February 19 – 21
It has been a nice week for our waterways to warm up a bit even though the winds have been up many of the days. Those that fished in the back bays did very well most of the week, especially during the afternoons. The nearshore fishermen continued to catch their usual fish, along with some early surprises. Offshore, it has been above average on size for many of the usual suspects as well as a few nice prizes. Overall, some of the things we are seeing in our waters now are signaling that our springtime fish may show up early this year.
Starting off this week with the nearshore bite, things are going well. We have had a lot of sheepshead, snappers, cobia, and even an influx of permit that showed up this week and last. Most of the big sheepshead continue to be caught on pass crabs that anglers are catching on the nighttime outgoing tides. Mangrove snapper that are caught nearshore continue to be small, but legal. Probably the best news is the number of cownose ray sightings and cobia coming in closer again. Tripletail fishing was good from Captiva North when the wind died down, allowing fishermen the ability to spot them on the stone crab trap buoys.
The back bay fishing was the place to be, especially on the stronger tides. Those that used cut baits, large shrimp, or had a livewell of pilchards did very well. Redfish up to 35 inches were caught often, with even the small redfish remaining within the standard slot range. Snook, pompano, trout, and even small black drums made up most of the bycatch. Those that fished close to our passes had a lot of shots at black drum as well as pompano when using shrimp tipped jigs.
Those that did have the chance to get offshore caught a lot of the usual fish. Mangrove snappers, yellowtail snappers, and red grouper took up most of their time. The red grouper bite has been outstanding in terms of size all week, with many fish upwards of 15 pounds. A few scamp groupers as well as strawberry grouper were caught in these same areas. The fact that some of these deeper water fish are in closer tells many anglers, you better get them while you can, as they will be out deep again very soon. Starting in your spots from 90 feet out will be your best bet, unless it cools off again.
Tight lines, Capt. Greg Stamper