by Capt. Billy Norris
Fishing this past month has been great in the backwater! Now that the weather has started to cool down a little bit, we should start to get into our winter time fishing patterns. The best bite in the back right now is snook, redfish and big jacks. Unfortunately, the sea trout were hit incredibly hard by this year’s red tide and they are nearly non-existent in Estero Bay. Snook are making their way from the beaches deeper into the backwater. Look for them around docks, oyster bars and mangrove shorelines. Redfish has also been very cooperative this past month. There are tons of smaller “rat” reds around, but we’ve been landing some big over-slot fish as well. In addition, jacks of all sizes are cruising the backwaters, including some fish over fifteen pounds! As far as bait, as always whitebait is preferred, followed by shrimp. In the backwater, I recommend using about three feet of 25-30-pound fluorocarbon leader attached to your line with a leader-to-line knot. If you are fishing in slower moving water, a popping cork suspending the bait is the way to go. However, in faster moving water you will want to pin it to the bottom with a 1/2 ounce to 1-ounce egg sinker to keep it from drifting down current. In addition to the bigger gamefish, there have been tons of sheepshead being caught and as the water cools, we should see more and more of them. For sheepshead, use a weighted setup with a 1/0 circle hook and shrimp as your go-to bait. Again, due to this year’s red tide and the astronomical toll that it took on our fisheries, catch and release is highly recommended. January should be a great month for fishing, so catch em up!