We had a good game plan for Thursday's thermal challenge fishing trip. Days of record breaking cold probably would drive fish off the flats and into deeper and warmer waters.
Small shrimp on jigheads inched across the bottom along the river channel would do the trick on sluggish trout. If that failed we could always hit the bridges and trade shrimp for tasty sheepshead fillets.
Made a quick call to the bait store to check on the day's bait supply and was told, "Shrump? yep, we gots em, plenty of um." For foreign visitors unfamiliar with the local dialect and considering a future purchase of shrimp that means, Yes sir, we have an abundance of bait shrimp please stop in and purchase some.
Capt. George Tunison
Picking up bait was my last stop before meeting the clients and, of course, they were sold out. This fact instantly killed my cold water game plan, but at the same time allowed me to add one more group to my list of folks I won't ever trust - politicians, weather people, now shrimp dippers.
Plan B: Snook after snook lined the banks in little more than ankle deep water, fins almost breaking the surface trying to get as close to the sun as possible. Ahead of us a stout near 40-inch snook rested in the sun.
This scene brought back memories of the big freeze where the majority of the hundreds of dead snook I witnessed were all full sized adults.
These fish weren't interested in eating, just warmth and survival, but a welcome sight after being able to almost walk across their dead cousins not long ago in this same stretch of water.
This weekend's heat should liven things up and the fish should be eating heavily. As the weather continues to warm trout fishing will greatly improve and the fish will return to their normal locations. On warm afternoons they will be very catchable on the dark bottomed flats.
Friday morning, we caught trout in deeper water south of the power lines (Matlacha) between floating grass mats in 5-6 feet of water. Shrimp and popping corks were the deal. Start your search on the east side at Reckams Point down to Sword Point.
Trophy trout seekers should be on the water at sunrise in the upcoming weeks. I always advise picking the biggest topwater lure in your box and making long searching casts using braided line and sharp hooks. Grass flats in 1-3 feet interspaced with sandy potholes are the place to look.
Trophy trout really go after large prey so tie on that big lure and start casting before the sun comes up.
One of the most wary fish on the flats, big gator trout are super spooky and boat noise, boat rocking and even loud chatter will put trophy gators on alert moving away from you. Remember, long casts and stealth really up your odds of connecting.
Again this weekend look for sheepshead on bridges and docks. Black drum are still eating crabs around our bridges and are a lot of fun for anyone wanting to tug on a 40-pound fish. A half blue crab on the bottom is magic around most bridge structures.
You might see bonita chasing bait to the top. Cast a white 1/2-ounce bucktail to them and retrieve quickly.