Florida Fishing Report - First Week of February

FreshwaterCentral Florida--Bass to 11 pounds, 3 ounces have come out of the Harris Chain of Lakes in north central Florida, and school fish are all over the grass eating frogs in Lake Toho. Look for the bass to be active on the beds in these lakes during the new and full moons, and then out in the open water areas over shell bottom on either side of the moon. Tube lures and creature baits are taking the fish off the beds, with a lot of males being caught on the recent full moon. Frog-style baits worked through the grass in 1-2 feet of water have been producing big numbers of fish on the warmer days.Crappie fishing on Lake Kissimmee has been outstanding in all the deeper sections of the lake. The fish haven?t moved into the grass and are still in 8-12 feet of water, with live minnows catching fish to 2 pounds.Lake Okeechobee?This week?s full moon has the bass moving into the marsh to spawn on the south and west sections of Lake Okeechobee, according to FLW tournament pro Scott Martin. The fish are moving up into the shallows in the afternoons, and the warm weather has really pushed a good wave of  bass onto the beds, with fish to 11-pounds being sight casted using junebug colored Chigger Craws or green pumpkin colored lizards on a 3/8 ounce weight. On either side of the moon the fish have been staging on the first big point outside the bedding areas, with lipless crankbaits like a chrome and blue Rat-L-Trap or SPRO Aruca Shad the top lures. Anglers fishing live shiners fished along the grass lines on King?s Bar are averaging 30 bass per trip.Crappie anglers are getting the 25 fish limits in the Harney Pond Canal and the Kissimmee River on the north end of Lake Okeechobee. The best fishing is still at night under the lights, but daytime fishermen are finding the schools in 12-feet of water along the shoreline drop-off in the river. Live Missouri minnows are the favored baits. The fish should be moving into the grass in the next couple of weeks, so jigs and a jig and minnow combination will start to pay off soon.SaltwaterFlorida PanhandleInshore?Live shrimp fished around any of the bridges from panama City to Pensacola will produce sheepshead to five pounds, along with redfish, seatrout and flounder. The best seatrout and redfish action has been in the creeks and warm water Power Plant outflows using an Assassin Texas Roach colored Texas Shad or Electric Chicken colored Blurp shrimp.Offshore?Clear water on the beaches off Destin are making for great conditions to sight cast redfish to 25 pounds using chartreuse jerkbaits or white colored swimbaits. Snapper and grouper action continues to be good in 60- to 80-feet of water, with live pinfish or cut ladyfish the top baits. The few boats running out to the canyons and fishing the offshore deep structures are finding blackfin tuna, wahoo and the occasional dolphin, along with good swordfish action at night.West Central FloridaInshore?From Tampa Bay all the way up to Crystal River the hot bite has been seatrout for anglers throwing Watermelon Gold or Baby Bass colored Assassin Sea Shads on a ¼ or 1/8 ounce leadhead. The trout have been holding over patchy grass in 3-4 feet of water, and often can be caught around the large schools of roe mullet in those same areas. Redfish action has been steady in Lemon Bay and Little Sarasota Bay for anglers working the lea shorelines with live shrimp or a DOA Glo Shrimp. Sheepshead can be found around the pilings of the Skyway Fishing Pier, with live shrimp or fiddler crabs the top baits.Offshore?Snapper and grouper are all over the reefs and hard bottom from three to five miles offshore, but the season is closed on both species, so there?s been limited effort to catch them. Mangrove snapper fishing has been outstanding in the Middle Grounds, but the action doesn?t last long before the big grouper start to move in and then start eating your snapper, so move often and you?ll do well.Southwest FloridaInshore?Pine Island Sound has been full of slot-sized redfish, said Ron Hueston of Naples, who led his clients to 8 fish to seven pounds, along with ladyfish, jacks and seatrout. The flats are inundated with ladyfish right now in 3-4 feet of water, so a fast-moving jig will get you all the action you could want. Sheepshead have moved into the passes and around the docks of the private developments. Sight cast the fish with live shrimp and a 1/0 circle hook. In Chokoloskee, the deeper coves with mud bottom are starting to hold some nice tarpon for fly anglers fishing yellow or white sliders or the standard shrimp patterns. Some of the fish are upwards of 100 pounds, so a 12-weight is needed.Offshore?Most offshore anglers are targeting mangrove snapper on the wrecks, reefs and areas of hard bottom in anywhere from 30- to 90-feet of water. Expect to have to weed through the grouper to catch a limit of snapper, but grouper season is closed. Cigar minnows, sardines, pilchards and pinfish are the top baits, although live shrimp will do in a pinch. Put the shrimp down on a 3/8 ounce jighead. A few cobia are starting to show with regularity around the channel markers and range markers in the Gulf, and off the rays inshore, and Spanish mackerel can be caught using live pilchards or silver spoons within a few miles of shore. Watch for the diving birds to give away the location of the mackerel schools.Florida KeysInshore?Redfish and trout are the mainstays for anglers fishing Everglades National Park, with the best concentration of seatrout on the flat out in front of Flamingo. Tarpon are starting to show in the river mouths, with the Turner River holding some nice fish in the 100 pound range right now. Live