A combination of strong tides and good weather had fish hitting on all cylinders both offshore and inshore over the week.
Inshore, there are a lot of different fish to target, but for most redfish was at the top of the list. Strong tides and high water made a good combination for targeting reds both under the mangroves and hunting for the large fall schools on the open flats and near the Passes. Redfish averaging twenty to twenty three inches were taken on Island shorelines between the eastern side of St. James and Punta Rassa. The last two hours of the morning rising tide was best, live pinfish, shrimp and cut ladyfish were the baits of choice. A few large reds over thirty inches were also reported. In Pine Island Sound similar tactics yielded similar results from Buck Key south to the power lines that cross the Sound to Sanibel and further north around the Keys and Islands from Panther Key north to Burgess Bay. Snook up to twenty-eight inches were also caught and released from the Sound.
Large schools of redfish were hit or miss, but when you luck into them there can be more action than one could imagine. Schools were reported on the falling tide inside the three big Passes (Redfish, Captiva and Boca Grande), on the flats between Useppa Island and Captiva Pass and in Charlotte Harbor. Many of the school fish this year are running below the twenty-seven inch legal mark, almost all are over twenty-five. Generally over the years these fall schooling redfish run big with maybe one in twenty fish measuring anywhere near twenty-seven. We have been on schools with non-stop action for an hour or better and most of the fish were legal size. All schools are different in size; there are still some around where you will be hard pressed to land a fish below thirty inches. Look for the schools pushing water along the bars on the incoming tide, make a silent approach well ahead to intercept their travel path. Make a long cast with a live bait, cut bait, or top water lure ahead of the lead fish and hang on.
Bob Newcom from Atlanta GA and his brother John from Indianapolis IN flew down to Pine Island just for a day of fishing. The brothers were rewarded with great redfish action that included these two 27 inchers. They were fishing in Charlotte Harbor with Captain Bill Russell.
Big Spanish mackerel are back in Charlotte Harbor and around the Sanibel Causeway, look for surface activity and birds feeding over the bait schools in five to ten foot depths over grass/sand mottled bottom. Some of the mackerel are pushing five pounds; we also caught big bluefish (for our standards), trout to twenty inches and small sharks to three feet mixed with the macks in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. Trout were also reported on live shrimp and Gulp shrimp drifted under popping corks on high water at Indian Fields in Matlacha Pass and in the Sound between Captiva Rocks and Rocky Channel.
Offshore, most anglers are targeting grouper and most with success. Both red and gag are in season and both cooperating. Reds up to fifteen pounds were caught over ledges and hard coral bottom in depths from fifty-five to seventy-two feet. Most reds reported were taken on live pinfish, white jigs tipped with fresh mullet strips and white Hogy soft plastics. Gag grouper reports came from as near shore as thirty foot out to the one hundred and ten foot mark. From thirty to forty five foot depths gags to nine pounds were caught deep trolling large lures. Red and white or red and silver Bomber CD-30's were top producers. Farther out gags to twenty pounds were caught on live pinfish, squirrel fish and butterfly jigs. Spear fishermen also bagged limits of big gags near the hundred foot mark.
A few school size dolphin (mahi-mahi) to about eight pounds were caught after sighted cruising around anchored boats grouper digging in eighty foot depths. Cobia to thirty pounds were reported from offshore structure and mackerel, both Spanish and kings can be found around bait pods in the Gulf.
All in all it was a good week of fishing, the only negative I can think of is that it's still hot and humid. It's not bad when there is a light breeze, but when the wind goes flat and the sun is bright it still feels like August. That should change any day, it's almost October, and that is a month that is one of, if not the most comfortable of the year to fish.