Fishing Best Bets: Sheepshead season starting to kick in – The News-Press

Fishing’s bustin’ out all over, inshore, offshore and inland.

Sheepshead fishing definitely has kicked up a notch, pompano and bluefish are moving south through the area, and inshore slams of snook, redfish and trout have never been easier at year’s end.

Nearshore fishing on reefs within sight of land has produced smoker king mackerel, permit, blackfin tuna, and three more days to box a gag grouper, before the season slams shut for six months.

Crappie have moved into shoreline vegetation for spawning chores on lakes Trafford and Okeechobee, with bass doing the same on the Big O.
CHARLOTTE HARBOR: Cape Tool & Tackle reports customer Mike Henry used shrimp on jig heads to catch and release redfish and big trout until he wore out, Tuesday in the sandy potholes of Bull and Turtle bays.
PINE ISLAND: The island’s upper east side has produced inshore slams of oversize redfish, plus snook along Matlacha shorelines, and nice trout on nearby flats for Capt. Gregg McKee’s Wildlfly Charters. In southwest Matlacha Pass, Leo Marino of Lehr’s Economy Tackle and pal Grayson Pierce cast weedless Z-Man Minnowz Monday to catch four low-slot redfish and 12 snook to 25 inches.

St. James City Capt. George Grosselfinger and his son used mostly topwater plugs Monday and Tuesday to catch a total of 23 snook, including five in the slot, plus some big trout and jacks along shorelines north of Panther Key. Across Pine Island Sound on a very merry Christmas Day at the South Seas Resort T-dock, the Whitlock family released 30 snook to 38 inches on live herrings.
SANIBEL: Norm Zeigler’s Fly, Bait & Tackle reports sheepshead coming on strong in Blind Pass, around San Carlos Bay pilings including the Sanibel Pier, and around culverts along Wildlife Drive (closed Fridays) in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Snook fishing has been best in Blind Pass and in Ding, and trout have been biting along San Carlos Bay shorelines including the causeway islands, and on the flats off the causeway toll booths.
ESTERO BAY: Joe Watton, Regina Theobalk and Emily Hansard used live shrimp to catch six black drum to 22 inches, plus some short sheepshead in south Estero Bay last Wednesday on their inshore Fishbuster Charter.

Stacey and Byron Stout caught three keeper sheepshead and four keeper snapper Tuesday in the mouth of Hendry Creek and on a Rocky Bay oyster bar.
OFFSHORE: OFFSHORE: Two Fishbuster trips of 18 and 20 miles off New Pass produced one keeper red grouper and boxes of lane snapper and grunts over the past week.

Bob Brooks and son Joe, of Delray Beach, converted scarce live thread herrings into some dandy “smoker” king mackerel by freelining the baits in 32 to 38 feet of water off Sanibel.

 Lehr’s got two reports over the past week from anglers who caught mid-20-pound -range blackfin tunas, plus some king mackerel, while bottom fishing off Captiva Island in the ARC Reef area. Lehr’s also passed along reports of one commercial fisherman who cast Don’s Glass Minnow jigs and small diamond jigs off Captiva Island for a catch of 50 bluefish in the 2- to 4-pound range, plus 11 bonito. 

Trey Hanson, Brian Frier, and Jason Brennan of Cape Coral trolled Mann’s Stretch diving plugs in 30 to 35 feet of water off Captiva Pass for a catch of 14 gags, including four keepers to 28 inches, and one nice kingfish, according to Lehr’s.

Capt. Jason Ramer of Cape Tool & was surprised to catch three nice permit Friday on shrimp at Helen’s Reef off Cayo Costa.

 Daily trips to depths around 65 feet off Boca Grande Pass for King Fisher offshore charters over the past week produced three to seven keeper red grouper per outing, plus dozens of lane snapper and a mix of grunts, mangrove snapper and porgies on frozen shrimp and squid.


FRESH WATER

LAKE TRAFFORD: Black crappie moved into shoreline vegetation this week on the Immokalee Lake. Some 21 boats used minnows or jigs on Tuesday to catch good numbers of specks, including a couple of limits, according to Lake Trafford Marina.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Okeechobee Capt. Eddie Perry reports crappie also have begun spawning in Big O vegetation, with jigs producing better than minnows for anglers dipping baits among reeds and cattails around the Third Point and the Indian Prairie Canal area. Baiting with while shiners was good for 24 bass to 6-1/2 pounds for his Tuesday morning party in Cody Cove, outside the mouth of the Kissimmee River. Artificials also are producing nice bass that have begun spawning in Buckhead Ridge and Eagle Bay, where flipping worms including big Senkos in reed clumps has been good.

HOT SPOTS

Bull and Turtle Bays for redfish and big trout.

Matlacha Pass for reds and trout.

Northeastern Pine Island Sound for catch-and-release snook.

 Nearshore reefs for gag grouper, king mackerel, and maybe a blackfin tuna or a permit.

Ding Darling for snook, trout and sheepshead.

Upper Estero Bay for sheepshead and snapper.

Lake Trafford shorelines for crappie.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE

Crappie in the veg around the Third Point and Indian Prairie Canal.

Cody Cove, Eagle Bay and Buckhead Ridge for bass.

FISH TIP 

As Pennsylvania youngsters Mia and Teddie Giannone attest, there’s nothing like a nice sheepshead to make a Southwest Florida winter day. They got theirs near Coon Key in Estero Bay on a Get Hooked Charter with Capt. Matt DeAngelis, and others have started biting all along the back side of Sanibel, under North Captiva and Cayo Costa docks, and inland to Punta Gorda’s riprap lined canals. Shrimp are the go-to bait for sheepies, which have bloodhound capabilities for also sniffing out tube worms or crustaceans including fiddler and mangrove crabs and sand fleas. The sheepshead daily bag limit is a generous 15, minimum 12 inches total length.


To submit a photo or fishing report, email it to Byron Stout: bstout@news-press.com. Be sure to put “fishing report” in the subject line.

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