Capt. Mike Manis
Typically, February is an extension of the previous two months in that the weather is dominated by cool north winds and low tides. With spring on the horizon, I like to venture out of the creeks to adjacent shorelines and take advantage of some backcountry sand hole opportunities. This is where redfish and spotted sea trout drop into the shallow depressions on the lower tides waiting for water to come back onto the flat. The flats are full of these depressions and they come in all shapes and sizes. Gasparilla Sound and Bull Bay hold good fish and are easily accessible from close by ramps. In particular, Bull Bay fishes really well on these tides. Small shallow draft boats can also take advantage of some exceptional fishing in Pine Island Sound as well as Lemon Bay. In the sound, I like fishing out of Pineland or the Bokeelia boat ramp and hanging tight to the western edge of the Pine Island Shoreline in order to hide from the wind. In Lemon Bay, I like the flats adjacent to and north of Buck Creek. These also provide protection from a strong north east wind. Matlacha is one of my favorite spots and the shoreline outside Big Dead Creek and down through Buzzard Bay is well protected from the winds that come out of the north in early spring and the deeper water with strong current hold redfish, spotted sea trout and snook.
The open harbor and adjacent bar systems also hold potential as winter winds down. Pompano are still on the bars like the one that runs the length of the West Wall and down onto Cape Haze Point. Spanish mackerel are scattered throughout the harbor and will be mixed in with lots of ladyfish outside the bars working schools of glass minnows. The Cape Haze and Alligator Creek artificial reef systems hold good numbers of sheepshead and both of these reef systems are well marked. In addition to the reefs, sheepshead are still at the Boca Grande and Placida trestles in good numbers and are great spots to fish with or without a boat.
Lastly, area canal systems can also be good. In particular, because of good tidal flow, the perimeter canals of both Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte hold lots of species. Redfish, black drum, spotted sea trout, and snook hang close to the cement seawalls that hold heat from the afternoon sun. Corner spots are prime as that is where current moves the fastest.
Captain Michael Manis is a U.S.G.C. Licensed captain and has been teaching the sport of fly and light tackle angling since 2002. He lives in Punta Gorda, Florida and can be reached at www.puntagordaflycharters.com