By Capt. Pete Rapps
February is a month where we will typically see some subtle changes from January’s cold fronts and wind. The cold fronts will still hit us, but are usually a little less powerful. Water temperatures will remain about the same as January, hovering in the mid 60’s. Daytime air temperatures will average 52-76 degrees.
Keep an eye on your tide chart because we have some extremely low tides around both the new moon and full moon. Be mindful of the morning low tides February 6th – 12th and the 22nd – 29th! Wind direction affects the tides dramatically. A North or East wind will make the tide lower and longer than expected as it blows the water out and delays its return.
I like to hit the outside flats on the last 2 hours of the incoming flood tide. We drift areas that are 3’-5’ deep and vary from grass to sand. This way we can expect a combination of both Trout on the grass, and Pompano on the sand. I like to use a 3/8 oz bucktail type jig, with a good amount of glitter in it.
A perfect example of a universal jig that will catch both Trout and Pompano are Don’s Potbelly Jigs. There is a new bait and tackle shop in Everglades City Called Everglades Bait and Tackle. It is located right next to the grocery store near the “round-about” in town. They have a selection of the Don’s Potbelly jigs that work best here in the 10,000 Islands. Use your light casting gear with 10 lb test line and 2’ of 20 lb fluorocarbon leader. In addition to the Trout and Pompano, you can expect to pick up Spanish Mackerel, Jacks, & Ladyfish.
The backwater bays and rivers hold Snook, Mangrove Snapper, Ladyfish, and other fun to catch species. When fishing for Snook, It’s hard to beat live baits like Pilchards and Thread Herring. I have had great results using High Roller brand topwater lures like the original “HighRoller” or “RipRoller” in greenback or shad patterns. Snapper will gladly accept pieces of shrimp, and the Ladyfish love jerkbaits and bucktail jigs.
On the outgoing tide, I like to head into the river mouths and the backwaters and fish for Sheepshead and Snapper. They both love shrimp and will gladly accept a piece rather than a whole live shrimp. The reason why I like shrimp pieces in February is two-fold. First off, the winter shrimp tend to be huge….by cutting them in half, you can stretch your supply to last a lot longer. Secondly, the Sheepshead and Snapper have small mouths and will usually just rob a whole shrimp right off your hook.
I have developed a Species Availability Chart relative to the Backwater and Nearshore areas that I fish in the Everglades National Park. You can see it at www.CaptainRapps.com
Captain Rapps’ Charters & Guides offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the 10,000 Islands of the Everglades National Park. Capt. Rapps’ top notch fleet accommodates men, women, & children of all ages, experienced or not, and those with special needs. Between their vast knowledge & experience of the area, and easy going demeanors, you are guaranteed to have a great day. Book your charter 24/7 using the online booking calendar, and see Capt. Rapps’ first class web site for Booking info, Videos, Recipes, Seasonings, and more at www.CaptainRapps.com