Typically, February is an extension of the previous two months in that the weather is dominated by cool north winds and low tides.
With spring on the horizon and if the wind allows, I’ll begin making my way out of the creek systems to adjacent outside shorelines to look for small troughs, cuts and sand holes that will be prime habitat as the weather warms. Too, I like to look on low water as bottom structure is much more visible than when the water is high against the mangroves. This is where redfish, spotted sea trout, and snook will gravitate to in the weeks to come. Of course, we seem to always get a good cold snap or two in March but it will heat up before we know it.
Small baits are still key as the majority of the scaled sardines won’t migrate in from offshore until the weather stabilizes. For flies, I like small clousers, kwans, seaducers, and schminnows no larger that a #1. For soft plastics, its hard to beat the a paddle tail on a 1/8 oz. jighead. In both cases, if i’m working up against a mangrove shoreline i’ll rig weedless.
Around the harbor, no matter which ramp you choose to use there are plenty of shoreline with adjacent creek systems to explore. Gasparilla Sound and Bull Bay hold good fish and are easily accessible from close by ramps. Small shallow draft boats can also take advantage of some exceptional fishing in Pine Island Sound. Matlacha is one of my favorite spots and the shoreline outside Big Dead Creek and down through Buzzard Bay is well protected from the winds that come out of the north in early spring and the deeper water with strong current provide good habitat.
The open harbor and adjacent bar systems also hold potential as winter winds down. Pompano are still on the bars like the one that runs the length of the West Wall and down onto Cape Haze Point. Spanish mackerel are scattered throughout the harbor and will be mixed in with lots of ladyfish outside the bars working schools of glass minnows. The Cape Haze and Alligator Creek artificial reef systems hold good numbers of sheepshead. Both of these reef systems are well marked. In addition to the reefs, sheepshead are still at the Boca Grande and Placida trestles in good numbers and are great spots to fish with or without a boat.
Lastly, area canal systems can also be good. In particular, because of good tidal flow, the perimeter canals of both Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte hold lots of species. Redfish, black drum, spotted sea trout, and snook hang close to the cement seawalls that hold heat from the afternoon sun. Corner spots are prime as that is where current moves the fastest.