Home' Island Sun : ISN 012216 Contents ISLAND SUN - JANUARY 22, 2016
Change by Capt. Matt
What a dif-
make! After what
had been a very
mild winter with
within a period of
just over a week multiple strong cold
fronts passed through bringing heavy
rain, wind and low temperatures in the
50s, totally changing everything out
on the water. Water temperatures are
now right at 60 degrees and we are in
the full grip of a Florida winter with no
short-term end in sight. With winter
here, we might as well get used to it.
There are still lots of fish to be caught
its just a matter of changing your tactics
and wearing a lot more clothes.
Plummeting water temperatures com-
pletely shut down the snook bite and the
massive schools of easy-to-catch shiners
we had on the bridges simply disap-
peared. Live shrimp quickly became the
bait of choice this week and our target
species changed to sheepshead, rat red-
fish, black drum and trout.
Sheepshead action really picked up
with the cold; lots of sheepshead of all
sizes can now be found from the passes
all the way to the back country creeks.
During really cold periods, chunks of
fresh shrimp fished on a jig head caught
more fish than any other set-up.
Deep water docks and creek mouths
are some of my favorite places to target
bigger sheepshead. Find barnacle-crusted
structure which can be either pilings,
blow-downs or shell bottom with good
tide movement and the sheepshead will
be there. The more well known sheeps-
head fishing areas around the passes are
often very crowded so finding your own
sheepshead honey hole is a must to stay
out of the often crazy boat traffic.
Sheepshead are a little different to get
on the hook than most of the fish we tar-
get. They have a small hard mouth and
take a bait in little bites. When I first feel
the little ding of a sheepshead bite I like
to slowly start lifting the rod tip. If I don't
feel the fish bend the rod, I slowly lower
it, taking in the slack line, and let them
continue to bite. If you do feel the rod tip
bend while you're lifting the tip, the fish is
holding the bait. Give them a quick short
jab, driving the hook in their hard mouth.
This two-part hook set seems to work
better than any other method I have tried,
although with sheepshead fishing it's all
about feeling and anticipating the bite to
I like to downsize the gear when I'm
shrimp fishing. My go-to rigs are 2500
and 3000 series spinning reels rigged
with 10-pound braid and a 20# leader.
The cold water is very clear in the
mangrove creeks and lighter leader cer-
tainly gets more bites than the usual 30
pound leader I use. Often sheepshead
take a little while to begin to bite. Give
a spot a little longer than you normally
would. Once they do start to feed it can
often be a bite every cast.
Despite the cold weather and less than
perfect conditions, once you get tucked
away in a favorite deep water, sheltered
creek, fishing action can still be great.
Although it's not the wide open snook bite
we have been spoiled with until now, it's
all part of our winter time fishing pattern.
Many of these sheltered creeks are just
stacked up with snook that just need a few
warm days in a row to turn on and feed.
Capt. Matt Mitchell has been fishing
local waters since he moved to Sanibel
in 1980. He now lives in St. James City
and works as a back country fishing
guide. If you have comments or ques-
tions email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send Us Your Fish Tales
The Island Sun would like to hear from anglers about their catches.
Send us details including tackle, bait and weather conditions, date of catch,
species and weight, and include photographs with identification. Drop them
at the Island Sun, 1640 Periwinkle Way, Suite 2, Sanibel, or email to
email@example.com; or call 395-1213.
Paul Salassa from Philadelphia with one of 5 snook over 30 inches caught right before the
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