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On the Water: It’s a prime time for catching sheepshead

February 15, 2017
By Capt. Bill Russell , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

It's a prime time for catching sheepshead

As expected for this time of year with changing weather conditions, fishing reports varied. Overall, anglers fared better than the previous week with many noting the fishing getting better each day following the cool front early in the week and beautiful conditions at weeks end.

Fishing for spotted sea trout appears to be on the rise in both Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Many of the fish are running barely undersize but decent numbers of larger fish to 19 inches were caught. Water clarity is improving around much of the island -this can only be good news for trout anglers. Working the incoming tide while casting shrimp under popping corks in areas south of Useppa Island resulted in a few trout limits with fish up to 18 inches. Also in Pine Island Sound, trout were caught from potholes and along bar drop-offs near the Flamingo Bay channel and south to Chino Island. Most of the fish were running a few inches undersize and mixed with ladyfish and an occasional pompano. Best baits were live shrimp or white DOA shrimp drifted under popping corks.

Kayak anglers report redfish tailing and pushing wake over low tides in the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. Fish were most active the first hour of the incoming tide. Also in "Ding" Darling, snook, sheepshead and a few redfish were caught from the deeper creeks with a hard oyster bottom while free-lining live shrimp. Fishing from kayaks also worked for redfish near Pineland in the Sound were fish to 24 inches were caught near Big Jim Creek and to the east of Josslyn Island. A few snook and keeper-size trout were also caught from these areas in the deeper sand holes. Redfish to 26 inches were also reported south of the Matlacha Bridge with the best bite in the late afternoon.

From the Sanibel Pier, anglers landed sheepshead up to 4 pounds and a few pompano while fishing small red jigs tipped with shrimp around the pilings. Similar results came from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier. Good sheepshead fishing was also noted around oyster creek near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and around all the Gulf passes.

Later in the week after the waters settled down, there were good reports of sheepshead in the Gulf well within sight of land. Fish up to 5 pounds were caught over hard bottom and public reefs along with a mix of mangrove snapper, porgies and grunts. Small live shrimp fished on bottom worked best. A few permit and cobia were also hooked. Also not too far off the beaches, tripletail were sight-fished under buoys from the idle zone along the Sanibel Beach out to 35 feet of water. The most hook-ups came on free-lined, handpicked shrimp on a small circle hook and 20 lb fluorocarbon leader with lite spinning tackle to make a long cast presentation.

Further offshore, anglers caught red grouper, lane and mangrove snapper in 50 to 90- foot depths and good sized amberjacks near the hundred-foot mark.

With cool fronts coming and going, the water temperature is constantly fluctuating 10 degrees or more inshore. The next week or two should be prime sheepshead time as they are in full spawn mode. They love the cool weather so while most other species often have a tendency to shut down, adverse conditions can make the sheepshead bite red hot.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, on the Web at or email:

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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