After a hot summer things are coming to life on the waters around Pine Island and Sanibel. The fall migration has begun with hordes of bait moving south for the upcoming cooler months with plenty of hungry predator's right on their tails.
Offshore, look for feeding activity around the bait and you should find Spanish or king mackerel or both together. Both have been reported from two to six miles west of Sanibel and Captiva. Cobia are also moving south, fish up to forty inches were hooked over artificial reefs in thirty to sixty foot depths. A special two month gag grouper season kicked off on Friday and early reports showed plenty of fish up to thirty inches in water from sixty feet to as shallow as twenty-five. Live pinfish and grunts was the favored bait fished over ledges, a few red grouper to twenty-five inches also came from the sixty foot mark southwest of Sanibel.
The inshore waters have really come to life; about everywhere you look there is bait of some type and size. Spanish mackerel are moving back into Charlotte Harbor, around the Sanibel Causeway and the western side of the Sound. Locating bait schools (watch for birds), was the best ticket for catching mackerel with some pushing four pounds in water depths averaging four to eight feet. Live thread herring, white quarter-ounce bucktails and silver spoons was the best baits.
Jake Kott of North Ft Myers connected with this fat redfish that was just shy of 27 inches. He along with his brother and father visiting from Pennsylvania were fishing the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor with Capt. Bill Russell.
Trout are also feeding under the bait schools when they are over a grass or grass and sand mix bottom in the same depths as the mackerel on the same choices of bait. Ladyfish, bluefish, small sharks and several pompano were also in the mix.
Redfish reports were good throughout the area, fish ranging in size anywhere from seventeen to thirty-two inches were caught in south Matlacha Pass near Manatee Bay, in Pine Island Sound around the Keys and Islands on both the eastern and western sides, on the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor and from the Sanibel Pier. Live pinfish, cut ballyhoo and shrimp were the top baits fished under the mangroves near the high tide. Weedless plastics and spoons also connected on the early stages of the incoming tide. Reports were pretty widespread with most areas fished yielding reds; schools of large reds were also reported in both Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.
Now is a good time for tarpon, both juvenile and adult. Look for the little guys early in the mornings along shorelines, around deeper oyster bars or near residential canals. Watch for them rolling when the water is calm, a well placed live pinfish, shrimp or thread herring under a cork is deadly. The incoming tide is generally best for the smaller fish. Look for larger tarpon around mullet or ladyfish schools just off the beaches, in the Passes, around bridges or in the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River or Charlotte Harbor. You can also expect a surprise at any time when catching other fish around the bait pods when a big tarpon inhales your little bait.
This is a great time to fish, Autumn or Fall begins on Friday and the change is already under way. Days are getting shorter, the water is cooling and fish are getting hungry. Top that with an unlimited supply of bait moving south through our waters and we should be in store for some good fishing.