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On the Water: It was a wet week out on the water

May 23, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Southwest Florida was in dire need of rain to offset the spring drought, well, we got the rain and plenty of it. With rain, off and on just about every day and night over the past week, anglers often had to skirt around storms or just get wet and fish. We fished just about every day in the stormy conditions and I was surprised how many other boats were on the water, especially mid-week.

Offshore fishing was actually good for those that ventured out with rough seas early in the week then settling down going into the weekend. Red grouper, with a few going over 30 inches, were hooked over hard bottom in 90 to 110-foot depths; smaller fish with a few over 20 inches were found in shallower depths. Mangrove, lane and yellowtail snapper were found in good numbers and size in depths beginning at 50 feet. Amberjack, plus king mackerel, sharks and barracuda, all hard fighters, were hooked hanging around the deeper offshore wrecks.

Many of the nearshore artificial reefs are loaded with Spanish mackerel, often making it difficult to bottom fish without constantly getting cut off. A few king mackerel also were hooked prowling the reefs. If you could get a bait to the bottom, it was often greeted by mangrove snapper and gag grouper, plus a few flounder and snook. Sharks and barracuda were often sighted circling around the boat awaiting an easy meal.

Article Photos

This big cobia ate two baited hooks within seconds of each other and the fight was on for both Bob Pettigrew and Darryl Mahan. Working in tandem like a fine oiled machine, they won the battle while fishing near Captiva Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.


Tarpon is the primary focus for many anglers and guides throughout the month. Most days the weather dictated where to fish. A good bite was reported at the crack of daylight on many mornings off the beaches from Sanibel up to Stump Pass. The favored bait was a small crab under a float or a large freelined thread herring. Afternoon falling tides or hill tides brought the crab flush from Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound out through the passes. Tarpon hook-ups were reported after scooping crabs off the surface then floating them on a hook with the falling water through the passes. Of course, Boca Grande always holds the most fish and boats, but any of the Gulf passes are worth a look.

Fishing inshore was tough on some days and good on others. The bite felt like it got better or more consistent as the week passed. Catch-and-release snook action came from areas around the Gulf passes and the east and western walls of Charlotte Harbor. From land a few good snook were landed and released from the Sanibel and Bokeelia fishing piers.

Like offshore, Spanish mackerel numbers were good inshore. Throughout Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor, about any area with depths from 5 to 10 feet with a sand bottom mixed with grass was likely to yield some fish. Shore-bound anglers hooked mackerel from the Matlacha Drawbridge, plus the Sanibel and Bokeelia piers. Wade fishermen also hooked into mackerel while casting silver spoons off the beach at Blind Pass.

Many of the inshore areas where the mackerel were roaming also gave up sea trout. Trout, with the largest reported over the week measuring 22 inches, were caught over 3 to 7-foot grass flats and around oyster bars on high water. Schooling ladyfish were at times in good number over the same bottom with a grass sand mix.

Those putting in the time were rewarded with some good redfish catches. Strong incoming tides and high water made for good opportunities fishing shorelines, oyster bars and under the bushes on the higher water. The perimeter of Charlotte Harbor, plus mid-Pine Island Sound, gave up reds from 19 to 29 inches. Mangrove snapper, with a few measuring 13 inches, were also caught with the redfish.

Well, we needed the rain so no complaints about the recent weather. With the rain we will begin to see the inshore waters changing. Gin-clear waters will begin to turn tea colored with the fresh water and tannic acid run-off. It will be more noticeable away from the Gulf passes the further inland you go. Don't be alarmed, this is natural as it happens every year when the rainy season kicks in. Those shallow areas that were easy to see and locate will become a lot less noticeable, so pay attention.

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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