Gulf of Mexico (FL) Fishing Report 02.20.12

Submitted by Captain Ted Nesti Charters

Submitted on 02/20/2012
The day started out cool, overcast and breezy, and the goal was fish for dinner. Erratic weather this time of year makes tides and timing most important to success on the water. Recent rollercoaster temperatures have been a real fishing challenge, but regular clients the Moliter family, Richard, Penny and son Rich, know that in these conditions persistence always pays off.
We started out targeting trout on the grass flats near John's Pass using fresh shrimp on a 1/8th oz. jig head. The trick is to reel in as slow as you can while keeping the lure from catching in the grass. Using this technique everyone on the charter was able to catch several small sea trout, sea bass and flounder. No keepers, but a promising start. After about 30 minutes the action on the flats died down and we still hadn't landed dinner, so we moved on to more promising waters in the bayous north of Bay Pines on the hunt for sheepshead.
While heading to our next spot, the dolphins started riding in the boat's wake. We always see the dolphins on our charters, but they don't always decide to ride along, so this was a real treat. These magnificent animals are simply awesome to watch as they effortlessly swim in and out of the boat's wake, sometimes jumping completely out of the water within just a few feet the moving boat. The Moliters were really delighted with this little fishing charter extra and got some really great photos.
Still looking for some good eats, our first stop was the skinny waters just south of the Pinellas Trail overpass. This is the time of year for tasty sheepshead, so using the same jig and pieces of shrimp rig, we casted toward the overpass supports, this time without reeling, letting the lure sink to the bottom. For the first few casts all anyone caught was small non-keepers like butterfish and pinfish. Then the sheepshead showed up, small ones at the start but then everyone was hooking a keeper or two.
As the tide shifted, we moved further north into the bayou where I positioned the boat so we could fish with the current. Brother did we find fish! Everyone was hooking up lots of nice-sized sheepshead and a few small-sized redfish, but as is often the case, it was the lady who landed the largest. Penny, thinking she had hooked up a rock or barnacle bunch, started reeling and pulling hard hoping to at least recover her lure. For her efforts she was rewarded with the largest fish of the day, a beautiful sheepshead weighing over 7 pounds! We had dinner and then some!
After about an hour the action on that spot died off, so I took us further back into the bayou where we fished the edges of the oysters bars. The conditions were perfect and the fish were plentiful. Almost immediately everyone was catching good-sized sheepshead with a few redfish in the mix.
This time of year you can't beat the backwaters for the best fishing experience. Just remember, the trick is tide and timing. Happy Fishing!
Captain Ted Nesti