When I think of Fishing in January and February in Southwest Florida (say that three times fast, or after a couple of adult beverages), I think of being bundled in 9 layers of polyester and praying I don’t get wet.
The past few years, however, February has gracefully ushered in our spring fishery. This year has been no different.
Beautiful crisp mornings, highs in the upper 70’s and low 80’s, and hungry fish!
First on the list is Sheepshead . . . Look, I know it’s not one of the glamour species, no one buys a “Sheepshead Master” t-shirt, but the fishing for these bait stealers has been incredible this year.
Find a bridge, piling, seawall, or dock. Take a spade or shovel and scrape some barnacles off the pilings to create a chum slick. Or go early and pick some oysters, crush them up, and create a bucket of chum. Either technique will work fine for turning on the bite.
Then bait up. Shrimp, fiddler crabs, oysters, any shellfishy-type bait will work. On my charters, I try to put my clients in a position to fish vertically, or with next-to-no slack in the line to prevent reeling in an empty hook.
As to size, this is not the “panfishing” sheepshead many of us think of . . . Some of these bruisers are upwards of 6 lbs, with a few pushing 10.
For my money, this is the best time of the year to catch your fish fry inshore . . . It’s tough to fill a cooler off the flats, usually, with low limits on redfish and snook . . . The Sheepies offer plenty of meat, a willing bite, and are fantastic on the table.
As for the snook and redfish, the warm weather has them doing crazy things – like hanging on the flats in places you might expect to see them in April. Watch your forecast, but barring a fierce cold front, you should find a few willing participants throughout the month.
Trout have been willing participants as well – any deeper grass flat, or structure near a grass flat, has been holding upper teens and lower 20 fish, with some party crashers over 25″ . . . Keep the smaller ones and put the larger ones back, though . . . They’re usually full of worms, and are more valuable as a breeder fish . . .
As always, hit me up if you want to chase down any of the aforementioned species – I can be found on social media @travisthompson or you can e-mail me at [email protected] . . . We ARE booking for the spring now, and we will fill up quickly, so don’t snooze on booking your trip today!