January 5th 2018 Fishing Report
CONDITIONS: While the midsection of the country froze to death over the New Year it was rather pleasant here until NOW. That front that passed through a couple of afternoons back it going to have us playing make up COLD here this week. Expect to see morning temperatures this week in the low 40’s and then inching up late afternoons to the low 60’s….and then as the cold spell passes on, look out for gusty winds that will rock and roll waters through late week. Will be, overall, a tough week of fishing conditions that will take some effort and precise scheduling to hit the water at the right time. You can look for the water temperature to tank late week and gradually recover in the remainder of the week. At it’s low point the water temp should drop to the low 60’s and then gradually inch back up to the upper 60’s by week end. But watch out for water clarity issues…those late afternoon westerly winds will quickly turn the water to Starbucks caffe latte.
BACKWATER: But in all this cold water mayhem this week there may be a silver lining…….in some years past, the sudden drop in the water temperature (as expected this week) will suddenly trigger the pent-up spawning sheepshead action to take action and they will stream inshore to do their thing. So, hope springs eternal, and just maybe we’ll get a late Christmas gift. If so, work those deeper spots along the Marco River / Collier Creek and onward along the northbound ICW for sheepshead action, that may now include a parcel of these good eating fish that you can take home. Technique (as repeated) is with a small tad of fresh shrimp on a small hook work a bait vertically on a soft lift technique…..feel the nudge and lift, setting the hook on the lift and crank ‘em aboard. Other action has been showing increasing activity on spec trout along the edges of the ICW’s Calhoun Channel in 4-6’ of water over seagrass with best on incoming tide working a small tipped jig or a whole medium size shrimp under a popper on a drift over seagrass beds. Trout have to be a minimum of 15” O for harvest and with a upper limit of 20”. Black drum also are starting to show in more frequency. Looks like the sheepshead with silver and black vertical stripes but with no teeth and a distinctively different dorsal fin. Great fight and size / cousin of the redfish (red drum) / great table fare blackened. They will show in the same waters and conditions as the sheepshead.
NEARSHORE: Watch mid to late week sea conditions. If viable, working those first and second reef lines off the beaches can produce some of those size desireable sheepshead making the move inshore but holding on cool water reefs nearshore. Work them with the vertical lift technique with a tad of shrimp or cut crab as their enticement. Hopefully there will be size there this “cool down” coming week. Other activity in this venue will be early morning action on pelagics racing through the near offshore bait lines of sardines/ threadfins and falling for your well presented tipped top water jig worked in chum. Good shot here for some mackerel and bluefish early morning.
OFFSHORE: Just keep an eye on conditions this week. Rough seas aren’t the answer for good fishing. Early or late week should be the targets when the the tough conditions abate. Deep (65-70’) hard bottom should be a productive arena for red and some gag grouper. Reds will be tight to the bottom structure and jumping on a live pinfish or cut ladyfish strips worked close to the bottom outcroppings on a tide inducted western drift. Need stout tackle with drags set tight to prevent the reds from ducking back into their favorite lair after being hooked. Gag grouper will off off the bottom by 10-15’ and working the higher reef surfaces. Can use the same bait bit keep them moving in the higher current flow. A little closer in, on the wrecks and artificial reefs, there has been some significant yellowtail snapper action even as the water chills down. Set up on wreck / reef and work chum first and then deploy small tads of chum freelined on #6 hooks into the slick with the bail open. Yellowtail will take bait and run…..wait and close the bait and set. Great fight and better table fare.