While fishing has been difficult around Charlotte Harbor, the northern end of Pine Island Sound, and areas of Matlacha Pass, reports of good fishing came from the southern half of the sound, around St. James City, and the southern end of Matlacha Pass. With lots of dead mullet floating across Charlotte Harbor over the weekend, it appears that red tide is still lingering in areas of the harbor and likely the culprit to the slow fishing in our northern waters.
A good trout bite was reported much of the week around mid and southern Pine Island Sound, and also between St. James City and Sanibel. Drifting grass flats in 3 to 5-foot depths often gave steady action with trout that ranged from small to limits of larger fish to 20 inches. A few larger fish to 24 inches were caught while targeting redfish around mullet schools on the east side of the sound south of Demere Key. Best baits included live shrimp under popping corks, Berkley Gulp and DOA's under a popping cork, and various soft plastics worked with a steady twitching retrieve.
The few redfish reports also came from the same area of the sound with a couple small schools of large reds reported feeding around sand holes on low tide. Cut ladyfish, mullet and live pinfish under a bobber connected with reds to 30 inches, plus a few trout to 22 inches. Smaller reds varying in size from 15 to 20 inches were caught around creeks in "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge and the south end of Matlacha Pass, with shrimp tipped eighth or quarter ounce jigs working best.
Michael and Cathy Langston of Missouri teamed up for a couple big gag grouper and tripletail. They were fishing in the Gulf off Sanibel with Capt. Jason Ramer of Ramer Fishing Charters.
So far this month sheepshead fishing has been hit or miss inshore, some nice ones are being caught but not widespread in good numbers. The best bet is to hit the usual places (docks, oyster bars, bridges and other structures) with a shrimp-tipped jig head and give it five or ten minutes, if no action move on to next spot. A few pompano were also caught while targeting sheepshead and trout.
Offshore, on the days the wind cooperated, fishing was pretty good for a variety of fish. Both gag and red grouper were targeted in depths from 50-80 feet with many boats limiting out. A mixed bag of lane and mangrove snapper, porgies, grunts and beeliners were also boated from the same depths. Closer to land a few gag grouper up to 31 inches were boated while trolling diving lures over ledges in 30 to 40-foot depths. Tripletail to 10 pounds were also sight fished under buoys south of Sanibel.
The weather has been up and down a lot in recent weeks, unseasonably warm, then cold for a day or two. Inshore water temperature can rise or drop 10 degrees or more in just a day or two, making it a challenge to pattern and catch fish. But that's just part of Florida fishing and it generally doesn't stay cold very long, that's a good thing.
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Holiday gift certificates are available for charters.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!
As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.