First and foremost, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I truly hope that 2019 is a super fishy year, and that every angler out there finally catches their fish of a lifetime. I would also like to welcome back all our northern anglers and thank them for leaving all that cold weather up north where it belongs. Boy, I hope that statement doesn’t jinx us.
Winter time here in Southwest Florida can be trying at times, with all the cold and windy fronts that come through at the most inopportune times and the super low tides that expose the grassflats and leave us anglers with very limited areas to fish. Our saving grace: On those less-than-favorable days that always seem to land on the only day of the week you have time to fish, there’s an endless number of docks people have kindly build for us so that we can fish safely out of the wind.
For those of you that don’t know how fishy docks can be here, is a little rundown of the species the anglers on my boat caught while dock fishing just in the last week: Sheepshead, snook, redfish, trout, flounder, snapper, black drum, jacks, whiting, sand bream, Goliath grouper, lizardfish, mullet, pinfish, catfish and a puffer. I don’t know how you feel about this list of dock dwellers but if you ask me that’s a pretty good list of potential fish-catching opportunities to be had on those blustery days during the winter months.
Dock fishing can be a ton of fun and nerve-wracking at the same time. The fun comes when you find which section of the dock is holding hungry fish and you start hooking up. The nerve-wracking part comes when you learn that you’re not as good of a caster as you thought you were as you hit every part of the dock except the water underneath it — or when you forget to reel, reel, reel and the fish wraps your line around one of the pilings and breaks you off.
I like to break docks down into four-piling sections and fish in the square area between them. Fish tend to hang out in only small sections of a dock, but the section they inhabit can change — sometimes from minute to minute.
During a moving tide, I’ll start on the upcurrent side of the dock (where the moving water hits first). I’ll work each square for a few minutes. If nothing bites, I’ll move to the next square — and that pattern continues until I have either found the fish or figured out the fish aren’t home.
When I hook a fish, I’ll work that square until the bite stops. Than I go back and try other areas of the dock I had previously worked, because sometimes the fish just move 20 feet and re-stage themselves. If I can’t find them again, I move to the next dock and start the hunt all over again.
The best way to work docks is to anchor, but actual anchoring is a pain when you’re constantly on the move. A trolling motor with a spot lock feature or a Power-Pole makes the job much easier. If these toys aren’t on your boat, no worries. If you anchor up just right, you can work each section of the dock by just letting out a little more rope. Stay as quiet as possible; don’t bang any hardware around. This is a lot like manual labor but can be very productive if done right.
If your unable to get to your favorite nearshore reef because the wind is blowing a little too hard, or your best inshore hot spot is high and dry due to a negative tide, then go break down a dock instead — you never know what you might catch.
Capt. Mike Myers, owner and operator of Reelshark Charters, is a full-time Charlotte Harbor guide. Having fished the waters all along the Southwest Florida coast for more than 40 years, he has the experience to put anglers on the fish they want. His specialties are sharks, tarpon and the nearshore Gulf waters. For more info, visit ReelShark.com or call Capt. Mike at 941-416-8047.