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On the Water: An up and down week on the water

March 14, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

This past week did not bring ideal fishing conditions around Southwest Florida. Sure, we had a couple decent days, but back-to-back cool fronts brought plenty of wind and dropped inshore water temperatures back down to the low to mid-60s. That's a 12 to 15 degree drop in water temperature from the previous week.

With the drop in water temperature, many anglers targeted sheepshead. They don't mind the cool down, actually they thrive in it. Sheepshead to 4 pounds were hooked around Punta Rassa docks, docks inside Blind and Redfish passes and either side of Boca Grande Pass. Mangrove snapper, black drum and pompano were also hooked from these areas. Shrimp was the bait of choice, either rigged on a small circle hook or threaded on a jig head. Make sure you use just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom.

Sea trout reports weren't great by any means over the week, but there was still plenty of good fish caught. Casting shad tail plastics in a new penny color fooled trout up to 17 inches in south Matlacha Pass between the powerlines and the entrance to Manatee Bay. In Pine Island Sound trout were caught while drifting shrimp under popping corks west of the fish shacks and southwest of Demere Key. Further to the north trout were caught north of Cabbage Key and off the Bokeelia Shoal. Most fish were caught while drifting over grassy bottom in 3 to 5-foot depths.

Article Photos

Visiting Southwest Florida while on spring break, Cole Dougal from Iowa lucked into fishing the best weather day of the week and also into landing a nice tripletail. Cole and his family were fishing with Capt. Bill Russell in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia.


Nothing puts a halt to the snook bite like a sudden drop in water temperature. They were hungry a short time back when the water temperatures were in the mid-70s, but it's a whole different story when the temperature fell back into the 60s. The smaller guys were aggressive at times over the week jumping on freelined pilchards, but the bigger girls were a different story. It looks like we have more cool weather this week, so odds are it will be another week or so until snook fishing gets back on track.

The few redfish reported were either oversized or in the 20-inch range. The larger fish were hooked in north Matlacha Pass and in the Sound off the east side of Cayo Costa Island. Smaller reds were hooked random while targeting snook along shorelines in Buzzard Bay off Matlacha Pass and in the Sound south of Pineland. The big reds went for cut bait while the smaller fish were taken on live shrimp or gold spoons.

Not too much to report offshore as there were maybe one or two fishable days. The larger red grouper are coming from a good distance out, generally 90 feet and deeper.

Lane and Vermilion snapper were found together in 70 to 80-foot depths west of Boca Grande. A blackfin tuna catch was also reported west of Boca Grande Pass in 550 feet of water.

With the up and down weather, it was a frustrating week for anglers. Let's hope we get past the cooler weather forecasted for this week and put a string of mild days with light winds together and get the fishing back on track.

If you have a fishing report of for charter information, please contact us at: Gulf Coast Guide Service, phone: 239-283-7960, Website: or email:

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.



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