For the outdoor enthusiast, April is a month we all look forward to in Southwest Florida. And, for the serious angler or just the casual boater that enjoys time on the water, April is at the top of the list. Weather is generally great for much of the month with light winds and sunny, pleasant days, plus the waters are the clearest we will see all year. Many of our winter friends from the north are heading back home for the summer leaving the waterways (not to mention the roadways) less crowded and best of all, it's a great time to fish.
There's not much you can't catch this month. Large schools of baitfish will move into our waters and predator fish off all shapes and sizes will be there for the feast. We will catch our largest sea trout of the year with many going well over 20 inches and a few pushing 30. Spanish mackerel should be running both large in size and numbers throughout our inshore waters, off the beaches and offshore. Also, expect to catch a mix of bluefish, ladyfish and small sharks with the mackerel. If you want to tug on something larger, keeps an eye out for a big cobia or shark patrolling the action.
The tarpon invasion begins this month throughout Southwest Florida. It's possible to hook into a big silver king if you are fishing for them or not. They are just as likely to gulp down a live shrimp or small lure as anything, so don't be surprised when that hundred pound silver missile explodes from the water after your trout bobber goes under. With calm days, look for large schools of fish a short distance off the beach; early morning is the best time to toss a small live crab or Atlantic thread herring ahead of the school. Tarpon numbers will increase inshore, in the passes and off the beaches as the month progresses.
The snook bite is heating up with warmer weather. While visiting from Chicago, Keith Riley got on a good snook bite that included this 32-inch fish that was caught in Charlotte Harbor while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
After months of winter lows, we look forward to our first high (spring) tides of the year during daytime hours. It's a great time to target redfish under the bushes or mangroves islands. Fishing a stretch of shoreline over the last couple hours of the rising and first of the falling tide on the big tide days could result in good redfish action. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the month will hold mornings with ultra-low tides, perfect for sight fishing reds and other species over the shallow flats.
Snook season is open through the end of the month and they should be on the move and hungry. If there is one fish that's very easy to get obsessed with, it would be snook. To me, they are without a doubt our premier gamefish, and after you hook a few it's very easy to get the snook bug. Snook have a slot-size (28-33 inches) that only allows for a five-inch slot, so most fish hooked fall below or above the range. For all fish to be released, it's important to quickly get them unhooked, back in the water and safely released. If you keep them in the water even better, use circle hooks to prevent deep damaging hook sets.
Nearshore reefs in the gulf, well within sight of land, are a good place to spend a day. A host of species, both resident and pelagic, can be caught on any given day. It's always a good idea to have a variety of tackle from light to heavy rigged and ready as everything from snapper to large tarpon could show up at any time.
There's a multitude of different fishing opportunities this month, we only touched on a few, but you get the idea. If there is one month that just don't have enough days to take advantage of all the great fishing and boating available in our waters, April is it.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.
As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.