It’s a winter fishery here in Southwest Florida, and January and February bring our two coolest months of the year. We normally receive several cold fronts accompanied with high wind. We are now spending a lot of time in the backcountry where we can duck away from the elements.
Do yourself a big favor and keep an eye on your tide chart because we have some extremely low tides around both the full and new moons during both months. If you get caught in a -.5 low tide that you did not anticipate, it could ruin your day! Be extra careful with the morning low tides Jan. 7-12 and 19-25, as well as Feb. 4-10 and 17-22. Wind direction affects the tides dramatically. A north or east wind will make the tide lower and longer than expected as it blows the water out and delays its return.
The days when the fronts are absent, the sun is shining, and the thermometer gets up into the mid-70s can be awesome fishing! Daytime air temperatures average in the mid- to upper-70s in January and February, while water temps average about 66 degrees.
The shallow grass flats are alive with trout, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, Spanish mackerel, and pompano. You can use many different types of artificials on the flats for all of these guys. Among my favorites are DOA jerk baits and shrimp, both in root beer color. You can also use 3/8-ounce bucktail type jigs tipped with a very small piece of shrimp.
The oyster bars hold sheepshead and redfish. If presenting natural bait, they both like to eat crustaceans like shrimp or fiddler crabs. Fish for the reds on the oyster bars on the beginning of the incoming tide, and fish for the sheepshead on the second half of the incoming tide.
The backwater bays and rivers hold trout, snook, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, and other fun-to-catch species. When fishing for snook, it’s hard to beat live baits like pilchards and thread herring. Snapper will gladly accept pieces of shrimp, and the ladyfish will eat just about anything you throw into the water.
I have developed a species availability chart relative to the backwater and near-shore areas that I fish in the Everglades National Park. You can see it at www.CaptainRapps.com
Hailing out of Chokoloskee Island Park Marina, Chokoloskee, FL
Capt. Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near-shore, and backwater fishing trips in the Everglades National Park, and is happy to accommodate anyone from men, women, and children of all ages, experienced or not, and those with special needs. Pete and his professional guides are extremely patient and love to teach. You can book a charter online 24/7. See