It's in the 80s in January and inshore big redfish and trophy trout are still biting along with snook, sheepshead, and pompano.
Offshore the bite is hot with lots of grouper ready to eat your bait. Talk about a great place for an angler to live! This week's report, thankfully, mirrors last due to the relatively stable weather with the bite remaining strong.
Congrats this week to Capt. Rich Osgood on a lure-caught Pine Island 5.5-pound gator trout. Osgood is a trophy trout angler with several big gator trout to his credit. This area is one of the largest spotted sea trout nurseries in the world producing tons of trout but typically on the small side with most of the five-pound and up trophies caught in the northern part of our state.
Capt. George Tunison
Still, our area can produce some big specimens. Big trout really have been hitting these last couple of seasons and a month ago I took my personal best of just under six pounds on a live shrimp and cork. These big trout are typically loners and prowl the shallow flats not usually mixing with their 10- to 12-inch cousins unless it's to eat one of their own.
If you like inshore skinny water sight-fishing for reds and gator trout now is the time to test your stealth mode skills. Big reds are schooling or tailing early in the day and if you are lucky and quiet you may witness one of shallow water angling's greatest sights.
Early Christmas morning I found myself on the point of Capt. Brian David's Action Craft skiff as he silently poled us along a grassy shoreline in 10 inches of clear winter water in Matlacha Pass. Ahead, several tails suddenly appeared which gave away the location of a pod of a dozen or so big reds, heads down and tails breaking the still surface happily grubbing along the bottom. Sight-fishing heaven!
With three hard pushes of the pole David had us in casting distance. Crouching low I fired a long cast to the edge of the school and within two turns of the handle a fat 10-pounder inhaled my gold spoon then proceeded to warm the drag on my old Shimano reel as he burned across the flat pushing a huge wake in the thin water. Christmas Day in the 80s, sight-fishing skinny water and a big redfish burning my drag? Thanks Southwest Florida!
This is not trolling motor territory and without a shallow water skiff you aren't even in the game. Wind drifting and poling is the ticket as these fish are always on guard in the thin water. Trout in these parts don't exceed five pounds by being stupid. Trolling motors scare fish as they definitely react to the hum and in many of these shallows a TM won't work anyway.
Think light lines, longer than usual fluorocarbon leaders, long casts and downsized lures. Most importantly slow your presentation whichever lure you chose to throw and learn to fish efficiently and quietly. Rocking boats sending out pressure waves that spook trophies as well as loud talking, banging lids, and shuffling feet. Think stealth and stay in the game.
If you don't have a shallow skiff stay out of the shallows and please stop destroying our pristine grass flats. I've seen so many folks this past week ruining hundreds of yards of grass flats as they blindly plow through the shallow fishing grounds. These areas take years to regrow if at all and without the shallow grass nursery areas we have no fish. We need more folks educated and or heavily fined to get the message out that this is unacceptable behavior.
Again this week I will mention that due to the critical shortage of lunching facilities in our area ramp courtesy is vital. Please get in and get out quickly and safely.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.