This is definitely the time of year cold fronts consistently work their way into southwest Florida affecting Charlotte Harbor as well as the rest of the coast.  While these winds may seem unmanageable, the cooler water temperatures help produce some good fishing.   In particular, some of the largest spotted sea trout of the year are caught during the colder months. Grass flats in Lemon Bay and Gasparilla and Pine Island Sound should fish real well on more moderate days between cold fronts and look for these fish to drop into channels, cuts, and drop-offs on the colder days when the wind is blowing. Larger trout like to feed on baitfish so I like to throw imitation fly patterns like the Puglisi pilchard and pinfish as well as bend back and deceiver patterns. Soft plastic baits on standard 1/8 ounce jig heads also work great. I have been throwing the Little John by Mirrolure because it has a large enough profile to represent a baitfish and is very durable.  Keep in mind that the metabolism of all game fish slow down when it’s cold so slow those bait down for a better bite.  A slower presentation will also keep your bait lower in the water column. Fish tend to hold as deep as possible where the water temperature is more stable.

This is one of my favorite times of year to look for redfish around the islands of the east side from Alligator Creek to Pirate Harbor.  I’ll generally work island points and cuts between shorelines where the current has created a trough or cut. Anywhere from the outer most islands to one or two islands in are good spots. In addition, Oyster bars are great habitat areas. For these fish, I downsize my baits this time of year. Small crabs are an important prey species for redfish right now so I’m throwing small clouser variations as well as Puglisi crab patterns.  On high water, small top water gurgler patterns have been producing when worked around oyster bars.

I also get a lot of good reports from up the Peace River this time of year. This goes for both redfish and snook.  In particular, deeper cuts on outside bends and turns between The Nav-a-gator and Harbor Heights can hold some good fish. If you need to get out of the wind, black drum, sheepshead, and mangrove snapper are scattered throughout the canals of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte with the perimeter canals adjacent to the open harbor holding better numbers of fish.

Out towards the open harbor; look for bluefish to be running outside the bar along the southern end of the west wall out to the hard bottom off Cape Haze Point. This hard bottom is also a great pompano spot. Off the intracoastal, sheepshead will be holding in good numbers at the phosphate docks, trestles, piers, and docks of Boca Grande and Placida. In addition to Cape Haze Point, pompano will be running the beaches mixed in with some whiting.

I also like the fact that you don’t have to be out at the crack of dawn this time of year.  I like to let it warm up a bit and then look for a good lee shoreline where I can get out of the wind. The fish need to warm up as well and it’s not unusual to see them lying up in the sun over the sand on these calm lee flats.

Red fish tail

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