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.
Capt Greg Stamper, Snook Stamp Charters