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Large schools of baitfish have invaded our waters

April 14, 2011
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL, On the Water
For more than a month, baitfish including pilchards, herring and pinfish have been available for anglers willing to spend a little time throwing a cast net in the mornings. Well, over the past week reinforcements arrived and large swarms of bait of all sizes invaded our waters. With the mass arrival and warming water temperatures most of our gamefish are feeding heavily on the oily bait fish.

Fishing in the southern end of Pine Island Sound from Redfish Pass to Tarpon Bay, Captain Gary Clark reports good numbers of trout and Spanish mackerel. Both were mixed together over grassflats in 5- to 7-foot depths. Clark also boated one cobia from the same area and noted several tarpon rolling on the calm mornings.

From Matlacha, Captain Cliff Simer spent the week fishing from the southern end of Charlotte Harbor back to Matlacha and found trout, Spanish mackerel and snook. Most of trout are running in the legal slot averaging 16 to 18 inches with some larger and were often caught over the same bottom as the mackerel in 5- to 8-foot depths. Snook, with the largest measuring 35 inches, were caught near the mangroves on the rising tide. All fish were caught on live pilchards.

Captain Dick May with Easy Rider Charters in Bokeelia reports that despite windy days last week, there also were some very pleasant days to be on the water. He advised that trout continue to be your best bet, however they may have relocated. They seem to be chasing the schools of bait fish that have recently arrived. The same goes for redfish. The best tides last week were after noon and this week they will start rising around 10 a.m. and peaking from noon to 3 p.m. According to May, the redfish want whitebait or large hand-picked shrimp. A lot of Spanish mackerel are around and the best bait is free lined whitebait. Tarpon are on the move and they too seem to be keying in on large schools of whitebait.

Anglers also report tripletail, with a few weighing double digits caught under trap buoys off the beaches from Knapp’s point north to Captiva Pass. Handpicked shrimp or a small live pinfish with a perfect cast was the ticket for hooking the tasty trips. Gag grouper, with a few in the legal slot, were reported near Captiva and Boca Grande Passes and near shore reefs, plus mangrove snapper and grunts.

On my boat over the past week we caught snook, trout redfish and mackerel. Despite several days with slow tides, we still put together several inshore slams with snook, trout and redfish. Redfish was the most challenging to catch, but the fish we are finding are running between 24 and 26 inches, but they have been very inconsistent. The snook bite has been better than expected. Most we are catching while hunting for reds. On our most exciting day we boated a 42-inch snook on Tuesday right in the middle of the late morning storm that pasted through with very strong winds and an absolute down pour. My client had just moved to Cape Coral after 25 years in Alaska and said he was use to foul weather. The big girl hit as we were donning our rain gear and hunkering down to wait out the storm. This was not only the first snook he ever caught, but the first he’s ever seen. He finished the day with a 26-inch red and 22-inch trout. He is off to a great start with Florida fishing.

All our fish over the week were caught on live shiners — pilchards — from Bokeelia to Matlacha and on the eastern shore of the Harbor. Also made one late afternoon shark trip and boated to black tips up to 6 feet. Boy are blacktips fun to catch. We hooked another shark that stripped every inch of line off the reel before we could pull the anchor and fire up the motor to chase it down. For bait we were using cut ladyfish soaked on bottom.

I am beginning to see small pods of tarpon showing up in the Harbor and northern Sound. Calm seas has made it easy to sight rolling tarpon in the morning hours. Charlotte Harbor is beginning to load up on the large Atlantic thread herring that spring tarpon love to gorge themselves on. Look for tarpon fishing to really take off very soon.

If you like to live bait fish, this is the time to do it. You will not find it much easier to locate and catch a live well full of bait. Look for pelicans diving over grassflats in 3- to 5-foot depths and there should be pilchards beneath them. While I prefer to anchor and chum the bait to the boat, schools are large and plentiful enough where chumming often wasn’t necessary. Often where the bait fish are there will also be several boats. Make sure you use some common sense and courtesy and keep a reasonable distance from other boats also attempting to catch bait, especially those anchored up chumming.

With a live well full of frisky shiners you can get into some fabulous fishing and hook anything from a 1 pound trout to a 200 hundred pound tarpon. Be prepared and hold on tight to those rods.

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

Article Photos

Photo contriubted
Catching a whopper in a storm
After 25 years living in Alaska, Paul McMahon recently relocated to Cape Coral. Despite heavy rains and wind with the approaching front last Tuesday he out muscled this huge 42-inch snook. It was Paul’s first fishing trip around Pine Island and his first snook, thats a great start! The snook was caught and released in north Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.

 
 

 

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