by Captain Michael Manis
It’s midwinter and working on the water has a way of making you curse the wind. In a best case scenario, we’re all hoping to pick our spots between fronts while enjoying sleeping in a bit. However, if you’re willing to brave the elements there are good options.
For the most part, If you run a shallow draft skiff or are even willing to wade, midwinter does provide some unique opportunities as fish can be easier to find. Because of the seasonally low tides, they have less room to roam on the flats and group up in deeper spots. Moreover, these holes or depressions stick out even more when they’re surrounded by what is almost dry ground. Too, the stronger the north wind the better. This pushes even more water out.
My favorite tide is a morning incoming from a negative low and like last month, I’ll spend my time working around backcountry creek systems. I’ll downsize my flies throwing nothing larger than a 1/0 with a size #1 or #2 being typical. Deeper holes around mangrove points can be very productive for redfish, spotted sea trout and juvenile snook. Because they’re vulnerable to the cold, I like to leave the larger snook alone. They can be seen laid up close to shore in the sand trying to warm up.
As water drains on open grass flats, the same scenario plays out. Because they hold numerous small prey species, turtle grass flats hold lots of redfish and trout. Here, small depressions or sand holes can be the only areas holding enough water for fish while they wait for the incoming tide. Many times, I’ve seen the smallest holes hold the best number of fish. They like to hang on the grass edge.
Canals hold lots of fish. Sometimes, when the wind seems relentless and you need to get out, they’re an option. Cement seawalls hold and radiate heat down through the water column making them the perfect winter hangout for all our game fish. That and the deeper water provide a more moderate environment to ride out the cooler weather. Typically, the outer perimeter canals fish best.
When the wind lies down, look for the pompano bite down towards Cape Haze Point. Usually, the hard bottom out a bit is one of the most reliable spots. In addition, keep an eye just outside the bar along the southern end of the west wall.
Sheepshead are just about anywhere there is structure and can be fished from land. The Placida trestle is a favorite spot as well as any dock.
Until next month, good tides.
Captain Michael Manis
Punta Gorda Fly Charters