It was a cold and windy winter this year for our Boca Grande, FL area. Cold front after cold front kept many fisherman off the water. Extreme winds plus negative low tides made it hard for many to venture into the backcountry to experience the true excitement of winter fishing. Those with shallow running boats were able to scoot on past the bay boats and get back to holes holding snook, redfish, and trout. For the folks unable to get deep into the backcountry, the sheepshead bite has been absolutely stellar, the trout bite around the deeper parts of the bay has been good, and there’s still snook and redfish that can be found around the bars and deeper parts of the bays and passes as well.

Shrimp has been the go to bait this past month for catching everything. Shrimp under a popping cork has been working well for trout, pompano, ladyfish and jacks. We’ve been using a 1/4oz jighead tipped with a shrimp when targeting snook and redfish. Shrimp around the docks, bridges, and passes have been producing sheepshead, snapper, and occasional black drum.

We are starting to catch live bait again. Find a grass flat with good moving water and start chumming to bring the pilchards and pinfish near the boat. Toss out your cast net and you’ll be fishing in no time. We like free lining the pilchards on a 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook with no less than 4ft of 20 or 30lb fluorocarbon leader. If you can’t keep your bait out of the grass, add a small float 2-3ft above hook.

Nearshore and offshore has been good for those able to get out between the breaks in wind. The nearshore reefs and hardbottom have been producing good numbers of sheepshead. Further out, keeper red grouper and large mangrove snapper are coming in from 25+ miles out.

Luckily, spring is right around the corner! With warmer temperatures and higher water, the fishing is only going to get better.