The New Year

By: Capt. Bart Marx

Hello fellow anglers. 2023 January can you believe it? Things have been out of control for the last few months. Now that things are getting back to a sensible peace, let’s talk about some inshore fishing. Along the intercoastal there should be plenty of sheepshead around the docks and bridge pilings as they migrate out to the Gulf to spawn. They like to eat crustations, shrimp, fiddler crabs, sand fleas etc. I have been told to use a small hook with just a piece of shrimp and set the hook just before they bite. All joking aside the small hook works but you must be ginger in reeling in the fish, and you cannot horse them in. And this time of the year from November to April, shrimp is the best bait and the reason being is that they are naturally in the harbor. Like in the summer the white bait comes into the harbor. This year with the red tide, I have been fishing up in the north end of Charlotte Harbor where there has been no red tide. Also fishing around the pilings with quartered blue crabs you may find some of those black drum. Those are some fun fish to target inshore. Moving out into the Gulf, check your regulations if you make it to Federal waters some of the regulations are different. Like mangrove/gray snapper State waters 10″ 5 fish, in Federal waters being past 9 miles from the beach 12″ 10 fish, so make sure that you are in compliance. And starting around 9 miles 30-50 feet of water you may encounter a hogfish using shrimp and small crabs. Most anglers think you have to go to the Florida Keys to find these great eating fish, however, a lighter line and small hook like a 1/0 circle with a 20 lb. leader will get the job done. Small ledges where you can find snapper too and if the water is around 68 to 72 degrease you may encounter some toothy critter like king mackerel. You do need some wire to harvest one of these smokers as they have lots of sharp teeth. You can use 30 lb. single strand wire and build your own leader. I like to anchor over a nice ledge and get the snapper and grunts biting and a bonus rod out behind the boat with a bobber about 6′ from the hook with a light drag and when the drag goes off you will understand the term smoker. They will get some line off the spool in a hurry. While waiting for that singing drag target those grunts and snapper. When reeling them to the surface, they are purging trying to spit the hook out. This creates an underwater chum slick that will attract the kings. If you have visitors coming in, call me and set up a trip, or a training session on your boat, or gift certificates for those that like to fish. And always remember singing drags and tight lines make me smile. <*(((((>{