Out Of Winter

By: Capt. Billy Norris

Few places on earth offer the caliber of fishing that we have available to us here in Southwest Florida.  As we move out of winter, we are coming into one of the best times of year to get out on the water and catch some quality fish!  Fishing this past month has been excellent!  Even though we have been plagued with more days of high winds and seas this year, we have still been putting plenty of big fish in the boat.  Offshore and backwater have been stellar and will only continue to get better as we move into our springtime fishing pattern.

The backwater bite has been great.  The big 3, snook/redfish/tarpon, have all been active as the water temperature starts to slowly creep up.  Over the course of the past month, the Gulf temperature has hovered right around 70 degrees F, causing fish to not be as lethargic in the backwaters.  The trout population is most notable as far as rebounding from the 2018 red tide.  For several years catching nice trout in our area was near impossible, but now there are an abundance of trout, to include many big ones, on the grass flats in Bonita Springs and the surrounding areas.  As far as bait of choice in the backwater, live pilchards or threadfins are the way to go.  As the fish become more active, they will be less inclined to take slow moving baits like shrimp over a rapidly moving offering like a live whitebait.  There have also been large schools of pompano around on the flats as well as in the deeper cuts.  Target them with pompano jigs or a shrimp tipped jig for best results.  There have also been plenty of sharks in the backwaters if you feel like hearing your drag scream.

Offshore has been on fire!  The kingfish finally showed up (a few months late this year), and we have been catching some beautiful kings with limiting out not being uncommon on a trip. With the kingfish, come the sharks and what I refer to as BIG sized sharks.  Over the past month, we have landed multiple sandbar, bull, and lemon sharks over 7 foot long.  In addition, we scored two tigers, the smaller being 10 foot and the bigger 12 foot.  The bigger of the two took over two hours to land.  When it ate, we went to pull the anchor and chase, however we had been sitting still so long that it drained the batteries.  My first mate was on the rod (Penn International 80) as the fish began dumping the spool.  We hand pulled the anchor and the tiger drug us around over 2 miles while the boat was inoperable.  I eventually managed to pull a battery from the trolling motor and MacGyvered it together to get the boat to fire up.  We got the fish boat side, took some pictures, and let it loose to go eat more tourists!

Cobia have also been fired up this last month.  Targeting them on both wrecks and reefs, we took home a lot of nice “brown clowns” this month.  Cobia will eat basically anything, but they do have their preferred baits of choice.  Hard to beat a nice big piece of cobia for dinner!

Overall, the fishing has been great this past month.  I expect that it will continue to get better and better as we move into spring.  Over the course of this month, Pale Horse Fishing Charters will be running trips out of Big Pine, in the Florida Keys for tarpon!  You can stay up to date with how were doing by following us on Facebook or Instagram @Pale_Horse_Fishing_Charters.  The weather is beautiful, the water is gorgeous, and the fish are biting…so get out there and catch some good ones!

You can contact Capt. Billy at (239) 285-7710 or email PaleHorseFishingCharters@gmail.com