February 2nd 2018 Fishing Report
CONDITIONS: Weather is getting downright boring……here we have another mid-winter week with mild temperatures and zero fronts and associated wind and storms predicted. Morning air temps will hover between 58 and 66 and by late afternoon you’ll think it’s mid May with high 70’s in full sunshine. Great for tourism but tough on the “winter” fishing here. With that as a backdrop expect the water temperatures to hold a couple degrees on either side of 70 degrees. That is probably ten degrees higher than normal for this time of year. Will definitely effect the presence as well as the feeding aggressiveness of our winter species. Another plus is a week of mild and non-gusty winds which will keep the water flat and clean. Tides are coming off an early week high tide with a fast moving morning incoming and finishing the day with a much weaker ebb tide.
BACKWATER: Interesting situation developing back here. Question is ….How long will the winter species hold off commencing their spawning cycle as the water continues to be unseasonably warm. On a couple trips last week when we had that “morning chill” air temperature drop, we saw our first spawn size sheepshead in an aggressive feeding mode. Whether that continues, especially in this much warmer week remains to be seen. Certainly possible that the sheepshead, which is our winter target fish especially for our seasonal visitors, will hold off the big bite until a windier and cooler February. In the meantime in the backwaters, all is not lost……a great alternative to the sheepshead is the black drum……a cousin to the redfish, they are considerably larger; deliver a great fight and are fantastic table fare……think blackened redfish. They will feed on the same structure as the sheepshead and take the same baits. But seem to like their shrimp morsel presented on a jig head moved ever to slowly across the structure bottom. And don’t neglect the fact that the lack of raucous wind this coming week will keep the water gin clear which is a key factor in targeting the legendary Florida Pompano. Best will be in the Passes at either end of both tides working a small tipped jig to the bottom on a tidal drift.
NEARSHORE: Experience shows that fish are adaptable creatures and if feeding is a problem in one domain……they will choose another. Think a lot of that is going on right now in our nearshore reef areas. Multiple reports of good to very good sheepshead action on the legendary Marco Five Mile Reef as well as the smaller structure spots along the first and second reefs. Cooler water and abundance of “food” there is the draw. Reefs are well marked on TOP SPOT Fishing Charts and are relatively close inshore and easily accessible. You can well run into nice lane snapper and even a grouper or two on these spots but you might want to concentrate on the prime winter target….the sheepshead. A tad of shrimp or cut crab on a lindy rig dropped vertically to the bottom and worked on a soft lift technique should get you some hot action……hopefully on bigger, keepable fish
OFFSHORE: Unless something weather wise jumps up, this should be one of the best weeks of the young year comfort wise out here. Water should be flat and clean. Those reports we get from those “biting the bullet” and making that long 30-35 mile trip offshore are crammed full of great experiences on big fish. Grouper, both red and gag are at the top of the most sought after list. Loaded up with some live pinfish that you’ve gold hooked on the inshore reefs earlier, the action out deep holds great expectation…….either anchored up on structure or on a tidal drift. Work the pinfish with enough weight to hold the depth and the reel drag ratcheted down tight right into the bottom “stuff”. Red grouper will be tight to the bottom; gags will be working 10-15’ higher up in the water column. And to keep the crew entertained on the way out and back, set some lookouts to scan the waters around the stone crab pot markers for sunning tripletail……spot one; double back quietly and work a dark color tipped jig right up on the surface. Tripletail are a lesser known species but are one of the best on the table. Worth the effort.