On the Water: Holiday fishing in Southwest Florida | News, Sports, Jobs



A fresh fish dinner is always a treat over the holidays. Bob Pettigrew and Darryl Mahan scored with a limit of fat seatrout while fishing Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

The holiday season is here and it’s a great time to spend a relaxing day of fishing with friends or family on the waters of Southwest Florida. The weather is often great with fish hungry as we move into cooler days. It’s a great time to enjoy a simple day of fishing — just grab some bait, hit the water and see what you catch. To me, it’s fun and exciting when you do not know what the next fish on your line might be.

Shrimp are the all-around best and most productive bait for inshore and nearshore fishing. Even more so over the cooler months. Apart from mullet, everything eats them. Plus, they are readily available at most bait shops and tackle stores. You do not need to throw a heavy net and get the boat messy to start the day as with catching your own live bait.

Fishing with shrimp, you never know what you may hook next, it may be 3 inches, or it may be 3 feet, but chances are very good you are going to hook something.

One of the most popular methods is fishing the bait under a popping or rattling cork, suspending the shrimp between the surface and bottom of the water column. This works great over inshore grassy bottom in depths from 3 to 8 feet. Drifting is most popular to locate the bite then you may choose to anchor the boat.

If you are in a fishy area, you may catch a variety that may include a dozen or more different species. That’s the fun part, especially with kids and novices. Every time the bobber goes under and the rod doubles over, you have no idea what’s on the other end.

If you make a drift with no or limited bites, fire up the engine and make a move. It’s common to start slow then drift into an area where the bite heats up.

It’s not possible to list all the fish you may catch, but some of the popular ones may include seatrout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, redfish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and sharks.

As mentioned, you may catch small fish such as pin or pigfish. They are great baits to drop behind the boat on a heavier rig.

If on a drift, fish these under a float. Along with the few fish mentioned earlier, you may hook into a grouper, cobia, tarpon, big shark or snook.

If you really want to get a shark to the boat ,fish with a couple feet of wire leader to prevent their razor-sharp teeth from parting the line.

As the water cools, it’s a great time to bottom fish around structure both inshore and nearshore. Again, live or fresh shrimp is the top bait. Two popular baits are knocker rigs with an egg sinker free to slide above a small hook and bare jigs heads rigged with shrimp. Both combinations work great inshore and over nearshore artificial reefs and hard bottom.

Sheepshead will become the target of many anglers over the cooler months, but you will hook into a wide variety of fish that may include red and black drum, pompano, permit and snapper — just to name a few.

These are simple methods of fishing, but also fun, relaxing and very productive. It’s a great way to get someone new to the sport on lots of fish and hooked. Of course, it’s great for kids, they love action and catching a lot of different species.

If you choose to go with shrimp for bait, you will go through a lot more than you think. I generally take at least double the amount I think I might use — nothing more frustrating than getting on a hot bite and running out of bait. Give it a try, pick a nice day, go catch some fish, and have fun!

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you get to enjoy time over the holidays on the water.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fishpineisland.com; or via email at gcl2fish@live.com.

If you’re looking for that perfect gift, we have gift certificates available for the holidays.

Have a safe week and good fishin’.

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and Southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.   




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