Capt. Dawson Day’s fishing forecast: February

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By Dawson Day

Inshore fishing charters for the past month have been producing lots of great action.

Snook and big jack crevale have been keeping the rods bent with some redfish, sheepshead, and snapper to go with it.

We are catching most of our fish on live greenbacks while chumming, and hard plastic lures like Rapala X-raps. 

Sheepshead will continue to come into our passes and hang to the structure over the next couple of months along with pompano.

Be sure to keep an eye on the weather radar before your next trip out as these fronts bring some pretty high winds.  

The new year it brings the reopening of our red grouper offshore. Red groupers are a great fish to target, providing a great fight and even better table fare. We usually start to fish for red grouper in about 80 feet of water fishing around hard Swiss cheese-type of bottom.

While fishing for the red grouper you will encounter other great eating fish like lane snapper, mangrove snapper, porgies, and vermillion snapper. You can use a few different rigs when targeting them, but make sure to have heavy fluorocarbon leader at 60-plus pounds, large circle hooks, and a 4- to 6- ounce sinker.

Along with your variety of tackle, you will want to make sure to have plenty of live bait including pinfish, pigfish, and squirrel fish, along with frozen sardines, vertical jigs, and heavy bucktail jigs. My preferred method when grouper fishing is to find the best show of fish on your sonar and anchor as close to the spot as possible. When searching for new grouper spots, drift fishing can also pay off. Red groupers are 20-inch minimum in size and two per person. 

Staying offshore, another fun species that provides for a great fight is amberjack. It can be found on the reefs and springs off of Siesta Key.

Amberjack will eat a variety of baits and lures, similar to the bait you’d use for the red grouper. These fish will give you a run for your money, so be sure to have larger spinning and conventional rods that can handle these reef donkeys.

Amberjack like to school up, so when you find one you will more than likely find a bunch. If you can fill up your live well with live bait before your trip you can often get stubborn fish to fire up by tossing out a bunch of freebies to get them actively feeding. Where you find the amberjack, you will often find a variety of snapper species and Goliath groupers — so make sure you are rigged up for a little bit of everything.  

Land-based fishing will continue to get good as the pompano cruise the beaches, eating sand fleas and a variety of other baits. In addition to pompano, the sheepshead will continue to load up in our passes around the rocks and docks, where there are multiple access points for the land-based fisherman.  

Dawson Day
Author: Dawson Day

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