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February is the last month of winter here in Sarasota. There will be days when it feels like spring is in the air. But, weather patterns will still be unstable, and fishing will follow suit. Being flexible and understanding how weather affects fish behavior will be the key to angling success this month. On many mornings the tide will be very low, especially with a hard northeast wind following a cold front. Under these conditions, fishing the afternoon high tide is often a better choice. Also avoid the areas near the passes after a blow, the cold and dirty water is not conducive to success.
One species that anglers can count on most every trip in February is sheepshead. They bite better in cold, dirty water than most other species do. Also, redfish, black drum, and flounder will be caught on the same structure and using the same techniques that are effective for sheepies. Basically, any structure will attract sheepshead. From the rocks at the west end to the Siesta Drive Bridge on the east side, the north end of Siesta Key is a great area to fish. Deep water, docks, rocks, seawalls, and rip-rap will attract and hold fish. All of the bridges and docks in both Big Pass and New Pass may hold fish, as well as the docks and oyster bars south to Albee Rd.
The preferred rig is a #1 live bait hook with a 24” piece of 20 lb leader and just enough weight to hold bottom. Live and frozen shrimp, fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and oyster worms are the top baits. Shrimp are the easiest bait to obtain and work great. Sheepshead bite very lightly. Usually, it starts with several light “taps”. It is important not to move the bait at all, the fish will sense that something is wrong. Instead, wait for a steady pull, then reel fast and raise the rod tip sharply.
Anglers fishing from Siesta Key beaches should do well when the surf is clear. Whiting will be abundant and silver trout, flounder, pompano, sheepshead, ladyfish and other species will hit live or frozen shrimp fished near the bottom.
The deeper grass flats all throughout the area will be productive for speckled trout this month. Incoming tides a couple hours before high tide are usually the best times to fish. Again, avoid the areas around the passes when dirty water is present. The area further south, from CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at Stickney Pt. to Marker #19 in Nokomis, stays protected, resulting in reliable February fishing. Bass Assasin jigs, suspending plugs, gold spoons, and live shrimp under a popping cork are all effective baits. Pompano, jack crevelle, ladyfish, and bluefish all feed over the deep grass.
Snook will be found in creeks and residential canals, along with redfish, drum, flounder, sheepshead, and jacks. Jerk baits, scented soft plastics, and live shrimp will all produce fished near structure in creeks and canals. A slow presentation will be more productive in the cooler water.