Shrimp is the bait of choice in February. Winter fishing is about bottom fishing. This is certainly true offshore, but it also holds true for Ten Thousand Islands backwaters.
Hook the shrimp through the head when casting or trolling.
Insert the hook from under the shrimp's head, and push the barb out on top, avoiding the vital organs. ...Insert the hook through the top of the shrimp's head, working the point under the vital organs before pushing it out elsewhere on the top of the head.
You can walk-the-dog with your trusty Zara Spook or Top Dog all day long, but the best rig this month is still a shrimp on the bottom.
Drum are known shrimp lovers. Shrimp, however, are not as cheap as they once were.
If there is any doubt about inflation, just check the price of shrimp. Many marinas now charge $3.85+ per dozen and you can expect that price to go up this year.
I just hope that the fish appreciate how much we fishermen are spending on them. They are eating in style! It probably costs me more to feed the local trout population than it does my family.
Below are fish found in our local Southwest Florida waters. They abound in the backwaters, tidal pools, tidal creeks and offshore. They are schoolies or smaller in the backwaters and as they grow the larger older fish live most of there life's offshore.
They are respectful from left to right Sheephead (wait to you see there teeth-are those dentures), catch a lot of these Mango (grey) snapper minimum 10"-good eating), Redfish (red Drum),
Everyone's favorite Snook, best tasting of all the Florida fish Pompano and always a great fight and little brother to the King Machreal and cousin to Wahoo, Spanish Mackrel.
The last two are not pictured here. Just to big and smelly. Also, the preferred food of Pompano are Sand Fleas not shrimp.
Whatever your choice of baits, the top places to fish in February are the holes and troughs, especially where there is hard bottom or oysters. A host of predators typically fill these holes, and they all will take a shrimp or slow-moving jig tipped with shrimp.
Anglers soaking sand fleas and shrimp in beach troughs consistently score these silvery jacks, but the real test entails hunting and casting to individual targets.
“There’s nothing better than sight-fishing. It’s my favorite method for pompano,” he says. “I always start looking on incoming tides. That’s when you get the cleaner water.”
Sheepshead, snapper and black drum are the most common catches, but more prestigious fish such as redfish, grouper and snook also winter in these deeper areas. Of course, jacks and ladyfish are everywhere in the Ten Thousand Islands. At times, there are so many jacks and ladies that no other fish have a chance to sniff your bait.
To hook anything else, you simply have to move. If you fish south of Goodland, there are so many holes and deep areas that it is difficult to choose where to fish. Trial and error is always the best teacher, but certain characteristics will help you identify productive waters.
Narrow cuts between bays are often good. Always fish an eddy, where the current doubles back upon itself. Dropoffs next to an oyster bar almost always hold sheepshead, and downed trees are good habitat for grouper and snook.
The entrance to Lostmans River is a maze of oysters and holes, and once inside, there are deep, rocky holes. The banks in this area are also fishy, and if the weather is good, the outside points all along the coast usually hold fish at the top of the incoming tide.
Farther north around Naples, anglers often move just offshore to fish rocky outcrops and ledges that hold sheepshead, snapper, grouper and the occasional cobia. If you venture just a little farther out to the artificial reefs, you’ll tug on more sheepshead and grouper, plus triggerfish, lane snapper and Spanish mackerel.
All in all, this is a fairly good, action-packed fishery, all based around soaking shrimp on the bottom—if you can afford them.
For purists who cannot stand the idea of drowning shrimp, or are too poor to afford them, there is good lure action over the grassflats when the water is clear.
Trout are the most popular target, but Spanish mackerel and bluefish are more plentiful and fight much harder. Silver trout and whiting can be found along the beaches, and there are pompano near the passes, in the cuts between grassbeds and in some backwaters where channels wash into the bays
All of these fish will take a jig. Spanish macks and bluefish like a very fast retrieve. Trout prefer a slow-moving target and pompano often hit the jig when it is still on bottom. A tip of shrimp certainly helps the pompano fishing
I did not mention live baits, simply because they are very difficult to find in February. And if you do find them, they are often not that effective. Snook and tarpon just are not that hungry in the cool water, and the other species seem to prefer shrimp.
So dip into your bank account, invest in a few dozen shrimp and enjoy your day on the water. So what if bait costs more than fuel.
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