Late January in Southwest Florida typically brings low temperatures, wind, and cooler water. It's as "wintery" as it gets in our region, and it usually requires a somewhat drastic shift in fishing strategies and target species.
However, this year stands out as a bit of an oddball. Our temperatures have been fluctuating more than usual, with a week in the 70's followed by a few days in the 40s, then back to the 70's. Our water temperature has followed these patterns as well, ranging from 50 to 65 degrees over the past month.
This can have some interesting effects on the local fishing. In late January, the large sheepshead typically move in and we spend most of our fishing time targeting them, black drum, and other cooler water species. Snook have gone into their winter lethargy, redfish seem too cold to chase down anything that isn't dropped right in front of them, and the jacks seem to disappear. This year's weather patterns have allowed us the opportunity to target both cold and warm weather species all month around Sanibel and Captiva.
We've had the opportunity to land hard-fighting snook and jacks on days when our water temperature climbs above 60. When it's cooler, we do well on sheepshead and black drum. We even reeled in a permit on an unseasonably warm day last week. Sometimes the best thing about fishing is the surprise factor.