Sarasota to Bonita Beach
Includes Siesta Key, Venice, Englewood, Boca Grande, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Pine Island, Cape Coral, Captiva, Sanibel and Fort Myers
There will be no weather excuses this weekend for anglers. Nearly perfect weather is forecast with winds settling down and a sea breeze in the afternoon. Tides are also good, with morning lows and afternoon highs.
Go for the snapper. The winter bite has been very good for lanes and that should continue for a few more weeks, thanks to the cooler weather. Gulf water temperatures dropped a bit and that will hold them on live bottom. Shrimp is best, served up on 2/0 circle hooks with enough weight to get the offering to the bottom.
Huge schools of spanish mackerel are cruising the waters about 5-miles out. Just look for the birds and the fish busting the surface, then toss an artificial lure into the ruckus. Silver spoons, Rattletraps and Gotchas are all favorites. Be sure to keep your eyes open for cobia on the edges of the activity.
If shark fishing is your thing, then now is the time to start. As the tarpon begin to show, so do the sharks. Big sharks. Anchor up in about 15-feet of water off of Fort Myers Beach. Set a chum block or cut up frozen threadfin herrings and toss them in the water. Best baits are cut jacks, blue runners or ladyfish. Set those offerings on the bottom in the chum line and then play the waiting game. If everything goes according to plan the first shark should show up in about 30-minutes or so. It’s not unusual to catch big hammerheads and bull sharks this time of year, along with blacktip, spinners, sharpnose and lemons.
The cooler water has most definitely extended the sheepshead bite. Some big ones have been reported on the May Reef. Set up on one of the many rock piles and then work the edges right up against the sandy bottom. Live shrimp on a small jig is best, but make sure the hook on the jig is sturdy. The by-catch is also good with flounder, seatrout and pompano a possibility.
The cooler weather didn’t slow the snook down very much. They are still staged along mangrove shorelines and the mid-bay islands. Best bait has been pilchards, netted along the beaches. If throwing a cast net is not your thing, go with artificials. Soft plastics in white or off-white work well along with smaller casting plugs.
Pompano are biting very well just outside the passes and in some backwater areas. They are also being caught near Bunche Beach and just off of Sanibel at Lighthouse Point. Live shrimp on a yellow jig is my favorite combo, but a lot of anglers swear by pompano jigs.
Look for redfish along the back of the bays up under the mangrove overhangs. Afternoon high tides might work better than early morning lows, so I’d recommend going after them a bit later in the day. Here’s a tip. Look for the schools of mullet that work the bottom along the mangrove shoreline. Reds love to follow behind them and pick up the small shrimp and crabs that the mullet aren’t interested in. If I pull into an area to fish and don’t see any mullet working, I’ll almost always try another location.
Enjoy the weekend and be sure to take a kid fishing.
Capt. Rob Modys