and boaters are finding the bottom in locations where the water was deeper last year.  If you haven’t been to the river since Mathew, please use extra caution when operating your boat.

    Last but not least, on those windy days in February it’s a great time to check out those freshwater fishing holes on the St Johns River. Currently American shad, speckled perch, warmouth perch, and largemouth bass are being reported. The shad run hasn’t really kicking in this year with the best catches being reported in the Mullet Lake stretch of the river. This past week, good reports of shad came from the Marina Isles to Mullet Lake section of the St. Johns River, as well as a good number shad being taken south of Lake Harney. As the shad run progresses they should be moving into the shallows flats south of Hwy 46 if you can clear the sand bar just south of the 46 bridge, so fly anglers don't haste.

    As always, if you have any questions or need information or would like to book a charter, please contact me.

    Good luck and good fishing,

    Captain Tom Van Horn
    mosquitocoast@cfl.rr.com
    www.irl-fishing.com
    (407) 416-1187

  • 02/01/2017 10:03 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    February is a transition month
    by Capt. Charlie Conner

    While winter is still around the Treasure Coast and weekly cold fronts will continue to bring cool nights and lots of windy days to the area, fishing will still be good out on the water.  It has been a tough winter so far with all the rain, winds and cold.  Water temperatures can dictate where and how you might fish on any given day this month.  January was a much warmer month this year.  When the water is cold, fish the deeper cuts and drop offs of the river.  Sunny days will bring fish up in shallower waters to feed and the bite can really get hot out on the flats.

    The trout bite picks up very nicely in February.  2016 proved to be the year of big trout in the Fort Pierce area.  I anticipate that 2017 will be another big fish year around the area.  CAL jerk baits and Deadly Combos are exciting ways to trout fish with artificial lures, while live shrimp on popping corks are the ol’ standard way to trout fish out on the river.  Redfish can be found in shallow flats around mangroves and islands.  We had a fantastic winter bite in 2016 around the docks and mangroves for redfish.  On warm sunny days, the reds will sit around the mangroves and soak up the sun.  Finding some along the mangroves will bring some good rod bending action to anglers this month.  DOA shrimp and CAL jerk baits can find some hungry reds hugging the mangrove lines when fished very slowly.  Docks are a great way to find plenty of fish waiting for something tasty to drift under them.

    Sheephead will be plentiful around the river and the larger fish will be coming into the river to breed.  They showed up early this year and January has been a great month for them.  Live or dead shrimp around bridges, docks and structure can provide lots of action in addition to some great tasting fish.  Sand perch and croakers should also be hanging around the inlet and bridges during February.  Pompano around the surf and on the deeper flats of the river can be taken on CAL grub tails, Doc’s Goofy Jigs and shrimp or clams.  Bluefish, mackerel and jacks will continue to haunt the baitfish around the jetties and turning basin.  Small, shiny lures will keep you busy.  There should be some flounder around the back sides of the jetties and on sand flats around the inlet area.

    February is a transition month on the river.  Winter has been challenging this year on the Treasure Coast.  We have enjoyed more normal winter weather and the fish bite has been good for us.  Winds will still be blowing and the water will begin to gradually rise in temperature.  Fishing your lures slowly will certainly give you more action on the river.  Fish tend to be sluggish in the colder water.  Working your lures or bait slower along the bottom will give the fish more time to react to it and will result in more bites for anglers.  Have fun this month and get out fishing!

  • 12/31/2016 7:25 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Off the beaten path
    by Capt. Michael Manis

    In some respects, January can offer a mixed bag of options; however, for the most part, the persistent north winds can and will dictate that we look for spots out of the wind.  Because, the possibility exists that there will be a few mild and somewhat warmer days between fronts, the open harbor can be productive. This is an open invitation for those with larger boats that draft too much to get onto the flats or even smaller skiffs that are looking to change it up a bit. Spanish mackerel and bonita can be found just inside Boca Grande Pass.  Also, blacktip sharks like to hang out just around the corner at Johnson Shoals.

    A little further inside the harbor, Cape Haze Point is always worth exploring. You just never know what you might run into: trout, pompano, and bluefish, are all possible. This is a great place to throw plugs and ½ ounce feathered jigs. Moreover, the deeper water just outside the bar that runs from Turtle Bay past Bull Bay and over to Cayo Pelau is good country to look for a spotted sea trout bite.

