January’s Opportunities

by: Capt. Bart Marx

A fisherman is holding a fish Southern sheeps head (Archosargus probatocephalus) against the sea

January in Southwest Florida and we start a new year of fishing! There are many options this time of year of for species to target. Starting with inshore possibilities, there should be plenty of trout on the grass flat in two-to-four-foot depths. Popping corks with live or artificial baits are a good bet to harvest some keepers for a fresh fish meal. You may also use some top water lures and suspending like mirror dine or catch two thousand by Mirror lure. Also, some soft plastics with paddle tails to make some vibration to get their attention. If you find an area that they are very aggressive, I sometimes use a fly rod with some top water flies. I like to target red fish, as they like to hang around the roots of the mangrove and on the cooler days and I find them hanging out in the sand holes on the flats. Fishing along the mangroves like you would bass fish trolling motor along and hit the pockets and out cropping’s gold spoons or soft plastics are a good bet. Fishing the sand holes, anchor a long casting distance from your target spot and use shrimp or quartered blue crabs or cut bait, lady fish or sardines. Around the passes where there is some sand flounder can be targeted with a shrimp and a jig slow rolled across the sand. They may also be offshore on the edges of the close to shore reefs around the edges in the sand and the near shore reefs should be holding sheepshead. In moving water around the passes, I cast pompano jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp to target pompano. Depending on the temperature of the water you can hunt for king and spanish mackerel. My Pop’s always told me kings at 68/ 72-degree water was the best time to catch kings. In our area, there are some natural ledges that I will use shrimp to catch hog fish. These are the same areas we find snappers, lanes and mangroves. There will be white grunts and porgies out there also.  All of these species are great eating and are always fun to catch. Keep an eye on the FWC regulations for the size limits and bag limits and an easy way to keep up to date is to use the Fishrules app from FWC. Don’t forget, if you are able to get into federal waters 9 miles out, some of the rules are different. If you would like to come along with Capt. Bart Marx and catch some of these species or you would like me to join you on your boat for a training session, call 941-979-6517 or e-mail me at captbart@alphaomegacharters.com and we can get you on the calendar for your memory making trip. And always remember singing drags and tight lines make me smile.