Spanish mackerel, sheepshead strong at Placida
This nice Spanish mackerel was caught on a jig at Placida this morning. Fish this size put up a great fight, and are good eating as well.
By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier
Ah, yes. You can almost taste that first hint of spring in the air in Southwest Florida. But while springtime fishing hasn’t come full circle yet, it’s time to capitalize on a mixed bag of fish at some of the best transition fishin’ holes in our little corner of paradise.
This morning was a perfect example of a transition day at the Placida fishing pier. The late-season sheepshead bite was strong, but the Spanish mackerel stole the show. There were even some jacks, ladyfish and pompano in the mix.
The macks were consistent, but mostly tore through the area in waves when anglers would catch them left and right for 5 or 10 minutes before the action slowed down. The Spanish came in all shapes and sizes, but there were some real line-burners landed after screaming-drag battles. The biggest fish I saw was around 28 inches, a quality Spanish by any standards. Spanish mackerel must be a minimum of 12 inches to the fork of the tail to keep, and an angler may keep 15 per day.
The most effective technique for the mackerel this morning was live shrimp under a popping cork. Successful anglers were letting the incoming tide carry their baits away from the pier and anchoring them about 20 yards out, waiting on the mack attack. To rig for mackerel under a cork, attach a 3-foot length of 30-pound monofilament and use a long-shank live bait hook, No. 3/0. To anchor the bait in the water, use a splitshot sinker about the size of a pea about 8 inches above the hook.
If live bait is not your thing, don’t worry. Mackerel will hit plenty of artificial options. Silly Willy jigs, Gotcha! lures, spoons and soft plastic shrimp imitations on a jig head can also produce plenty of fish. As an added bonus, you can catch pompano on many of the same artificials that mackerel will eat.
Enough on the mackerel; how about the sheepshead?
Having not fished for sheepies at Placida since late January, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This is usually the time of year it slows down with the spawn taking place and the majority of fish moving to the nearshore reefs, but the action was good all through the incoming tide.
Most of the fish being caught were the smaller males, and this didn’t come as a surprise as a lot of the bigger, breeding-size females have moved on. But there were still plenty of keeper-sized fish and they were eating just about anything. Fish were caught on mud crabs, fiddlers, sand fleas and shrimp.
So if you haven’t gotten your fill of sheepshead yet, you better get after ’em before it’s too late!
The other area spots that are producing good mixed-bag action are the Venice jetties, L.A. Ainger Pier in Englewood and Boca Grande. The jetties are your best bet for big sheepshead. And when the pompano show up the jetties can produce an impressive number of fish.
Ainger is a classic pompano and mackerel destination, with the bulk of anglers jig fishing. But this pier is also a solid sheepshead hole, and some nice black drum can be caught from the end of the pier casting into the channel.
Boca boasts all of the above and abundance of small sharks. If you’re looking for a bonnethead, look no further.
Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.