Fall 2016 Fishing Report – Merry Pier
Fishing has been amazing! October, November and December witnessed some of the best fishing of the year. Some of the highlight species include:
Flounder. The Fall flounder run started early. Top tactics included bouncing a jig & plastic combo up and down the boat slips (be sure and move your lure along in the same direction as the tide); mud minnows fished on the bottom with just enough weight to hold in the current; and live shrimp, slowly crawled along the sand. Most of the flounder were in the 15” to 18” range, with a few topping 20”. Persistent anglers were able to limit out on days with good tide flow.
Black Drum. In November, a school of at least 100+ big black drum was cruising around the pier, visible in the clear waters. Live shrimp are the ticket for drum, which put up a strong fight when hooked. Black drum in the 3-7 pound range make excellent table fare, particularly when blackened with redfish seasoning. And, speaking of redfish, there have been a few nice ones mixed in with the drum and hanging out under the Pier.
Gag Grouper. Grouper season remains open through December this year, and there are some big ones lurking. A 30”, 14 pound beast was caught by the Shell Key Shuttle. There have been a few other legal fish, but most run under the required 24” minimum. Since it’s been an unusually warm Fall, look for bigger grouper after a few cold fronts have passed in January and February (and remember, it’ll be catch, photo and release only then).
In addition, the first push of sheepshead have begun to show. Bring fiddler or mud crabs to catch these toothy critters. Mangrove snapper were caught well into December, although they are small and scattered now. A few huge pompano were brought in on Doc’s Goofy Jigs and live shrimp. Cobia have been scarce, but there are a few around for patient fisherman with pinfish or pigfish tossed in the deeper waters of the channel. Tarpon have even been observed rolling in deeper water in December – unusually late for them to still be around.