CONDITIONS: Heading into a rather typical winter weather week here in mid February…..very variable. Mornings early week will dawn with air temperatures in the low seventies but the end of the week those temps will have dropped to the mid forties. That has severe effect on winter fishing here. The winter species (sheepshead, whiting, silver trout) don’t know which way to go …….feed or run. We’ve got to get a stable “cold” water spell to get a constant bite of the “lunkers”. Otherwise on conditions, there is no rain or storms in the forecast. Little bit of afternoon gusty winds over the weekend but then calms out late week with most of the wind direction coming out of the south. The tides are enduring another tussle with the full moon cycle but this time around no crazy high or super low tides. All in all a pretty good week on the water with more snapper around (warmer water) than we usually see this time of year. Yearning for a cold snap before spring sets in and get the classic sheepshead bite in here for anglers.
BACKWATER: Seeing an enormous number of smaller sheepshead all though our backwaters but an absence of the “lunkers”…..as mentioned in CONDITIONS, the prime cause is the absence of low 60 degree water here. Snapper seem to be dominant with a better than average chance at capturing some keepers. Best spots are where there is bottom structure and good tidal flow. Try Addison Bay edges and back into Three Island Cove for good water flow. Rookery Bay east edges has also been producing some good results on moderate numbers on mangroves working shrimp tight to shallow structure. Redfish are also active on the same venues. Most are small (under 18”) but that makes no difference ……they all must be released now due to excessive kill we had with the red tide/algae fiasco this last year. The warmth has also kept some snook around and they can be worked with live bait up along Rookery Bay and over in Johnson Bay on shallower current edges with incoming tide best.
NEARSHORE: Fishing the reefs out here has been benefitted with the overall warmer water conditions. Sheepshead have moved onto these deeper and cooler spots to feed on bottom structure. Have reports of good to very good action on the major weeks…..i.e. the Walton Reef off Caxambas Pass and the southeast and northwest corners of the Five Mile Reef. Working a shrimp or cut crab vertically just touching the bottom on a vertical lift technique can draw action on some bigger members of the species. Also have a chance on same spots for nice size mangrove snapper as well as triggerfish and maybe even some displaced sea trout. Have reports of good snapper action, both lane and mangrove, on the south part of the Keeywadin Reefs working tipped weighted jigs just a foot or so off the bottom on the incoming tide. Good idea to set up the action soaking a block of chum on the surface to accelerate the action.
OFFSHORE: With the blustery winds confined to the weekend, you should have nice flat water and comfortable conditions if you run deep. Most of the action now is on snapper on wrecks and reef spots that hold and attract snapper, both lane and mangroves……some sheepshead too , but reported to be scattered and in low numbers. Best chance deep, with the pelagic migration from up north finished, will be on bottom dwellers. Super deep 70+’ hard bottom still has some scattered grouper action…but it all depends of water temperature and current flow. Worth a try. For red grouper it’s working a live pinfish tight to the bottom structure over defined hard bottom of a tide induced drift. Important you’re working bottom with defined outcroppings on your fish finder. Gag grouper will be working on higher defined structure spots and be interested in a tethered small jack or runner freelined right into the crevices of the stuff. Lastly,…..crab pots are still deployed and those surface markers are nirvana for tripletail. Set a lookout as you make the run out and back……double back and work the surface with a tipped dark color jig.