For most of us February usually still means cold air temps and even colder water temps. This is not the case here in Florida this year, we have had a few cold snaps but overall the weather has been absolutely beautiful. The fishing has also been awesome, as our water temperatures start to warm up the natural bait starts to show back up and our inshore species are going to be quick to respond. I have been in Boca Grande this past week running airboat charters on the last of our negative tides. The Redfish and Trout were still the biggest hit down there, with the occasional Snook popping his head out for a look. I fished 6 days and every day we had a limit of Reds and Trout, but as the week wore on we did have to work harder for them. The main reason was the water temperature came up almost 10 degrees in one week. This makes the fish spread out and start to look for food outside of the holes they have been living in for a couple of months now. This is not a bad thing as it is probably going to be the start of our Springtime season. It is getting here a little early but everything is in place for a great season. We are still using mostly artificial lures while doing the airboat charters, but it will not be long before I am throwing the net for sardines again. If you are thinking about doing some springtime fishing this year now is the time to set up you trip as the days are starting to fill up.
With the cold weather that came down from the north last week the biggest question on my mind was how would our fish react to it? I am very fortunate to have a type of charter that is almost weather proof. My Airboat charters always take place in the winter months, and I actually want the cold fronts to come through, the north wind that follows a front will push even more water out of the flats making it very hard for the fish to be anywhere but in the holes. And with the airboat I can drive right to them, it is usually like fishing in a barrel.
This week that exact scenario played out, we had hard north winds blowing for the last part of the week. I was the only charter boat that was able to get to the fish and catch them. We had 5 days of absolutely great red fishing, with very few fish in the slot. Now that is a good problem to have, especially when the air temperature is in the low 40’s. The only draw back to the cold was the Snook bite we experienced the week before was gone, as the linesiders took to the deep water for cover from the cold temperatures.
It looks like we are closing in on spring rather quickly with the short duration of our fronts. Before you know it the bait will be back and the migrating fish we love to chase will be here.
Even thought the calendar says it is supposed to be winter, you could not prove it by the weather or the way the fish have been eating. This past week was one of the best Charlotte Harbor airboat charter weeks I have had. We were able to catch 50 to 60 oversized redfish on every trip. Along with all the other trout and reds through out the day. there were times that we would have every rod in the boat hooked up to a red, sometimes 4 or 5 at a time. I was exhausted after fishing these days. Who said fishing isn’t tough. The other big surprise was the way the big snook ate this week. We normally catch alot of snook on the airboat charters but not that many big ones. We had 4 or 5 fish that were over 38 inches long! That is quite a fish on light tackle and throwing artificial. The trout were also out in abundance but at times seemed like a nuisance as they would grab the baits before the big reds could get it. I know that’s a tough problem to deal with but it happens. It looks like we are going to finally get some cold weather this week. and I hope it will keep the fish in place for the next month or so. We have been fortunate the past few years to have great weather all winter long which usually means great fishing all winter long as well.
The week after Christmas was just about the best week of fishing I have had in quite a while. I ran 6 Airboat fishing charters in Charlotte Harbor and we absolutely tore the fish up. We had well over 75 fish every day with a good mix of Redfish, Trout and a few snook mixed in. It seemed like all we had to do was find the mullet and we would find the reds to go with them. All the fish were caught on Artificial lures, which means alot of casting but there were very few cast that were not rewarded with a bite.
The day after New Years day found me back in New Port Richey running my inshore charters out of my Ranger 2410 Bay and my Ranger Banshee extreme. We fished the same patterns in Port Richey and Tarpon Springs as we did in Charlotte Harbor. The results were pretty much the same, lots of Redfish and Speckled Trout. I was able to find Scaled sardines the last few trips and with them we were able to abuse the trout population in the Tarpon Springs area. The Snook also responded well to the early return of the sardines, they were not as active as they will be in the spring but there were several willing to have a taste of our early spring.
It looks like we will be getting a little bit of cool weather later this week which will work very good into my plans as I will be back down in Charlotte Harbor running Airboat Charters the rest of the week. Check back and see how we did and look and some of the world class fishing that is available when fishing with Capt. Greg DeVault