Sarasota to Bonita Beach
Includes Siesta Key, Venice, Englewood, Boca Grande, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Pine Island, Cape Coral, Captiva, Sanibel and Fort Myers
A late week cold front will depart the area on Friday and daytime temperatures will warm into the 70’s each day. Saturday looks to be the best for hitting the water. Sunday morning might be doable, but the weather service is calling for a very breezy afternoon with possible storms.
The tides will be very low in the morning with decent highs in the afternoon. Anglers with skinny-water boats will be the winners this weekend in the backcountry. Early access will be key for the best bite as the sun warms the water.
The big news for the offshore anglers is the movement of gag grouper toward shallower water just off the coast. When the water cools they head in to feed and can be trolled up in 30 feet of water or less. A favorite lure is the Manns Stretch 25 or 30, depending on depth, and favorite colors are purple and dark blue. I’ve personally also had good catches with Rapala Magnums and Yo-Zuri 3D Magnums. The season for harvesting gags closes on December 31st, so there’s a small window if anglers want a grouper dinner.
If you have kids and you want to keep them busy, the Gulf is full of spanish mackerel and they’ll eat most anything. I like to rig popping corks with about 4 feet of leader and then add a long shank Mustad hook. That will help prevent cutoffs. A small weight can be added, but really isn’t necessary because the macs will hit the bait on the surface too. Shrimp, cut bait and squid will all work. This is fun time catching and will also work for adult kids too.
Recent cooler weather pushed the snook into the back bays, rivers and creeks. The best bite has been late in the day as dusk approaches. Throw a live pilchard if you can net them along the beaches, or go with an artificial that looks like bait. MirrOlure and Z-Man are most mentioned by anglers with purple being a favorite winter color.
Redfish are plentiful, but most are well under the slot limit. That’s not really a problem in our area, since reds are on a temporary no harvest list until May of 2019. They are in big schools near creek openings and will hit live shrimp on a jig during good moving water. Inbound is a favorite, but I certainly wouldn’t overlook outbound as well.
Cold fronts and cooler water seems to put the seatrout in the mood for feeding. They are on the open flats in 3 to 5-feet of water and will take subsurface lures and live bait. On warm, sunny days they’ll also go for topwaters, but I’d limit that to surface water temperatures above 72 degrees.
Yes indeed, it’s sheepshead time. Some huge ones were landed over the past week in areas thick with oyster bars. Try to find a deep cut near a shallow water bar and you’re in the money. They also love dock pilings located near passes and deep water channels. Stick with live shrimp on small hooks and don’t wait too long to set it. Sheepshead are notorious bait stealers and he who hesitates will lose every time.
Good luck this weekend and please take a kid fishing.
Capt. Rob Modys