    However, for the majority of days when the wind is obnoxious, I’ll look for redfish and small snook off the beaten path up backcountry creek systems that adjoin small coves. Out of Punta Gorda, I like the east side of Charlotte Harbor from Alligator Creek down towards Pirate Harbor. The extensive collection of small creeks, deep cuts, and mangrove shorelines provide good winter habitat. Minimal wind and the sandy mud bottom help fish stay warm and the mangrove prop roots are home to small prey species.  By the way, just inside the mouth of Alligator Creek is one of the more popular trout spots during winter as is the Pirate Harbor basin.  

    Creeks along the north end of the west wall are also worth exploring. If the winds coming out of the northwest, loading at the El Jobean ramp can make for a tolerable run.  From the same ramp, the Myakka Cutoff and Tippecanoe Bay provide good habitat.  To match the prey species, small baits are best and it’s not a bad idea to lighten up on the leader and tippet material. For example, I’ll stick with a nine-foot leader but rig ten-pound tippet and throw flies no bigger than #1 or 1/0.

    Until next month, good tides.

    Captain Michael Manis
    Punta Gorda Fly Charters

    (941) 628-7895
    mike@puntagordaflycharters.com
    www.puntagordaflycharters.com

  • 12/31/2016 7:16 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    The Cold Weather Challenge
    by Capt. Doug Stamper

    Whelp, its 2017 so Happy New Year to all!  January traditionally is the coldest month of the year. Besides having our Northern friends laughing at our snow ski outfits as they show up wearing tee-shirts, we’ve got bigger problems.  Fishing in the cold weather can be challenging at times, however as guides we’re going either way.  We’ve gotta catch fish regardless of the fronts, winds, and occasional rain. 

    We will have some blessed days in January usually a few days after the cold front blows through until the day the next front shows up, and we’ll also have those tough ones a few days after they initially come through. So, should you be fishing on the cold days, giving it some time to warm up a bit helps. So, what are we going to target?

    Sheepshead are popular during the cold times, and traditionally show up in big numbers as they spawn in both the backcountry and around our near shore reefs. Targeting these conniving, shrimp stealing, buck toothed convict fish can be trip savers on the coldest of days.  You’ll be able to find sheepies around docks, oyster bars, seawalls, and on the nearshore wrecks and reefs in good numbers. Try downsizing your hooks and using pieces of shrimp verse an entire one to land more of them. Fiddler crabs, shrimp, and even barnacles on a hook all work well. Barnacles you say? Yep in fact that’s one of the clues that the big boys are showing up. If you drive by a local bridge and notice what appears to be an area of barnacles that’s missing, that was the work of a sheepshead expert picking up some bait or chum. But don’t tell anyone about that trick please.

    Trout fishing will remain steady during the coolest of days. Working water depths up to 6 feet, with a lower and slower presentation will help you get more takes. The grass beds being dark in color will hold a bit more heat so targeting them in those areas often works out well. Throwing around the sandy pot holes when working clear water gives you that transition line that can be very productive. Traditionally a popping cork with my go to DOA shrimp works out just fine. When corking experiment with leader length as a foot here and there can make a big difference.

    Fishing the creeks and rivers systems in your area will be a smart move when it gets cold, and if you’ve been on fish in one area continue to push further and further back up those creeks till you can’t go any further. With winter, we usually have clear water so sight casting laid up fish is a possibility. These areas are usually snook, redfish, and black drum hangouts during the cold months. Although snook get a bit of lock jaw during the coldest of days as the water temperatures begin to increase in temperature a few days after a front blows through these estuaries can be a great place to fish. A variety of baits will work ,but in general smaller baits will work best. You can throw flies, plastics, and if you’re lucky enough to find some bait you’ll be in good shape.

    When we do get beautiful days and light winds I enjoy running out to the near shore wrecks and reefs. I’m usually in no hurry if its cold out, so no crack of dawn runs needed. Now you can change things up and go after gag groupers, snappers, tripletail, and kingfish. Gag grouper come into the shallows when it gets cold out. Some areas will have them in as little as four feet. You can troll big plugs around which works well in the deeper waters say 15-45 feet, or you can drop a variety of baits down to the bottom. When trolling you’ll inevitably come across a kingfish while targeting your grouper. Make sure you pay attention while running out there, as tripletail can become a great bi-catch.

    Tight lines, Capt Greg Stamper
    Snookstampcharters.com
    239-313-1764

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