CONDITIONS: Almost summer time warmth continues to creep in…….forecasted air temperatures this week ride between 63 and 68 in the mornings and the summer like afternoons check in at 74 to 82. That “ain’t” gonna do it for winter cold water species. Much too warm ! …..for the fisherpeople but great for the northern snow birds enjoying the beaches, Too hot / too soon. There is just a smidgeon of rain in the forecast so we’ll have another dry week and the winds are fading too with mild morning forecasts with some kick up briefly in the afternoons….. should be nothing to worry about even if you head offshore. And finally, finishing out the unobtrusive weather / condition week the tides are weak both ways.
BACKWATER: Quite possibly be a tough go back here this week. Reports show that there are a few spawning big sheepshead back inside……but very few and on deep water spots with good forage. Most of that traditional winter species here will be undersized……unfortunately. Fun to catch and carefully release. Would suggest changing main focus off the sheepshead and focus on spec trout / whiting and silver trout / black drum / mangrove snapper. The trout which are a good winter alternative are plentiful anywhere there is shallow water and a sea grass bottom. Try along the first reaches of the ICW just north of the Isles of Capri along a section named Calhoun Channel working along the 4-5’ deep mangrove edges with a shrimp on a light jig head worked under a popper on a soft cast and retrieve. If your off one of the beaches; Sand Dollar/ Keeywadin or Tigertail try working a small tipped jig off the beach right to the bottom with just a slight amount of motion for both whiting and silver trout that hold in those 8-10’ depths. Both species fun to catch and no size limit and are very good table fare. The black drum will be hiding around those sheepshead spots and jumping on a cut crab or piece of shrimp. Mangrove snapper will be on the same spots with the same baits.
NEARSHORE: With mild temperatures and warm water inshore, might be a good idea try for some of the sheepshead action out here on the nearshore reefs. Water is deeper out here usually 20-25’ just a mile or two offshore on the inside reefs. Set up on defined structure and either drop some cut bait to the bottom on work a deep set chum bag for just 10 minutes or so and then get your lindy rigs loaded with shrimp or cut crabs tight to the bottom using a soft lift technique. After you feel the bump from the sheepshead raise the bait just 3\4” off the bottom and set the hook when you feel the weight. Good chance there could be other mid-season speciesout here also. Look for lane snapper, triggerfish or trout all going for the same bait and attracted by the initial chum effort.
OFFSHORE: With the wind generally down especially in the morning hours might want to make that touted long range run offshore. We’re talking a run due west from Capri Pass in the range of 30-35 miles. You’ll want to watch your bottom machine for signs of hard bottom that attracts and holds red grouper. Take a few minutes before you leave the first reef area and “gold hook” some pinfish which are preferred grouper bait. If you can get ahold of some ladyfish they also are a good alternative grouper bait. Once on your spot, get the bait tight to the bottom outcroppings and set up a tidal drift. A tip…..keep the drag tight on your reel….red grouper will head back to their lair as soon as they feel the hook and you’ll lose them as well as your tackle. Also, on the long run out and back, keep your eyes on the stone crab trap markers ….they are a hangout spot for tripletail, (a great fight and a delicacy on the table). The tripletail will usually be laying flat on the surface sunning and will go after a tipped jig moved slowly .