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On the Water: Fishing rebounds as weather improves

March 28, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

The week on the water was pretty much a repeat of the past few weeks, regarding weather. Another cool front dropped down mid-week bringing strong north winds, chilly air and lowering the inshore water temperatures back down into the low 60s. Heading into the weekend a warming trend brought bright blue skies and calm seas, however several days with poor inshore tides made for tough fishing.

A lot of anglers took advantage of the great weather over the weekend, but fishing reports varied from poor to just OK. The better action may have come from offshore, where several boats noted a steady bite. Large red grouper up to 31 inches were caught a good distance out in depths between 100 and 120 feet. Schooling amberjack were also found over structure at the same depths. Closer to land in depths from 30 to 45 feet, lane and mangrove snapper were caught, along with sheepshead, margate grunts, grouper, and flounder. Best baits were shrimp or squid on chicken rigs.

Inshore, although it was a tough bite, if you could find some moving water, it put odds in your favor. Again, with the drop-in water temperature, sheepshead were the go-to fish for many. Fish to 4 pounds were caught around docks and piers off either end of the Sanibel Causeway, Roosevelt Channel on Captiva and around Boca Grande Pass. Black drum to 22 inches, plus mangrove snapper and a few flounder were also boated while using live and cut shrimp fished on bottom.

Article Photos

Despite cold and windy conditions, Dave Kimball visiting from Grand Island, New York, caught and released this big snook that measured 40 inches. Dave was fishing Matlacha Pass with Capt. Tim Jones of Matlacha Fishing Charters.


Anglers caught sea trout over the week, however the numbers and average size was down. Often steady action was found in Pine Island Sound with most fish running undersize. Larger or keeper size trout appeared to bite better in the afternoons when the temperature was up, and water was moving. Trout were located in 4 to 6-foot-deep pockets or sand holes adjacent to grass bottom in Pine Island Sound, near Useppa Island and further south near the Flamingo Bay channel. Similar results also came from the same type bottom east of north Captiva off Foster's Point. Live shrimp under a float and Chartreuse shad tails with a slow retrieve worked best.

It was a very tough week for snook and redfish. Between the winds, cool down and lack of moving water, it was easy to soak baits for a long time with no results. Heading into the weekend the smaller snook were beginning to eat and as the water warms the larger fish should follow. Most anglers that had success over the cooler days soaked cut bait on bottom for best results.

Spanish mackerel fishing is right on the cusp of taking off, it starts to get good then a front blows through. A few mackerel were boated in Pine Island Sound east of Foster's Point, off the east side of Punta Blanco Island and in Charlotte Harbor north of Bokeelia. Several bluefish and small sharks were also reported.

Sharks to 6 feet and at least one tarpon were caught in Pine Island Sound ahead of the cool front while soaking cut mullet or ladyfish on bottom. Look for more fish to arrive this week as the water warms.

Well, we're a week into the spring season and time to put the cool fronts in our past. Yes, it feels great to sit home with the windows open, but the late season cool downs really put a damper on fishing. Forecast call for a week with stable and warm conditions for the most part. Pair the weather forecast with much better tides and the fishing should rebound quickly.

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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