by Capt. Greg Stamper
February is upon us and that means we’ve got about 2 months left of cold fronts before we start our Spring. Last February was a great one as we had awesome weather. Of course, we hope for the same, but Mother nature will do as she pleases. Watching the cold fronts as they push down from up North and timing out the day’s you fish will be smart. Fishing right up to the cusp of the fronts moving through can bring on some excellent bites. Another part is how much the water temperatures change pre and post front. If the temperatures of the water drop slowly over a few days, fishing will still be good. Likewise, sharp drops in water temperatures can make for some tough days.
So, what are we going to target? Well in my neck of the woods Southwest Florida, it will be mostly redfish, pompano, trout, black drum, and sheepshead. However, when conditions are right, we have good chances at snook, tripletail, flounder, jacks, and an occasional tarpon. Should we have a February like last year everything will be in play. When we get the cold fronts that drop temperatures quickly, we stick to the basics.
Redfish will be found in their typical areas throughout our region. Although most of the fish will be below the 27-inch mark there will be some big one’s cruising in the back bays. Most fish will be hanging around the mangroves during higher tides foraging on shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. During the lower tides and outgoing tides, they’ll be near oyster bars and drop offs waiting for their food to be forced off. On calm days for anglers that are fishing our nearshore waters, you may run into breeder schools of bull reds. These schools usually hold upwards of 200 fish usually between 35 to 45 inches. Often, we’ll find these schools with the help of birds or because we run by them when going from place to place. One piece of advice I’ll give is look for muds in 20-40 feet of water as the big schools stir the bottom up when they move around.
Sheepshead and black drum will be another top biller in February. Typically, they’ll be found in deeper water. When I say deeper water, I’m talking about 3-10 feet around us here in Estero-bay. Targeting these species can be done several different ways, however for me using crabs or shrimp is my go-to. These fish are also found on our local wrecks and reefs. I’ve ran into them as far out as 45 feet here and I’m sure they’ll be found out further. I’ll still use the same baits just a longer leader and more weight to get things down and stay in place.
Pompano, trout, flounder, and other species such as blue fish, mackerel, and small sharks will start to invade all the cuts and passes. On days when the wind direction and seas are nice these are great areas to find action. Fishing these areas are great for kids or just those that want to have some fun. It’s also an easy way to bring home a few fillets for dinner, should customers want. Jigs tipped with shrimp work great for me and can usually get the job done consistently. Moving water is the only important part in these areas, and I don’t care if it’s coming in our going out.
Capt. Greg Stamper
Fort Myers, Florida