Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Better a Reel than a Shovel

Oyster beds and birds can be a good combination with backwater fishing. PHOTO BY NOELLE H. LOWERY

Oyster beds and birds can be a good combination with backwater fishing. PHOTO BY NOELLE H. LOWERY

Captain Mary A. Fink

Most of the snowbirds have returned from their northern residences, and for good reason. When it comes to beautiful weather and excellent fishing, the winter months in southwest Florida are hard to beat, especially in the beautiful mangrove maze of the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park.

While fishing offshore can often prove to be challenging during winter months due to higher winds associated with frequent cold fronts, backcountry fishing can be quite comfortable because of the protection provided by the numerous mangrove islands, which comprise these areas. The mangrove islands provide structure, food, shelter and habitat for most all-local fish species.

For best results on the water this winter, seek areas where water is running into and around mangrove edges and points. Mangrove islands surrounded by oyster beds are also a good bet, as fish feed on small crabs and crustaceans found in the beds. Well-presented offerings placed along the edges of these beds are likely to be rewarded by aggressive snook and red fish. Mangrove snappers are often found in good numbers in these areas, as are sea trout, sheepshead, black drum and more.

Shrimp make a most desirable live bait option, as nearly all fish species make shrimp a regular part of their diet. Additionally, due to higher salinity levels and lower water temperatures found during the winter months, keeping shrimp alive is quite easy as long as they are frequently oxygenated.

Other things to look for when fishing the backcountry areas this winter include feeding birds and “active” water. Active water, by my definition, is any and all movement on the waters surface, including tidal exchange, tailing fish and jumping baitfish schools. When you discover active water, fish it! It’s active for a reason.

Opportunistic birds perched on the edge of mangrove branches are often seeking passing baitfish for their next meal. Where there are baitfish, there are often predators lurking below including countless local species as previously mentioned. Birds are the best anglers, and much can be discovered about ideal fishing locations by allowing them to guide you to your next hot spot.

Another great fishing tip is to allow an experienced local guide to take you out into the scenic mangrove island maze for a memorable fishing experience. Your guide will take you to areas that have been proven to be successful. Your tackle, licenses, bait and lunch will all be included in your fishing charter, and you will leave with your own fresh local fish fillets properly prepared by the captain or mate.

All of us are fortunate to be holding reels rather than shovels this winter. Get out and enjoy some backcountry fishing action today!

Tight Lines!


Captain Mary specializes in fishing the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands. She holds a “six pack” captains license and has a knack for finding fish. A passionate angler possessing over 35 years of extensive experience in both backcountry and offshore fishing, Mary offers fishing expeditions through her Island Girls Charters company. When fishing with Captain Mary, you will be exposed to a variety of successful techniques including cast and retrieve, drift fishing, bottom fishing and sight fishing. Visit www.islandgirlscharters.com to learn about fishing with Capt. Mary, or reach her at 239-571-2947.

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