Well, I have to say it has been quite a winter so far in the glades! The Snook fishing has been absolutely phenomenal! The other species (Redfish, Trout, etc) have been good as well. In the past when writing fishing reports I would put them out a month in advance and give round-a-bout advice as to where to look. Don’t get me wrong, fishing patterns are somewhat predictable, but there are so many variables that can throw everything off. So, from here on out I will give reports/ forecasts based on what I’m finding while on the water. I think that is the best way to help everyone who doesn’t have to ability to be on the water as much as I do.
So, here it goes… As I stated the Snook fishing has been on fire. Although there are still fish to be found out front, the majority of the decent sized Snook have been found in the backcountry. Now that we have had a steady amount of days in the 40’s and 50’s a lot of the fish have been seeking the warmth of the backcountry mud bays. If you didn’t know, Snook are not big fans of cold water and when the water temp drops into the low 70’s and below they get very sluggish. To combat this Snook will seek out shallow mud bays to try and warm up.
Mud bays will warm up much quicker than sand or oyster bottoms. On the flip side, sand and oyster bottoms tend to stay cooler during the warmer months. It is not uncommon to find large numbers of Snook layer up in the shallows. I have witnessed large schools of fish with their backs out of the water trying to get warm. It was and is a sight to see. Even though they are cold, it doesn’t seem to put a damper on their appetite.
Instead of saying “fish here to here” I am going to make it much easier. Take a look at any chart or even Google Earth and look for any area (Bay, creek mouth, etc) that has a mud bottom. I prefer ones that are pretty secluded and do not have too much water flow. I find these areas offer the most warmth. You do not have to travel far to find this. I promise you that some of these spots are within sight of Chokoloskee Island. Obviously the further you go from the ramp the less chance you have of seeing other people, but if you aren’t to comfortable running to far it is possible to find fish. I recently stumbled onto a spot that I buzzed past hundreds if not thousands of times.
As far as what to use, there are many options. Ill tell you what I have been using with great success, what you do with that information is up to you. My usual go to bait is a 1/4 Oz Chartreuse Bass Assassin jig head, with a root beer Zmann shrimp tail. If you look on my rods, you’ll see that combo 99% of the time. Lately I have been tossing a 5/0 Mustad Grip-Pin 1/8Oz hook with a darker colored Bass Assassin Jerkbait. The Snook have been extremely receptive to that combo, not to mention I can really fire them under the mangroves and not worry too much about getting hung up.
I am a firm believer in using what works. Although I am very stubborn and set in my ways to some extent. I will and do try different things and don’t get too caught up in being fixated on one brand. As you can see I mix and match different brands and baits. I do this because it works for me. I know a lot of brands (some of which I use) do not like the idea of mixing brands. Guess what? I don’t care, which explains why I don’t have any sponsors. There are a few companies that I downright loathe, but their products are good, so I use them. I just don’t promote them.
So to sum it up, look for shallow mud bays or any shallow mud area. I recommend hitting the backcountry, but if thats not your thing the front can work as well. As far as the tide goes, fish the tide that you can safely navigate. Some of the mud bays can get pretty dry, so keep an eye on the water level. I have been having some great results with a darker colored jerk bait, so I would go with that.
Good luck and I look forward to writing the spring report.
Capt. Vince Bini
Backcountry Fishing Charters