Ah Love is in the air and the water. Pretty Spanish mackerel are dancing around the Harbor, and the Sheepshead are really feeling the sting of Cupid’s arrow and are plentiful are the pier at Placida Trestle and El-jo. In fact the Sheepshead are spawning anywhere there is structure. This year we are seeing a bit more of the larger Sheepshead. Bigger in size than last year although the number of Sheepshead is about normal. The cool waters of January have pushed the Sheepshead into full-on spawn mode.
Trout are doing OK, just not our best year here in southwest Florida. For keeper Sea Trout there are a few schools of larger fish but you mostly run into schools of Trout just under the legal size of 15 inches. But all in all a below average year for Sea Trout. However it’s a great year for King Mackerel with Kings coming into Charlotte Harbor and the passes, and their smaller Spanish cousins are thick in the near Gulf.
I am not sure if Tripletail are influenced by Valentine’s Day but the near Gulf and the Harbor have had great numbers of Tripletail. December and January were great months for these tasty debris huggers. The best thing about Tripletail is hunting them. Get your boat just on plane and with the sun at your back cruise the crab trap buoys in the Gulf looking for something which looks for all the world like an oily rag just below the buoy. Yes that is a Tripletail. They like to float with their face covered up, like a little kid with their hands over their eyes, I can see you – but you can’t see me. Maybe the sunlight bothers their eyes and they just want to get the sun out of their eyes. So what if their belly gets sunburned. One of the largest Tripletail I ever caught was over 30 inches long and came from under a blue and silver potato chip bag, just floating on the water out in front of Turtle Bay. That huge Tripletail was laying there on its side with its face under the chip bag. I casted a fairly small live Shrimp maybe 2 1⁄2 inches long right next to the bag. No float or sinker just the 1/0 hook, 25 pound fluorocarbon leader, and 6 pound mono line. The shrimp hit the water 3 inches from the bag and the Tripletail sucked in that Shrimp and all heck broke loose. Tripletail don’t really jump like a Snook or a Tarpon but they will dash quickly, very quickly across the surface of the water and will dart out of the water crashing back into it and I have also had some head shaking at the surface. What a fight they are, a flat fish thin and tall but all muscle. They battle with all they have and then turn their body side ways to you creating a tremendous amount of drag. A real fun fish to catch and very tasty to eat. They’re sort of a problem to fillet with heavy scales and thick hide that makes them a bugger to clean, but really worth it.
Redfish are hitting pretty good on the east side, though I see no pattern to it. Some are way out in the pot holes near the sand bars and others are back under the mangroves. Shrimp still seems to be the best bait, the question is dead or alive. The Reds have been liking a dead shrimp left in the sun until it gets just a touch of red or pink and starts to stink a little. I’d guess to them it would be like me walking past someone cooking a T-bone steak on the grill.
Snook fishing is good with the canals and the flats holding a bunch of Snook, from small to way over the slot limit. By the way, a diver checking out a couple of the near shore reefs told me he saw several huge Snook over 50 inches long on several of the reefs. You’re thinking you’re reeling in a huge Snapper and get a 50 inch Snook instead. Not bad.
Goliath Grouper are thick at the phosphate docks and on many of the nearby reefs. Tremblay and Novak reefs both have had good numbers. A 2 pound mullet whole or maybe butterflied is working great. Just get a big 12 to 18 inch bait down to the bottom, something too big for a legal size Grouper to get into its mouth and then hang on. Or you might want to try a Sting Ray for bait. If the Sting Ray is less than 20 inches across I would use it whole. If it is bigger than that use half at a time. This makes it easier for a 100 to 200 pound fish to get it into their mouth.
So far this has been a good year for fishing and next month, on March 19th we’ll have our meet the factory Tent Sale Event. A lot of factories are coming this year. Should be even bigger than last year, so mark your calendars.
Happy Valentine’s Day and watch out for Cupid’s arrow, that little bugger shot me with a Tripletail arrow and I am now hooked on them.
Good Luck Fishn’ Franks