Sarasota to Bonita Beach

Includes Siesta Key, Venice, Englewood, Boca Grande, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Pine Island, Cape Coral, Captiva, Sanibel and Fort Myers

January 18-20

Cool mornings and warm afternoons will greet anglers on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is hard to call at this point in time. A cold front is headed this way and may arrive as early as Sunday morning, but then again it could be later in the day. I love pre-frontal fishing and I’d recommend fishing early on inshore waters Sunday if possible. Of course be safe and check the updates from the National Weather Service before heading out. I think I’d skip planning any deepwater trips for late Saturday and all day Sunday.


The snapper bait has been fantastic, especially in waters deeper than 60 feet. Limits of lanes, yellowtail and mangrove snapper have been the norm. Baits range from live shrimp to cut pins, threadfins and blue runners. Lighten up the tackle if possible for an improved bite, but be aware that there have been quite a few hookups with African pompano and cobia.

Black and red grouper fishing has also been good. The reds are coming up to the boat from waters 60 to 75 feet deep and the blacks are out a bit further in 120 feet. I saw a photo of carbo black that looked to be close to 100 pounds!


The mackerel have been biting just about everywhere along the shore, from very close to the beaches out to depths of 20 feet or so. They seem to be hitting anything that you can retrieve quickly. Try Rat-L-Trap’s, Gator Spoons or Got-Cha’s. The cooler water temperatures have also brought bluefish closer to shore and are a very likely catch mixed in with the macs. In both cases anglers might want to add a piece of wire to prevent cutoffs.


Redfish are being caught in all backcountry locations. I fished on Wednesday in Estero Bay and hooked up with them near the mangrove shorelines and islands. Didn’t get any big ones, but there sure were a lot of juniors. We also caught our share of sheepshead. One thing to note. Water temperatures were hovering in the low 60’s and that seemed to shut down snook in the bay. I’d recommend heading to the creeks and rivers if a linesider is on your catch list.

We didn’t find the allusive seatrout in Estero Bay on Wednesday, but I’ve heard they are biting well in Matlacha Pass, Pine Island Sound and both Bull and Turtle Bay. Popping corks were mentioned, but it seems many more were caught using jig heads with soft plastics. The go-to was a red jig head with a 3-inch Gulp Shrimp.

The cooler weather has brought pompano inshore. Look for them just inside the passes all along with coast. Hotspots were Bunche Beach, the sand flats off of the Sanibel Lighthouse, and the flats to the east of Buck Key in Pine Island Sound. If I’m specifically hunting for pompano I’ll rig a yellow jig head with a pinch of live shrimp and then hop it across the bottom. Sandy areas with good current are best.

Have a great weekend and please take a kid fishing.

Capt. Rob Modys

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