Over the week good reports came in from both offshore and inshore, plus tarpon season is winding up as sightings and hook-ups are happening throughout our waters.
It was a little windy much of the week, however if the weather allows, this is a great time for offshore fishing. Nearshore reefs and wrecks, often in less than 40 feet of water, are yielding good action with mangrove and lane snapper, grunts, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, a few big snook, sharks of all sizes, barracuda and a few king mackerel (kingfish). There was at least one report of a kingfish scaling near 50 pounds and many others that would be considered smoker-size.
Tarpon pods were reported off Fort Myers and Sanibel Beach in depths around 20 feet, with the best bite at first light. Live Atlantic thread herring and small blue crabs were the bait of choice. Also, Pine Island Sound yielded tarpon hook-ups while fishing cut mullet or ladyfish soaked on bottom.
They wanted inshore action, so Spanish mackerel filled the bill. Fred Armstrong with sons, Sam and Luke, vacationing from New Brunswick, Canada, with a pair of hard fighting macks. They were fishing west of Bokeelia with Capt. Bill Russell.
Inshore, mangrove snapper to 15 inches were caught while bouncing live shrimp across rocky bottom in Captiva and Boca Grande passes. The best action came during the slower portions of the tide. A few nice sheepshead are still around structure in and near the passes, as shrimp was the favored bait.
Sea trout were found on most grass flats in Pine Island Sound, with some areas holding larger fish than others. The best bet was to set up a slow drift while fishing live shrimp, small pinfish or Gulp shrimp under a rattling or popping cork. When you hook a couple larger fish, drop the anchor and work the area. Sea trout reports also came from grass bottom in 4 to 7-foot depths on either side of the Sanibel Causeway. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and a few bluefish were also in the mix.
Strong tides made for decent snook fishing throughout the Sound, along the beaches and areas of Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor. Live shiners or pilchards were the go-to baits, but several nice fish were also reported on top-water lures and flies early in the mornings. Fly anglers also report good action while walking the Sanibel Beach near Bowman's and the Blind Pass jetties.
Hooking a redfish continues to be hit or miss for many anglers. With decent high tides in the afternoon, fish to 30 inches were caught on pinfish in Matlacha Pass and in the Sound, also several reds to 27 inches were landed near Pineland and across the Sound near Fosters Point on Upper Captiva.
Sharks are arriving in good numbers and fierce fights with blacktips, spinners and bulls are keeping anglers smiling. Look for them along channel and bar edges, and near the Passes. Fresh baits, including ladyfish, mullet, large pinfish and herring, are favorites. If you really want to hook one, just go tarpon fishing. They are generally a nuisance while chasing tarpon as they shred or cut off your heavy fluorocarbon or monofilament leader. If your target is sharks, make sure and use a wire leader; it does not have to be super heavy, generally single strand in the 60 to 80-pound class is plenty.
This past week tarpon activity increased, as schooling fish were noted in Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and off the beaches. The winds often made locating fish difficult but they should subside soon. The neat thing with tarpon, there really is no best way to catch them; you can make it as easy or difficult as you want. They will readily inhale a properly placed fly or lure, you can follow them all day while pitching live baits in their path or you can set the anchor, pitch out some dead baits to soak on the bottom, pop open a beer, sit in the shade and let them come to you. All methods work, and mayhem always follows a hook-up with drag screaming with a large silver missile taking to the air.
With tarpon season upon us and lots of boats fishing in close proximity, please use some common sense and courtesy, and respect other anglers. Fishing should be fun and it can be if we all just give a little space and show others the same courtesy that we expect.
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.