Sarasota to Bonita Beach

February 22-24

The summer-like weather continues this weekend along with full moon tides. It doesn’t get much better than this for fans of backcountry fishing. Yes, the offshore waters are producing lots of fish too, so it’s time to fire up those boats, ready the kayaks or head to the beaches for some outstanding angling opportunities.


Snapper, snapper and more snapper. The fish boxes coming to the docks have been full of big mangrove snapper along with lanes and some yellowtail. Baits have ranged from live shrimp to frozen squid and cut threadfin herring. If you’re fishing an area that also may hold red grouper, I’d go with the cut baits. The best bite has been in 40 plus feet of water out to 70 feet or so. The snapper are stacked up on wrecks and on hard bottom with lots of outcroppings and ledges.

The cobia seem to be making their spring run toward the panhandle a bit early and local southwest Florida anglers are benefitting in a big way. I got lots of reports of keeper sized cobia from the nearshore and offshore man-made reefs. If you’re pulling up snapper keep an eye out for curious cobia.

The tripletail bite is still top notch on the stone crab pot buoys. Be sure to run them when you can and also watch for floating debris. Trips are known to nose up to just about anything on the surface that can offer them a shot at small baitfish. The winds have been down in the morning and up in the afternoon. An early start would be a good idea if you’re planning on targeting them.

I mentioned this in last week’s 4-cast. The early warmup has not only started the cobia push toward the north, the tarpon are doing the same thing. Some solid reports are coming from the waters just south of us, so I’d be on the lookout for them in our area anytime now. At the very least have a tarpon rod and rig or two onboard just in case. Here’s a tip for you… If you see frigate birds out over the Gulf waters doing tight circles, I’d certainly recommend taking a closer look.


New rules for seatrout were released by the FWC on Thursday. Starting Friday February 22nd anglers can no longer keep seatrout over 20 inches in length in waters from the Pasco/Hernando County Line, south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. This new rule will be in place until a review of the seatrout status takes place in middle May. While there are no reports currently of red tide, the FWC enacted this rule to help the seatrout population after last summer’s red tide fish kills. All other rules still apply as is.

Good seatrout fishing in upper Matlacha Pass has been the feature in our local waters. They are biting on live shrimp under popping corks near the Burnt Store Bar and in areas with grass near the power lines.

Big redfish have moved into the back bays of Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Estero Bay. Fish as large as 33 inches have been caught on live shrimp and soft plastic artificials. The D.O.A. Cals were mentioned most often with Gulp Shrimp being a close second. Look for the reds packed up tightly along mangrove shorelines. If you’ve got one of those fancy GPS trolling motors, I’d set a track to move along those edges and cast baits up under the overhangs. Reminder… redfish and snook are closed to harvest in waters from the Pasco/Hernando County line, south through Gordon Pass in Collier County until May 10, 2019.

Thanks to the unusually warm weather the snook bite is on fire. I haven’t heard anything about them moving toward the beaches just yet, but they sure are active around mangrove islands in the bays. If you can throw a cast net for bait, do it! They are loving the pilchards.

On Foot

A bit more rain has fallen over the past few days and it’s in the forecast for the weekend. The canals, ditches and small ponds still have plenty of water, and the warm weather has pushed the bass to continue bedding for spawn. Work the edges of whatever freshwater spot you choose, but be sure to stay back a bit so as not to scare the fish off the beds. Stealth is your friend and will lead to a good bite if you are patient. Soft plastic lizards have been just about all anglers are talking about right now, and I have agree. I’ve picked up a few nice fish while using lizards in dark colors.

Have a great weekend and please take a kid fishing.

Capt. Rob Modys

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