Typically the average angler stays home in January, as high winds, low tides, and cold weather is enough to keep you around the house getting all those honey do’s done. But how much can a man do before going nuts? I learned a long time ago to keep peace around the house and do some honey do’s and then get out. But where would you go with all this bad weather? Try some southern comfort : go south and catch fish.
A short drive from the Tampa Bay area is Charlotte Harbor; most anglers associate Charlotte Harbor with Boca Grande and Tarpon fishing, and rightly so. However, this area has a lot more to offer all year long, especially during the winter months. After doing all of the honey do’s I cared to, I decided it was time to move on and do some fishing with a long-time friend and resident.
A phone call did it all and the next day we were on our way. We met Rolando at his resident in Englewood and headed towards Bull Bay as our first destination. The weather, as expected, had 15-knot winds from the northeast and no water anywhere.
Bull Bay is protected and fishable all year round even with winter low tides. We worked our way inside Bull Bay and our first stop was one of the many stilt houses grandfathered in from the early years. You can always find deep water around these stilt homes all year long and even that day with a negative tide was no different. Winter fishing, in fact, is made easy by not having to catch live greenback sardines. Just use live shrimp and artificial baits for best results.
Rolando anchored his 18-foot flats boat within casting distance of the piling. We started with live shrimp and within minutes a nice 5lb. Sheepshead was boated. As the tide continued to exit the area, the Redfish turned on and for over two hours we were fighting fish.
A neat way to fish for reds in deeper water is to use a jig head and tail- hook a shrimp, bouncing the shrimp along the bottom with a slow retrieve. The jig stirs the bottom up drawing the attention of all bottom feeders from Reds to Flounders.
After several hours of bottom fishing, Rolando suggested we fish for Trout around Three Sister Key. Although the water was low, Rolando worked his flats boat along the southwest side. We switched to 1/8-oz jig heads with Bass Assassins 3-inch white tails with green back. After several drifts and only four trout we decided it was time to head home. Not bad for a winter day; 18 Redfish, three Sheepshead, two Snook, and several Trout.
Where to fish:
• Sister Key- Either side according to wind conditions.
• Devilfish Keys- Southeast corner outer edges of sand bar.
• Bull Bay- Fish the outer edges of cuts and grass flats. At low tide work the area around the stilt houses.
• Gasparilla Island- Fish around the entrance of the canals on the east side for Gag Grouper and Redfish.
• Phosphate dock- A good area to fish for large Redfish, Drum, Snook, and Grouper.
• Winter fishing: Redfish, Flounder, Trout, Sheepshead, and some Snook.
• Summer fishing: Snook, Redfish, Trout, Tarpon, Tripletail, and Cobia.
• Offshore weather permitting: Grouper, Kingfish, Mackerel, and Snapper.
Charlotte Harbor has a lot to offer for both winter and summer fishing and makes for an excellent weekend family retreat.
Where to stay:
• Banana Bay Waterfront Motel (941) 743-4441
• Harbour Inn Motel (800) 646-6037
• Pelican Cove Motel (941) 764-9100
• Dunes of Boca Grande (800) 881-2622
• Grand Island Vacations (800) 962-3314
• Uncle Henry’s Marina Resort (941) 964-2300
For more information contact Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce (941) 627-2222
Good fishing and tight lines.