December 23rd 2018 Fishing Report
CONDITIONS: Christmas week weather is always a bit iffy and this year will be no different. Coming off a rather menacing weather frontal passage last week, we will be dealing with the aftermath of pummeled water clarity especially inshore…..near and offshore will be a different peril of rough water as the winds subside. So, best advice will be to focus on the latter part of the week when the water clears inshore and flattens in the Gulf. A plus, however, is the absence of the red t de and algae
laden water which has been a frequent deterrent to fishing quality here and up to our north. We will be going through a rather strong full moon cycle over Christmas and as a result some of the morning incoming tides will present a range of water level change in excess of 3.5 feet…..that will present a problem other than at the very beginning and end of the tide cycle. The afternoon outgoing tides will be meek and very fishable. Would project that the storm conditions late last week with ferocious winds will tumble our water temperatures into the low 60’s and encourage more action by winter species as described in the sector forecasts.
BACKWATER: As the wind tails off over the weekend, the muddy I stained water will dissipate. Would think, if the forecasts hold true, we will see cleaner water post Christmas Day. The first to clean up will be backwater spots well off the main current flow i.e Addison Bay, Johnson Bay and there along the mangrove edges there should be good action on late season snapper and the arriving sheepshead. Most of the latter will still be undersized but you can expect at least a few keepers. The snapper fall for a tipped jig worked slowly across the bottom ; the sheepshead a tad of shrimp on a lindy rig worked ever so slowly on a soft lift technique tight to the bottom….the sheeps head will frequent a little deeper water….think bottom dropoff……than the snapper. You can also begin to target the speckled trout as the winter season progresses. They become very active in the cooler conditions and their “food” of choice are critters that feed in the bottom seagrass. Couple of good spots for seagrass are along the ICW just at the entry by La Penisula on the Isle of Capri known as Calhoun Channel and just south of ICW marker #R28 on the north end of Canon Island. Drift either area with a live shrimp well under a popper.
NEARSHORE: Be a little rough here into the first part of the week as the front makes finalpassage. Forecasts show the wind veering east post Christmas Day and that will help subside the rough water. Probably a good spot to consider late week. When you do make the trip make sure you give the Walton Reef (a marked location on HOT SPOTS CHART available at the marina Ships Store) a try. Good structure there will hold arriving sheepshead with a goodly number of them in “take home” size. They can be worked with a small piece of live shrimp or tad of cut crab dropped vertically to the bottom and then worked on a verticallift. Other note able action will be on schools of mackerel and bluefish plying the small reefs all along the Marco First and Second Reefs. You’ll pick up location in 20-25′ of water from South Seas complex to south of the Marriott. Look for bait working those spots and set up an action spot with a chum effort followed by working the surface with small tipped jigs on a fast retrieve.
OFFSHORE: Refer to the Nearshore Section as to the expected sea conditions. Will be a increased degree of wave height out here. Reports indicate that best action now is on kingfish (king mackerel) that are slowly moving from the Panhandle waters and heading south for the winter “warmth” of the waters in the Florida Keys. They will stop to feed on our wrecks and reefs in the 30-50′ depth levels and will favor those spots that are holding bait. Best approach is to set up forward in the water flow and get a good chum effort going first and then with a small blue runner as bait, tether it on wire leader at 15-20′. Another approach is to set the same bait on a slow troll around the wreck/ reef. The kings are tough and toothy…..so be careful in handling. On the way out and best from your fishing destination, keep an eye out for floating tripletail sunning on top by the crab trap markers. Work them with mid range tackle and a dark colored tipped jig.