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On the water: Fishing and weather up and down over the week

November 13, 2019
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Fishing was good and bad over the past week. If you were in good water, plenty of fish were boated, however, if you hit a stretch of bad water, or area affected by red tide, bait often died in the live well and fishing was no good. Also, often you could go from bad to good by relocating a short distance. Most reports of areas affected from red tide came from Pine Island Sound from the powerlines north to Useppa Island, favoring the western side of the Sound.

Offshore, grouper and snapper were caught in Gulf waters mid-week before winds picked up with an approaching front. Red grouper up to 28 inches were recorded as well as big mangrove snapper, plus lanes, yellowtails and various other bottom dwellers. Most reports came from 70 to 110-foot depths.

Near shore, Spanish mackerel were reported in 30 to 40-foot depths around Helen's and Pace Reef. Fish were sighted crushing bait schools with lots of birds to give up their location. A few tripletail were also caught near shore with most averaging below the legal size.

Article Photos

Rocky Meyer of St. James City hooked into this big redfish after the blue skies returned after the weekend's cool front. The redfish was caught and released in northern Pine Island Sound while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.


Mangrove snapper were hit or miss around the Gulf passes, possibly due to red tide concentrations changing daily or with the tides. Live shrimp and small pilchards were the best bait. A few sheepshead were also caught around the passes with shrimp for bait.

Drifting 4 to 6-foot depths with a grassy bottom off the west end of Bokeelia yielded action for young and old anglers looking for fun. Sea trout, jack crevalle, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish provided the entertainment. Similar action with ladyfish, trout and mackerel was reported in north Matlacha Pass or southern Charlotte Harbor near marker 76.

Catch-and-release snook action was good on most days throughout the area including the north end of Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor, Matlacha Pass and around the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Above average water temperature and plenty of available bait has kept them active, aggressive and feeding. Fish up to 34 inches were caught on live and cut bait, plus artificials. The action slowed over the weekend due to the cool front and windy conditions.

Redfish reports came from Matlacha Pass around oyster bars, shorelines in north Pine Island Sound and off the edge of the long bars that parallel the east and west walls of Charlotte Harbor. Fish averaged in size from 17 to 27 inches and often were mixed with snook or trout.

We are getting into the time of year where we experience very low tides. This will give anglers or boaters in general a good chance to learn new areas as real estate is exposed that you rarely see. Study a tide chart to find days with very low water, this is my favorite time to explore and learn. If you are not very familiar with an area and your boat's draft, take it slow, idle speed slow, and work the beginning of the incoming tide. This way if you mess up and end up grounded (we all have) while taking it slow, the incoming water will have you floating again soon. Learn where you can and cannot go during the low water in upcoming months and the rest of the year is a breeze.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at; or via email at

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.



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