Right Around the Corner

by: Capt. Billy Norris

Although everyone is getting excited for the arrival of our Spring, fish like tarpon, permit and snook, the past month has provided some great fishing as well!  In the backwaters, snook, redfish and trout have all been willing to bite.  The grass flats have been very productive, with some giant trout being caught.  In Estero Bay, local groups and state agencies alike have worked tirelessly to clean up debris from Hurricane Ian and it has paid off.  Although there are still some remnants of hurricane-deposited trash out there, the majority has been removed making navigation much easier than it has been the last several months.  A lot of old fishing spots like downed trees, docks, pilings, etc. have all been removed/destroyed/changed, so it may take you some time to scout out some new go-to fishing holes.  The colder water has triggered our sheepshead population to show up in good numbers, and along with them pompano have made their way to the beaches/passes.  Offshore has also been great!  For some reason, kingfish decided to be completely absent this year around here.  They usually show up in our waters sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this year decided not to come.  My theory is that about the time they would have showed up, our area was experiencing heavy discharges of polluted water from Hurricane Ian, and so they simply went around us.  Not to worry though, other species have made up for the kingfish’s absence!  The cobia bite has been on fire this winter and has continued all the way through spring!  We have been boating some beautiful fish, and consistently.  Gag grouper closed on January 1st, however for catch and release fun they are still actively crushing our baits.  The snapper bite has been equally as impressive, with limits of lanes, mangs, and yellowtail all being common.  On a more disappointing note, we do still have some red tide in the area.  This was expected following the severity of Hurricane Ian.  A week of hard Southwest winds blew it all right up to the shoreline, making it look much worse than it actually is.  Currently, we are still able to fish around it due to the fact that its patchy offshore.  However, we are about to enter rainy season, and if it doesn’t get under control soon, we may be looking at a repeat of 2018’s red tide catastrophe.  Spring is right around the corner so dust off your tarpon gear and get ready for the spring/summer bite to turn on!