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On the Water: Greater weather improves the fishing

March 21, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

After a cold start to the week, Southwest Florida welcomed beautiful weather heading into the weekend. A warming trend with very light winds brought great fishing opportunities inshore and offshore.

Inshore, the sea trout bite was slow for most during the cold days but picked up momentum with each warming day. In south Matlacha Pass, a good number of undersized fish with a few larger trout up to 18 inches were caught near the powerlines while casting DOA shrimp. In north Matlacha Pass, trout to 22 inches were hooked along drop-offs and oyster bars with live pilchards the best bait. In Pine Island Sound, trout to 21 inches were taken from grass flats on either side of Useppa Island and flats east of Buck Key near Captiva.

The sudden drop in water temperature put a damper on snook fishing but a few were getting their appetite back up heading over the weekend as water temperature was slowly climbing back to the 70-degree mark. A few good fish were reported from Burgess Bay and Jug Creek at Bokeelia and inside Blind Pass on Captiva. Look for the bite to get better as water climbs into the mid-70s.

Article Photos

Stan Campbell and Sam Blando of Bokeelia brought home some groceries with Spanish mackerel, sea trout and redfish for a dinner or two. They were fishing near Bokeelia with Capt. Bill Russell. 


Redfish reports were sparse with a few from Matlacha Pass and eastern Pine Island Sound. In Matlacha Pass, redfish ranging from 19-28 inches were caught fishing cut mullet along shorelines on the rising tide. In Pine Island Sound north of Demere Key, a few reds were sight-fished on the low water and under the mangrove overhangs on the afternoon high tide. Keep an eye out for jumping or flipping mullet as a good place to target redfish.

Spanish mackerel are making their way inshore with schooling fish caught in Charlotte Harbor off Bokeelia, near Captiva Pass and off the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway. Sharks from 3 to 4 feet were also hooked with the mackerel.

The cold weather brought on a decent round of sheepshead action around the barrier islands as fish were targeted around docks, piers and structure from Sanibel Island north to Boca Grande. Shrimp was the bait of choice, with a few black drum, pompano and flounder caught as well.

Finally, some good weather days for the offshore boats. Red grouper to 30 inches were boxed in depths from 80 to 110 feet. A mix of mangrove, lane,and vermilion snapper also came form these depths, plus several sharks. Schooling amberjack were caught and released around marked wrecks, with some good size fish pushing 50 pounds. Live baits including blue runners, pinfish, Spanish sardines and pilchards worked best. If you just want to go wear yourself out fighting fish, this is the one for you as they are one tough customer.

Closer to shore, artificial reefs in depths from 30 to 50 feet yielded a good mix of fish including barracuda, bonito, grouper, snapper, mackerel, sheepshead, grunts and porgy. A few large cobia were also hooked and landed; keep an eye out and a heavy rod ready. At least one tarpon school was located southwest of Sanibel in the Gulf; they are on the move heading our way.

Looks like we have one more bout of cool weather dropping down this week. Should be weaker than last week's with a quick rebound. If we can get the water temperature into the 70s and keep it there, we can expect the bite to take off with lots of hungry fish. Let's hope!

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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