CONDITIONS: The extraordinary warmth will continue this week. Mornings will start with air temps tickling 70 and end the day in the mid-eighties. Wow !. That pattern has a good chance to move the water temp now hovering in the 76-77 degree range right into the 80’s. Double Wow! That will definitely effect our fishing in all sectors. Forecasts show a very stable week with consistent nice days…..no storms, fronts or rain. Even the wind will be consistent with light breeze in the mornings that kicks up late morning and gives us 10-15 knots out of the southwest. That hasn’t been a problem albeit roughs up the water a tad. The tides will be a factor however this week…..early week the the morning outgoing will be virtually non-existent with the afternoon incoming not much better. Late week will show some improved tidal volume and better fishing. Tip: fish post weekend!
BACKWATER: Most of the emphasis this time of year has been the sheepshead fishing both for residents and seasonal visitors. Overall the event has been a disappointment from the feedback we get. On a few days we saw sizable sheepshead mixed in with tons of shorts but most days we saw bait supply depleting shorts in the backwaters. And with the highly unusual water warmth now upon us late February, would have to predict that this is about the final curtain on sheepshead for 2017-2018. But all is not lost. Have begun to see some sizable mangrove snapper showing in the bait rich backwater edges and pompano beginning to show in the spring cleaner water in all three passes….Caxambas, Capri and Hurricane. Optimum possibility for getting action is in those first two hours of the incoming tides working that cleaner “emerald green” water streaming in from the Gulf. Tipped jigs or even simple shrimp lindy rigs worked just off the bottom should get you results if they are there. We are also seeing spec trout along the seagrass bottom patches along the ICW just north of the Isles of Capri along the Calhoun Channel working a whole shrimp under a popper on a drift in 4-6’ depth. All of this “diminished” winter we saw and caught nice size black drum in those cuts and deeper spots that usually hold sheepshead……well the drum are not temperature dependent and are still there. They take the same baits as sheephead and a nice 5# drum may save your day.
NEARSHORE: With no predicted storms / wind it should be nirvana out here this week. Those reefs just off the Marco coast still hold a great chance of holding retreating sheepshead action. Deeper water is cooler and to their liking. Need to set up on structure and work baits vertically with a soft lift technique (lift bait often 4-5”….feel tap…..lift softly 2-3”…..feel weight on rod….set hook with 12” short set). Spring warmth will bring the pelagic action to these inshore reefs first. Signs will be bird action working over stressed bait schools surfacing to escape the pelagics beneath. Two approaches: Anchor up and get some chum in the water and work tipped jigs on a fast retrieve right in the slick forming behind the boat OR stay mobile and troll a flashy spoon or tipped jig 100’ behind the boat working the perimeter of the bait eruptions at about 4-5 knots.
OFFSHORE: With sea conditions predicted as placid and no storms in the offing, this might be the week to go deep. Would concentrate on late week when the tide are more dominant. Still get reports of good ratios of keep to catch on red grouper on those deep hard bottom ranges 30-40 miles out. Be equipped with a number of live pinfish / sand perch to work tight to the bottom on weighted rigs on a tidal drift. Need heavy gear and keep the drag ratcheted down to hold your strike from tucking back into it’s lair and cutting you off. On the way out and back, good idea to set a couple of lookouts to scan the stone crab pot markers for sunning tripletail. Sighted; cut power; drift back and work a tipped dark colored jig tight to the pot right up on the surface.