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On the Water: Weather has been great for fishing

October 24, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

It was another warm and beautiful week on the water in Southwest Florida and anglers report catching fish both offshore and inside.

The best bottom fishing action offshore continues to come from depths beginning around 80 feet and deeper. Good size red grouper, plus a few gags and big lane snapper were caught over hard bottom. Best baits were sardines or squid fished on a knocker rig or heavy jig, and live pinfish for the larger grouper. A few king mackerel up to 20 pounds were also hooked while flat lining live pinfish or blue runners.

Also, there was one report of a wahoo taking a live bait on a flat line but breaking off near the boat.

Article Photos

Elaine Fisk visiting from Sebring ou fished her husband on their anniversary while staying at the Angler's Inn in Matlacha. They both caught a variety of fish including this 26-inch sea trout that was caught and released in Pine Island Sound near Bokeelia on a morning charter with Capt. Bill Russell.


Several boats found large bait pods a few miles offshore resulting in feeding frenzies with a mix of fish. Spanish mackerel, bonito, sharks and tarpon were sighted or hooked around the bait pods. Look for several dozen birds diving and surface feeding action to locate the action. Shiny lures, silver spoons and live pilchards or herring worked best for bait.

Inshore, despite a few days with slower tides, the bite was still pretty good. Many boats are reporting snook everywhere, from the beaches back into the mangrove estuaries. Snook catches ranging in size from 18 inches up to 40-plus inches were registered over the week. Live bait including pilchards, pinfish, pigfish and large shrimp worked best with top water lures taking strikes early and late in the day.

Locating schooling redfish was hit and miss in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. A few schools were found mid-week on the eastern side of Pine Island Sound with most fish running 30-plus inches. In Matlacha Pass redfish from 24 to 33 inches were hooked along mangrove shorelines south of bridge near the powerlines and on the eastern side of Buzzard Bay.

With the complete closure on both snook and redfish, if you are going to target and catch them, it's imperative to do the right thing. Keep them in the water if possible, if you must get a picture make it quick, remove the hook, handle them as little as possible and return them to water. If it's a lengthy battle, you may need to spend a little time reviving them to make sure they safely swim away.

And probably the most important, please do not feed them to the dolphins. Bottle-nose dolphin are extremely intelligent, very adaptive and know how to associate anglers with an easy meal. It's no match for a tired, released fish to have a chance if hungry dolphin are around. Too many times I witness several boats working a school of large redfish, while every fish they release is being consumed by flipper. Give the fish a fighting chance, either stop fishing for a few minutes and see if the dolphin moves on or just move on yourself.

Snapper, snapper, snapper - they continue as the hottest inshore bite. Over the past several months it's been hard to not catch snapper inshore. Fish up to 15 inches were caught throughout Matlacha Pass, Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and inside the Gulf passes. Small pilchards and shrimp were the top baits, fish were caught in depths from 2 to 20 feet of water. Anglers fishing shrimp as bait also landed a few black drum and pompano.

While many anglers are not having much luck on sea trout, others are hooking into plenty. Seems the better bite is in the northern Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Fish are ranging in size from 13 inches up, and we caught and released a 26-inch trout along with others over 20 inches near Bokeelia this week. The better numbers or action came while drifting grass bottom in 4 to 8-foot depths west of Bokeelia. Ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and small sharks were also hooked while drifting. Live shrimp under a float and silver or gold spoons worked best.

As I write this, we are expecting a change in weather with a slight cool down and northerly wind. It's been hot so that will be a welcome change. We can expect increased numbers of bait and predator fish moving down the coast with the weather.

Once the wind settles down we should have some more good fishing. Get out there!

If you have a fishing report or for information about charters, please contact us at 239-283-7960, via the Website or email

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. 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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