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On the Water: Full moon rising, and a week ahead of summer-like weather

May 22, 2019
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Overall the weather was great on the water over the past week. Despite a full moon and an easterly breeze that can slow the bite down, many anglers found success with a variety of fish.

The wind wasn't strong enough to keep boats in port as many made the trek out into gulf waters. Red grouper with a few over 30 inches were caught over hard bottom in depths from 85 to 120 feet. Mangrove, lane and vermilion snappers, plus grunts and porgies, were also boated from the same bottom.

Targeting public wrecks and reefs in the same depths yielded hard fighting fish including amberjack, goliath grouper, barracuda, king mackerel, bonito and sharks. Nearshore reefs within sight of land are holding good numbers of Spanish mackerel, a few king mackerel, barracuda, sharks and cobia. Bottom fishing over reefs, ledges and hard bottom yielded a mixed bag of snapper, grunts and undersized red grouper.

Article Photos

Bob Pettigrew visiting from California hooked into this 36-inch cobia while fishing a school of Spanish mackerel. Bob was fishing a few miles west of Captiva Island with Capt. Bill Russell.


The Spanish mackerel bite was often hot around the Gulf passes, the Sanibel Causeway and off the Sanibel Lighthouse. Working silver spoons with a fast retrieve was the top method while on the drift, and freelining live pilchards, herring or shrimp also working well. On days with light wind, mackerel were often sighted leaping from the water while chasing small fish. Always keep an eye out for concentrations of birds.

Tarpon hook-ups were reported in Pine Island Sound, off the beaches and Boca Grande Pass. Some days cut bait was preferred, on others it was live crabs or herring, and at times they turned up their nose to any and all offerings. Many anglers found that leading up to the full moon the tarpon bite was tough during mid-day. Sharks from 3 to 7 feet were hooked along with some big stingrays, mainly by anglers cut or dead bait fishing. Large schools of tarpon were also found over several days a few miles west of Cayo Costa State Park.

With trout season closed, anglers found decent action in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Trout up to 19 inches were caught and released in 4 to 7-foot depths around Captiva Rocks and off the north end of Bokeelia. Often the bite started slow and quickly heated up with the feeding activity. Jack crevalle, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and small sharks were hooked as well from these areas. The incoming tide provided the better action.

A few anglers found success while targeting catch-and-release redfish. Most are running in singles or pairs as fish up to 26 inches took cut and live bait under mangrove shorelines and points across the eastern side of Pine Island Sound. On the lower stages of the tide, similar size fish were found along drop-offs and troths around sand bars and shorelines along the eastern and western side of Charlotte Harbor. During the early morning hours, top water lures worked to fool the reds, plus a few snook in these areas.

It looks like we may get our first week or so of non-interrupted Florida summer weather. That means it could be very warm with a light wind, and the potential for afternoon thunderstorms.

This is great weather for fishing, just make sure to bring more drinking water than you think you may need and pay attention for building afternoon thunderstorms.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us Gulf Coast Guide Service 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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