pinfish, threadfins or MirrOlures are the way to go. Off Key West, warming weather has the flats fishing improving, with bonefish to 7 pounds being caught and tarpon starting to move into the channels. Look for the tarpon action to pick up over the next two weeks if the weather stays warm.Offshore?Sailfish continue to be the main target for blue water anglers fishing from Islamorada to Key West. Look for the fish showering ballyhoo over the reef or working the color changes in anywhere from 120- to 160-feet of water, with live pilchards or goggle-eyes the top baits. Blackfin tuna can be caught on the Islamorada Humps and off the Sub in Key West, and the daytime swordfishing out of Islamorada has been very consistent in 1800 feet of water. Yellowtail, mutton and mangrove snapper can be caught on the reefs from Largo to the Marquesas using cigar minnows, ballyhoo, live pinfish or squid. Look for kingfish and cobia around the wrecks and anchored shrimp boats west of Key West.Southeast FloridaInshore?Spotted seatrout action in the Indian River has been outstanding on soft plastics like a Bass Assassin Drunk Monkey colored Sea Shad on a 1/8 ounce red jighead, said Capt. Ed Zyak of Jensen Beach. Zyak caught seatrout to 8 pounds this week fishing the runouts on the flats during the outgoing tide. The flats to the south off Sailfish Point have been full of pompano on the outgoing tide, and beach anglers working the areas in front of the private houses on Jupiter Island are catching limits of pompano to three pounds using sandfleas. In the river, the hot pompano lure has been the Hookup Lures Pompano jig with a pink head and white body. Sheepshead have moved into the shallows to spawn, with fish to seven pounds being caught on shrimp fished around the docks and Manatee Zone pilings.Offshore?Wahoo action has been steady on either side of the new and full moons for anglers high-speed trolling with purple and black Yo-Zuri Bonito lures or Braid Speedsters, or trolling with a double hooked ballyhoo or mullet and red and black Ilander combination down deep. Sailfish continue to be found from Fort Pierce to Miami, with the best action along the inshore side of the color changes from 110- to 240-feet of water. Live goggle-eyes, pilchards and threadfins are catching the majority of fish, with the best action on the days when the winds are from the north. Cobia are starting to show under the manta rays from Fort Pierce to Stuart, with live bait or a chartreuse colored jig fooling fish to 70 pounds. Bottom fishermen working the reefs in 60-90 feet of water from Jupiter Inlet to Government Cut are finding good concentrations of yellowtail and a few mutton snapper. Ballyhoo plugs, cigar minnows and Spanish sardines are the top snapper baits right now.  The nighttime swordfish bite has been outstanding in 1700 feet of water off the Hollywood Hills area with fish to 300 pounds taken in the last week.East Central FloridaInshore?The crowds have been thin in Mosquito Lagoon the last week, which has the jumbo redfish?so up to 40-pounds feeding on blue crabs or cut mullet fished on the bottom just ahead of the moving schools. Tiger Shoals has produced a lot of big fish this week, as have some of the holes along the railroad trestle and the Haulover Canal, with the best fishing in the Canal coming after dark. Spotted seatrout to 9 pounds have been taken in the shallows over mud bottom in both the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon, and there are school trout off the end of Cocoa Beach High School and bigger trout in the Cocoa canals. Live shrimp and green or brown soft plastics have fooled limits of trout.Offshore?Kingfish can be caught in anywhere from 20- to 70-feet of water south of Cape Canaveral down to Sebastian Inlet, with live blue runners or small bluefish the top baits, although a rigged ribbonfish will also produce. Most of the kings are under 20 pounds, but there have been fish to 40 pounds caught by the commercial fleet. Sailfish and blackfin tuna can be found in 110- to 240-feet of water trolling ballyhoo on a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader, and cobia are starting to show up in good numbers south of the port. Look for the fish on the backs of turtles, manta rays and the occasional whale in 25- to 60-feet of water, and toss chartreuse colored 1-ounce jigs or live bait at the fish.Northeast FloridaInshore?The beaches and inlets are covered up in whiting, sheepshead and black drum right now, with the jetties at Flagler producing sheepshead and black drum to 10 pounds on pieces of fresh shrimp fished on the bottom. Some anglers like to soak their shrimp in diet Pepsi, which seems to add some flavor the fish like. Redfish action continues to be good along the docks of the Intracoastal using Gulp! Shrimp in the Molting Shrimp color on a ¼-ounce jighead. Pitch the bait up under the docks and crawl it slowly on the bottom for the best action. Spotted seatrout can be caught throughout the day on live shrimp under a cork.Offshore?Wahoo are the main target for bluewater fishermen working outside the ledge from St. Augustine up to Amelia Island. High speed trolling with lures or trolling ballyhoo and skirt combinations in red and black and pink and black are resulting in multiple wahoo days right now. The wahoo are schooled up and spawning, with some blackfin tuna mixed in, so it pays to have a naked ballyhoo on the shotgun line for the tuna, which tend to be a bit boat shy. Closer in, black sea bass have been eating squid on chicken rigs fished in anywhere from 50- to 160-feet of water. Sea bass season closes February 12, so get in on the action now.
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