January 1, 2016 – January 7, 2016
Endless summer continues here in SW Florida. That nice warm air and brilliant sunshine may put a smile on your face but it has confused the fish and knocked them off their activity this late 2015. The unusual heat will continue into the weekend and then by Sunday we’ll see a change. A moderate front will bring a day of rain followed by a chill down with morning air temps in the 50’s that morph into 70 degree afternoons and will probably drop the water temp from it’s current 75 degrees down to just a tad under 70. It’s a cool down but without the intensity to get the fish species back in sync. The winds behind the front will hold easterly and strong most of the week churning up the backwaters especially the outgoing. And to cap it off the tides will be virtually non-existent both ways until the end of the week.
The major inhabitant that we count on as great action i.e the spawning sheepshead is still holding in the cooler water offshore. If you target them in the backwaters now you will empty your bait bucket with 10″ fish. Better to hold off and see if January weather normalizes for the “sheepies”. Better bet is to focus on the still numerous mangrove snapper working the shoreline spots at low water and ganging up along the mangrove edges at high water. Good chance at some keepers here using small whole shrimp or netted white bait. You might even see some nice size flounder in your mix. Both species are great table fare. There are hordes of white bait holding locally that show up in Capri Pass and the first inshore portion of the Marco River…..their arrival is announced by arriving pelagics from mackerel, pompano, kingfish chasing the bait and diving gulls and Pelicans gobbling up the leftovers. Try to drift through this melee working either a tipped jig down 10-15′ or a live or cut bait 10′ off the bottom. You may get surprised at the action and possibility of getting something to take home.
With the forecasted conditions going in the tank late weekend……..best to get your trip in Friday, Saturday or early Sunday. Those same hordes of bait move back nearshore on the outgoing tide and in turn attract some major pelagics nearshore (kingfish and cobia) and some of the minor species (mackerel and bluefish). You’ll need chum to draw and hold the action and live bait on stout leader to get them aboard. Key spots are the Capri Pass wrecks / barges ; Walton Reef off Caxambas Pass and the three corner spots on the Five Mile Reef. If you switch over to bottom fishing do the chum thing again and work weighted tipped jigs into the slick……lane and mangrove snapper, flounder, triggerfish and maybe a seatrout or two will be your targets here.
Ditto on your timing out deep with a front coming through. Go Early ! Red grouper have been the “go to” species this year. Most cannot remember a better year of results, both catch and keep, on this delectable species. AND the Feds have reopened the federal waters for red grouper harvest effective January 1, 2016. That means you are not restricted with a nine mile offshore limit which should go hand-in-hand with even better results starting this week. Simple process; live pinfish / cut ladyfish on a drift over hard bottom with stout gear and a ratcheted down drag setting. Second good news: the amberjack harvest season has reopened. AJ’s hold deep on wrecks and can be had by dropping live bait vertically right into the wreck structure and “hang on” many of these AJ’s can go 30# plus.