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On the Water: Fishing up and down over the holiday week
December 6, 2017

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All in all it wasn't too bad of a week on the water. We had a couple weak cool fronts drop down, a few windy days, an hour or two of rain on Thanksgiving Day and Sunday morning, but nothing to keep anglers off the water.

Inshore, reports of redfish ranging in size from 15 to 31 inches were caught in Matlacha Pass and off the eastern wall of Pine Island Sound. Most of the smaller fish were hooked on shrimp and shrimp-tipped jigs over the bottom of creeks and the perimeter of oyster bars. The larger fish were often located trailing mullet schools over open flats and off bar edges on the lower stages of the tide. Live and cut pinfish, ladyfish or mullet steaks, and gold weedless spoons were good bait choices.

Trout fishing was hit or miss; the water clarity was decent on the calm days and stirred up on the windy days. As usual with trout, the better bite was with the water clarity at its best. Trout up to 20 inches were caught around oyster bars in south Matlacha Pass; trout to 19 inches were reported near west mouth of Jug Creek at Bokeelia and between Chino and Galt Island in the lower Sound. A few flounder up to 18 inches were also boated by anglers targeting trout and along the beach near Blind and Redfish passes.

Pompano were caught while targeting trout and also hooked while casting small pompano jigs in white and pink colors along bar edges in the Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Spanish mackerel were reported in good numbers across Charlotte Harbor often mixed with ladyfish.

As snook season winds down, the warm water temperatures has kept them on a decent bite. Snook to 31 inches were hooked around Cayo Costa State Park, a few keeper-size fish were reported in Matlacha Pass, and good action with mostly undersized fish came from the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor near Burnt Store Marina and in Pine Island Sound near Blind Pass and off the eastern side near Pineland.

Gag grouper were caught around the passes and nearshore ledges with live pinfish or trolling diving lures. Many were undersize, but a few measured to 29 inches. Also offshore, red grouper were caught in depths from 70 to over a hundred feet. A snapper mix including mangrove, mutton and yellowtail were caught in depths from 40-90 feet. King mackerel and cobia were hooked around artificial reefs at depths beginning around 40 feet.

With the cold fronts beginning and water temperatures dropping, the sheepshead bite is getting better by the day. Bigger fish are moving inshore and nearshore and while most species shut down when the cold front arrives, the sheepshead bite often heats up. Fish to 17 inches were reported over the week around bridge pilings, oyster creeks, piers, nearshore reefs and structure along the beaches. The best bait is a small or cut shrimp on a small sharp hook with just enough weight to keep the bait on bottom, or a shrimp tipped jig, also with just enough weight to get it to the bottom.

We are into that time of year that the weather can change considerably over the span of a week or even a few days. Of course, when you watch the weather and it's cold to our north, we are very fortunate, very seldom do we have a cold front that are not followed a few days later with sunny skies and 80 degree weather. As the shopping frenzy heats up, it's a great time to get on the water.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, on the Web at www.fishpineisland.com or email gcl2fish@live.com. Holiday Gift Certificates are available!

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.

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