It has been a relatively mild winter here in the 10,000 Islands. Up until the end of the first week in February, day time air temperatures have been much warmer than normal, which has kept the near shore water temperatures about 5-8 degrees warmer than average. We were seeing water temperatures in the low 70’s prior to the cold fronts of the second week in February, which then dropped the water temperatures down to where they usually are this time of year.
These typical winter water temperatures are what bring some of the best Speckled Trout & Pompano fishing that our area has to offer. Look to find some shallow flats and cuts where you have grass on one side of the boat, and sand on the other. It is in these areas that you can fish both Speckled Trout and Pompano. Try castingout a small 1/4 – 3/8 oz bucktail type jig with a lot of flash in it’s tail, tipped with very small cut piece of shrimp. The Trout will be in the grass at about 3-6 feet, and the pompano will be in about the same depth of water in the sandy areas. For pompano, let your jig bounce in the sand a little to create small puffs in the sand.
Sheepshead are also fun and tasty fish to target this time of year. They can be found in deeper holes and drop offs up against the mangrove roots in the near shore areas. I like to send down a shrimp on a small 2/0 circle hook with a small split shot weight into these areas. Sheepshead fishing is practically an “art” of its own that requires a lot of finesse and discipline. When you beginto feel a nibble, try to forget your natural born instinct to yank and set the hook. Let that fish nibble for a few seconds. Reel in a partial crank and let him nibble some more. Keep reeling in that partial crank or so until you feel him grab the shrimp and run the other way. Now set the hook and reel him up. It takes a lot of patience, but once you get that finesse down, you will catch many more Sheepshead.
Capt. Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the 10,000 Islands of the Everglades National Park. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See the online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first class web site at www.CaptainRapps.com and you can reach him at 239-571-1756.