Fishing Report January 2017
Capt. Rick Davidson, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sea Hag January Report
Some cooler temperatures finally arrived, making it a little more difficult to figure out a trout pattern, but the redfish remained active and schooling. We saw some beautiful amberjack brought in this month and lots of excellent tasty black sea bass. Near the end of the month we started to see some nice sheepshead brought in as well. Here are just a few of the great catches from this past month.
Forecast for February 2017
The two most active areas for this coming month are going to be in the river, as the trout come in to deeper water to escape the frigid flats, and on nearshore rockpiles as the sheepshead get into spawning mode. Last month I posted some tips about trout fishing in the river, so this month I’ll talk about sheepshead fishing. There are sheepshead available in our area year-round, usually around pilings or docks with barnacles and frequently in creeks and rivers. When they spawn in the winter, the mature fish migrate to offshore rockpiles in from 15 to 40 feet of water. Steinhatchee Reefs are a great place to start if you don’t have any other numbers for rockpiles. The smaller males usually arrive first, followed by the larger females. Because water in the winter is frequently very clear, it is easy to even see the fish circling the rocks below. Sheepshead are similar to grouper in that they may not always hop right on your baits; the bite turns off and on, frequently in association with increasing tidal flow. In terms of tackle, your trout and redfish tackle will be perfectly fine. Fishing with braided line is a great advantage because great sensitivity is needed to detect the subtle bite of a feeding sheepshead. At the very first tap on the line, set the hook. Most of the time you will need a carefully selected weight to keep the bait in and near the rockpiles. A fishfinder rig, a drop-hook rig, a knocker rig or a larger jig will all work, with the selection of weight depending on the current flow. Wide gap hooks and fluorocarbon leaders work best, but some people just use a knocker rig with no leader at all. Live shrimp or fiddler crabs are the standard bait for sheepshead. You want to suspend the bait in the general depth of the fish, which are usually quite visible on a good fishfinder. As mentioned, even with fish present, they may go for some time before “turning on”. If you aren’t sure you see fish on the finder and you’re not getting any hits, move to a different location. Some people have actually brought buckets of barnacles scraped off pilings and docks and used them as chum. I can attest to the success of this approach. When the bite does “turn on” you’ll have multiple fish on at once. Because so many large fish are present in a small area, it will likely be crowded so approach other boats carefully and spend some time thinking about your anchoring efforts. The minimum legal size is 12” and the bag limit is 15 per person. In the opinion of many, the bag limit is pretty lenient so please don’t keep more fish than you intend to eat. When the bite is on, whether trout in the river or sheepshead offshore, it’s a great time to take the kids with you. You can get live shrimp and frequently fiddler crabs at the Sea Hag Marina, and hints on rigs and tackle as well. It may be a cold month, but some of the fishing in February will warm you right up.
Captain Steve Rassel 352 3595902. www.lastrcastras.com
With the colder temperatures the trout are moving into winter quarters. The river is finally starting to produce some keeper size fish. Redfish are in the shallows hanging around rock piles. Great time to be on the water.
Captain Kyle Skipper, Marker One Flats Charters (352) 317-1654 www.m1fishing.com
Captain Wiley Horton “Tuner Sport Fishing Charters 352-284-0990 http://www.tunersportfishing.com/
The sheepshead are starting to make it to the spawning grounds after a mild winter, while the grouper and snapper are biting great offshore, it’s hard to run past these delicious fishes that put up such a magnificent fight on light tackle, look wonderful on a plate and taste so good. I have some deep water trips booked but will try my best to convince folks to stop in 20-30 feet and reel in a few sheepies. Most of these spots can be reached on days when the weather makes longer runs uncomfortable. Scale back the tackle to 10lb test, slide a half ounce sinker on and tie the hook right to the line…attach a shrimp using the classic Dick Bowles maneuver…and hold on. More likely than not, you will have to sort through a bunch of red snapper to find a sheepie. As always, release the females to spawn and keep only males. Sperm does not seem to be a limiting factor in the reproduction of these feisty fishes. See you on the water.