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Spring action begins, large fish move inshore

March 22, 2011
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL, On the Water
The last week of winter closed out with a whimper as anglers found picture perfect weather leading up to the arrival of spring. With blue skies and shirt sleeve temperature fishing continues to get better each day. Large fish continue to move inshore as schooling tarpon were reported along with sharks and cobia, plus big trout, redfish and snook were also reported.

Tarpon aren’t in big schools just yet, that will be coming soon enough, but fish were reported in pods of several dozen. Tarpon were sighted rolling in the early mornings just outside Shell Cut at Bokeelia and around the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor, also in Pine Island Sound at the western end of Rocky Channel. Captain Joe Harley reports hooking a few early season poons’ over the flat calm mornings in Pine Island Sound. Tarpon were also sighted around the C-span of the Sanibel Causeway along with a few cobia cruising just under the surface.

For fun fast paced action it was hard to beat grass flats in six to ten foot depths. Areas off Bokeelia have given myself and many other anglers pretty hot action for the past week. Spanish mackerel, some really big ones, kept the drags screaming each day, while trout, ladyfish, bluefish and sharks also joined in the fun. This is great action to get kids with little or no experience into fishing. We had a couple days with little guys under ten who never fished saltwater before, needless to say they now are hooked for life. Similar type action was also reported over the deeper grass flats near the channel in mid Pine Island Sound, Red Light Shoals at the south end and off the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway.

Captain Cliff Simer reports boating a thirty pound cobia that came into the action while catching mackerel and trout in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. An eleven year old angler on his first saltwater trip hooked the big fish on a live shiner and fifteen pound spinning gear and the battle was on. After a lengthy battle and several trips around the boat the cobia was brought aboard and invited home for dinner. That’s a great catch for anyone let alone an eleven year old on his first trip. Another cobia the same size or larger also made several passes around the boat during the fight, according to Captain Simer.

While the open water action as mentioned was very good, we had to work on my boat to catch a decent redfish, “gator” trout or snook. We did catch a couple fat redfish up to twenty-seven inches in Matlacha Pass on the afternoon high water along with a few snook to twenty-seven inches. We caught our largest trout of the year, an honest twenty-six inch “gator” that was caught on a live shiner and released near Bokeelia. We also caught trout from fifteen to twenty-two inches but generally we could get only one or two from a hole then it was time to move to the next. There are sharks of various sizes hanging around the mackerel, we caught a few four foot and under and broke off larger fish, I have also seen bulls up to five feet cruising the shallow flats along the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor and north Pine Island Sound. Almost always the bulls are a short distance from schooling mullet.

Our annual run of big inshore sheepsheads should wind down following the full moon. Big fish were reported by shore bound anglers from the Sanibel Pier, Blind Pass Jetties and Bokeelia Pier. A few whiting, pompano and flounder were also caught. By boat, sheepsheads up to five pounds were taken from the old Phosphate Docks at Boca Grande, docks inside Captiva and Redfish Passes and inside Tarpon Bay on Sanibel. Sheepsheads, grunts, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel were also reported from near shore artificial reefs.

Last chance! If you haven’t already done so, mark your calendars for Saturday March 26th. That’s the date for the 13th annual Bobby Holloway Memorial Fishing Tournament. It’s the longest running tournament on Pine Island and all proceeds go to a great cause, to benefit our children right here on Pine Island and surrounding communities. You can still sign up to fish the tournament and maybe win some cash or you can just come out for some good food, Island atmosphere and take a chance at winning one of the great raffles and prizes.

You can find more information on the tournament at Registration forms are available at the website or at Southwest Capital Bank on Stringfellow Blvd. The event is located at the end of Maria Drive west of Stringfellow Blvd at the Lee County Fishermen’s Co-op south of the center. I’ll be there, will you!

If you have a fishing story or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960 or: Have a safe week and good fishin’.

Article Photos

Photo contributed
ONLY IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: On Saturday March 19, 11-year-old Jacob Russell of Matlacha first scored as he caught this fat 27-inch redfish. Then less than two hours later he competed in an ice hockey game in Fort Myers where he scored four goals to push his team to victory. That’s quite an afternoon! The redfish was caught in Matlacha Pass while fishing with his sister, Shelby and dad, Capt. Bill Russell.



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