by Capt. Mike Manis
Typically, February is an extension of the previous two months, in that cooler north winds and low tides provide some decent backcountry sand hole opportunities. This is where redfish and spotted sea trout drop into the shallow depressions on the lower tides waiting for water to come back onto the flat. It’s not unusual to see quite a few shallow running skiffs and airboats working some of the more popular areas. Places like Gasparilla Sound and Bull Bay hold good fish and are easily accessible from close by ramps. In particular, Bull Bay fishes well on these tides.
On any given year, this month has the potential to start out resembling winter, but can end up feeling like someone hit the light switch and all of a sudden it feels like summer. It’s like, what happened to spring? With that being said, it’s also not unusual to get a good cold snap in March. I guess the point is that as February winds down and transitions into spring, you just never know what kind of weather, with the exception of wind, that we’re going to see around Charlotte Harbor. In the sound, I like fishing out of Pineland or the Bokeelia boat ramp and hanging tight to the western edge of the Pine Island shoreline in order to hide from the wind. In Lemon Bay, I like the flats adjacent to and north of Buck Creek. These also provide protection from a strong northeast wind. Later in the month, when it typically warms up, I like to turn my attention towards lee shorelines adjacent to creeks and deeper cuts. Matlacha is one of my favorite spots and the shoreline outside Big Dead Creek and down through Buzzard Bay is well protected from the winds that come out of the north in early spring and the deeper water with strong current hold redfish, spotted sea trout and snook.
The open harbor and adjacent bar systems also hold potential as winter winds down. Pompano are still on the bars, like the one that runs the length of the West Wall and down onto Cape Haze Point. Spanish mackerel are scattered throughout the harbor, mixed in with lots of ladyfish outside the bars, working the schools of glass minnows. Sheepshead are under the Boca Grande and Placida trestles in good numbers. This is a great spot to fish with or without a boat.
Lastly, area canal systems can also be good. The perimeter canals of both Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte hold lots of species. Redfish, black drum, spotted sea trout, and snook hang close to the cement seawalls that hold heat from the afternoon sun. Corner spots are prime as that is where current moves the fastest.