Fishing has remained steady for the most part this month. The lack of rain has kept the waters fairly clean and clear, maybe not so good for inland drought conditions, however it sure isn’t hurting our water any. The weather hasn’t reached low temperatures for extended periods keeping the water a little warmer for February. This I believe has kept the fishing good for a winter month. I’m not sure what’s going to happen when we do get a few good days rain. The runoff could be really bad for water conditions. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Charters have been going well for the Reelin & Chillin for the most part. We have been catching Reds of all sizes from seventeen inches up to twenty-nine and a half inches. Look for Sheepshead around docks, bridges, and other structure and on artificial reefs offshore.
A few Pompano, Spanish Mackerel, and Bluefish are hanging around passes when the tides are moving. Here are a few fish tails from recent trips aboard the Reelin & Chillin. The Tooheys (Garritt, Debbi, Peter with friend Andrew Lounsberry) picked up several Reds around structure from just south of the Siesta Dr. bridge and up into central Sarasota Bay. Also, all anglers caught a mix of Trout, Sheepshead, and one Pompano that Andrew picked up. Elvin and Nelson Martin had a fantastic double hook-up dock fishing for Reds. Both placed a nice select shrimp up under the same dock and just seconds both were hooked up. Elvin’s fish was twenty-nine and a half inches and weighed nine and a half pounds. Nelson’s fish was twenty-eight inches. Both fish were released after a quick photo.
I had a second four hour just after the above charter and was hoping to put Dave Bradwell onto some great Redfish action. We didn’t hit them like Elvin and Nelson did, however Dave wasn’t complaining because he enjoyed great Redfish light tackle action—a twenty-eight inch Redfish caught and released using only ten pound test line. He was looking for dinner, and found it with three Sheepshead ending up the the livewell before day’s end. With four guys out just to have fun on a six hour trip we made it happen. Barney Hathhorn an avid Walleye fisherman started the day with a chubby twenty-eight inch Redfish that weighed in at ten pounds on the dot. Then Ray Ribaric, looking for a Redfish dinner that his wife was planning on, picked up one that just reached the twenty-seven inch slot. Bob Hess, on his first saltwater trip ever, started with a small Red just under the slot and minutes later picked up one around twenty-five inches. Bob Braun had promised his wife a Sheepshead dinner and we were catching nothing but Reds.
I decided to head to a location where I have been finding a few Sheepshead, and on first cast Bob had one in the boat. Two more Sheepshead were added to the livewell making for a great fish fry for Bob and his better half. Captain’s Tip Finding Sheepshead: One thing I have found over the years is that you won’t necessarily find Sheepshead on every dock in the bay just because it happens to be the season. This is the same for any structure like rocks, oyster beds, or bridge pilings. Included would be the nearshore artificial reefs. If you don’t get on a sheepshead in a few minutes you need to move. My plan of attack when inshore around structure is to just look - I idle by the structure slowly using my amber Flying Fisherman sunglasses to spot them. It may be a solid sighting of wide black and white stripes or just a shadow, but I will usually be able to see them. When in a location where I can’t see down because of cloudy water conditions or depth, as on an nearshore reef, I just spend a few minutes with a test cast. If I don’t get a bite I move on. Oh, yeah! Size down on the tackle and bait. I use a number four Owner circle hook, a number four split shot sinker, and regular size shrimp, not selects. Tight lines & good times, Capt. Terry Frankford