Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January On Pine Island

January can be a great time of year for fishing around Pine Island, especially if you’re here on vacation from anywhere north of Tallahassee. Our average daytime temps are in the low 70’s and the water is at its clearest, making sight casting to redfish a lot easier. Unfortunately, it’s also prime time for cold fronts, and nobody enjoys those. Strong winds and overcast skies can drop down on us for days at a time after a decent front and the temps sometimes struggle to get above 60. If I have a charter booked for a day like this I always give my anglers the Get Out Of Jail Free card and let them make the call to go or cancel. I've never forced a paying customer to go fishing on a day that I would personally prefer to stay home. Don't get me wrong, I like making money but there is a big difference between giving it a shot in tough conditions and knowingly taking someone for an expensive boat ride.

So what should you expect if you show up at the ramp and you find me dressed in winter clothes? Well, if you're a spin fisherman and there's a good incoming tide, then we'll probably go as long as it's not too cold. And for me, too cold means anything under 50 degrees. I know a lot of my anglers from New York of Minnesota will laugh at that but I live in Florida because of the 300 days each year when the temps are well above 70. I have no problem with staying home on the dozen or so days when the Polar Vortex reaches down this far, and the fish usually feel the same way, too.

  With spinning gear and live bait there are numerous back bays and mangrove shorelines where we can hide from the wind. It might not be the most exciting type of flats fishing but I've pulled a lot of reds out of some of our creeks on days that really didn't look promising to me at first.

If you've come down here hoping to fly fish just after a cold front it might be a different story. I can deal with wind and I can deal with clouds but both of them together are usually a nightmare for most anglers. If your experience level is casting a 5-weight fly rod on a trout stream, I'll probably offer to reschedule you if the winds are gusting over 20 knots.

Fortunately for us, strong winds and cloudy skies are the exception and not the rule down here. Our last few winters have been surprisingly mild on Pine Island, despite what the folks up north had to endure. So don't worry about the long range forecast if you have a trip booked with me over the next few weeks. Chances are I'll be able to get you out on the water and we’ll see some decent fish while we're at it.

On a final note, if you’re a snowbird and are lucky enough to be down here for the season, please check out the Pine Island Fly Fishing Club. We meet on the last Monday of each month at the Matlacha Park Community Center which is located at 4577 Pine Island Road. The club is currently into its second season and has been a big success so far. Our monthly meetings start at 6:30PM and are usually attended by up to 80 local anglers and always feature a guest speaker from the fly fishing community. Veteran guide Capt. Paul Hobby spoke last month and before that we had a fascinating presentation by Carbon Marine founder Joe Welborn. His company builds push poles and other essential gear for flats skiffs. If you’d like to attend feel free to shoot me an e-mail at gmckee1@hotmail.com for more details.