Sheepshead bite great in some areas, improving elsewhere
Off- or near-shore sheepshead fishing has been top-notch while inshore sheepie fishing steadily improves. Check out a bridge, oyster bar, mangrove point or dock near you.
Don’t overlook downtown Cape Coral for your annual sheepshead outing. Saves gas and travel time. Use your electronics to probe the city canal systems for sheepshead holding structure and you will probably find quite a few willing to bite. There’s a 12-inch size limit and each person can harvest eight fish per day. Break out the hot skillet or baking pan!
With winter’s ultra-clear low water, elevated flats anglers see more fish before the fish see them so spot from your poling platform or your stand a-top cooler on the front deck to put the odds more in your favor.
For those that relocated here and just had to have a skiff with a wing on the back that’s now primarily used for a lunch counter or work station – you really will see and catch more fish if you use the poling platform and learn to silently pole that boat.
Keep in mind that standing on an unsecured cooler that’s sitting on a fiberglass deck is a sure way to break bones or worse. It’s best to purchase a small 4 legged casting platform (EBay) that’s secured through the deck with a turnbuckle rig or at least buy a 4-point deck cooler capture system to keep it from sliding out from under you. In an emergency, put the cooler on top of a rubber-backed small rug.
Pole or quietly wind-drift, large shallow, potholed bottomed bays in a foot or two of water in wind protected sunny areas. The fish are scattered over the flats with the reds forming loose pods sharing the sun with the snook.
Long-brimmed hats and high dollar polarized glasses tip the odds in your favor in the clear low water as well as being able to make long accurate casts with light leaders.
On warm days you’ll often see fish, especially snook, up on creek banks sitting motionless with dorsal fins sometimes breaking the surface, more interested in sunbathing than eating which is fine as it’s better to not harass these big females as they are already under big-time stress from the cold.
For those that can’t get by without a weekly snook bite, break out your 5 to 6-foot ultra-lite spinning outfits and make long casts along these drop-offs or in shallow, warm bays. You might have to cover some ground but the chances are good you’ll eventually connect with the many schools of juvenile snook that love to eat 3-inch paddle tail soft plastics.
Patient anglers soaking 1 to 2-inch-thick ladyfish chunks on creek bank drop-offs are often rewarded with redfish action this time of year. Use circle hooks, as greedy reds will inhale ladyfish baits. If you don’t strike quickly they often become gut hooked usually meaning delayed mortality. For inexperienced anglers, adding a bobber or strike indicator to the line helps solve the problem.
Seatrout fishing has been outstanding and again ultra-lite outfits are the way to go for these typically 1 to 3-pound fish. Fly anglers with floating and sink-tip lines cover trout waters from top to bottom and seatrout love to eat flies.
A flat full of trout usually means a by-catch of ladyfish, which is also a great opportunity for the novice fly rodderer to hone his casting and hooking skills. A 3-pound ladyfish on a 5-6 weight fly rod is always fun. That same ladyfish on my ancient Fenwick 3 wt. fiberglass rod pushes that tiny wand past its limits and a smile on my face every time.
In a 3 to 4-foot-deep trout bay, retrieve slowly close to the bottom for the trout. Faster retrieves near the surface attract the ladyfish.
Pick your offshore day and enjoy the delicious snapper and grouper bite in the Gulf’s 75 to 100-foot zone.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.