Know Where to Look

Capt. Billy Norris 

Fishing was great again this last month…but more challenging. The return of an unusual December/January red tide has definitely slowed the nearshore and backwater bites down. However, if you still know what you’re doing and remain persistent, there are some great fish to be caught.

Backwater: The backwaters have been tough to fish. As always, I prefer to fish with live bait, specifically pilchards or threadfins. However, due to the red tide in the area, keeping bait alive has become a constant struggle. There is living bait around, however as soon as you put it into the livewell it drops dead. After discussing the issue with several Marine Biologists, they informed me that the reason for this phenomenon is that the red tide is in the water column in almost a layered affect. Most of the time it is sitting at the surface, which is why the bait is able to survive and you mark it deeper on your machine, but as you pull your net in it quickly dies because you are dragging it through the red tide layer. In addition, it tends to hover at the surface layer, which is exactly where your livewell is drawing water from. Even challenging, we have been catching some nice redfish, snook and sheepshead. As always, look for moving water and that’s where the fish will be.

Nearshore: The close wrecks and reefs were producing some beautiful fish prior to the Okeechobee releases.  There was plenty of bait with a great cobia bite, kingfish showing up, and tripletail starting to arrive. We have been catching sheepshead, snapper and gag grouper regularly. As far as choice of bait, we have been leaving the dock with a variety of bait including shrimp and frozen pilchards/threadfins. Live bait is possible, however rather than use the net it’s easier to Sabiki the baits.

Offshore:  The offshore bite is definitely your best bet! The water is clean, there is no red tide, and most of the pelagics have pushed out farther to avoid the bad water. Offshore we have been catching cobia, goliaths, tons of big mangrove snapper, grouper, and just about everything else that bites this time of year. Shrimp, frozen baits and heavy chumming have also helped us to have some outstanding offshore days lately. If you are good and know where to look, there are some great fish to be caught!  It’s expected that it will clear up soon and we’re excited for an excellent 2021 fishing season! -Captain Billy