After a wet beginning to the week, the rain clouds finally gave way to blue skies, leaving anglers with some good fishing opportunities heading into the weekend.
Red fishing was best in the morning hours with the rising tides and peaked the last hour of the incoming. Fish were caught in north Pine Island Sound near Pineland, south of Blind Pass on Sanibel's east side and in Matlacha Pass south of the power lines. Most fish averaged 20 to 24 inches with an occasional fish to 28 inches. A properly placed pinfish or shrimp and cut sardines or ladyfish took most of the fish, reported and weedless-rigged CAL shad tail fooled a few on artificial. A couple schools of large oversize redfish were reported on the bars that skirt Charlotte Harbor, with most of the fish running over 30 inches. Look for the big schools of large redfish to get more numerous on the flats in the upcoming weeks.
Mangrove snapper continues as the go-to fish to fill out the dinner menu for both inshore and offshore anglers. Inshore, the best action came from sand potholes, bar edges and any type structure near the Gulf Passes. Fish up to 14 inches were taken on live shrimp, pilchards and small pinfish. Snapper were also caught on shrimp fished under the mangroves while targeting redfish. Drift fishing the passes is also a good way to put fish in the cooler. The best bet is the hour before and after the tide change. The current isn't as strong and it's much easier to keep the bait bouncing across the bottom, in the strike range. Offshore yielded larger fish up to 4 pounds over artificial reefs and ledges in depths from 30 to 50 feet. Keeper red grouper up to 25 inches and lots of gag were also reported in depths from 50 to 60 feet west of Captiva. Reports indicate a good amount of gag grouper offshore - remember, gag season opens at the end of the week.
Ryan Boyd (12) of Bokeelia took advantage of the summer holiday to reel in this nice blacktip shark. He was fishing in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia with Capt. Bill Russell.
A variety of fish are coming from the beaches including snook, trout, snapper, flounder, pompano and Spanish mackerel. It's not uncommon to hook into all these species in a day of fishing at areas like Blind Pass, the Sanibel Pier or any stretch of beach, with some water flow and underwater structure like rocks, submerged trees or pilings. A small white or pink nylon jig, tipped with a piece of shrimp, is a great choice for an all-around bait that will catch everything, plus you do not need a boat to fish many of these areas.
Tarpon and sharks are still around but haven't been feeling much pressure from anglers. Tarpon from 50 to 100 pounds can be found around ladyfish schools in Charlotte Harbor and off the beaches. Watch for birds dipping to the water and small ladyfish free-wheeling across the surface after small bait fish. In Matlacha Pass, smaller tarpon from 10 to 40 pounds have been active at first light off mangrove points and Islands. Look for them rolling on the surface on calm mornings.
Bonnet head sharks from 2 to 4 feet are common on the flats. Generally you will sight them cruising around the boat. While most sharks prefer oily baitfish, bonnetheads prefer shrimp. Often you won't get them to eat anything else. Often mistaken for a small hammerhead, they put up a great fight for their size and are a favorite with the kids. A few bulls and lemons up to 6 feet were found in Pine Island Sound on the deep side of sand bars, look for them patrolling the perimeter of mullet schools. Needless to say, fresh mullet is the top choice of bait to hook on of these sharks.
Although it's still pretty hot on most days, we are beginning to feel a change. You can feel a hint of fall in the air over the early morning hours. With the gradual change, the waters will begin to cool. This should spark a more consistent bite through the day.