The first weekend of October greeted us with a pleasant change in weather. Our first touch of cooler weather and lower humidity after a long hot summer made for perfect fishing conditions. The winds were a little breezy at times, but overall a great time to be outdoors. Reports varied from good to real good to not so good, but everyone agreed that it was great just to be on the water if the fish were biting or not.
Offshore, grouper fishing is very good for both gags and reds. To bag a limit of gags many anglers are deep trolling depths from thirty to fifty foot with great results. Deep diving lures like the Bomber CD 30 are hooking grouper up to twelve pounds; most fishermen have their favorite colors but red/white or red/yellow are consistent producers. Red grouper up to fifteen pounds were caught in depths from fifty to sixty-five foot west and southwest of Sanibel. Drifting over hard, coral and swiss bottom while dropping live pinfish and blue runners or 10" Hogy Jiggin lures often filled the cooler with limits of tasty grouper filets.
Close to shore there has been plenty of activity with everything from tarpon to ladyfish. All the gamefish are keying on schools of baitfish moving down the coast. Scattered tarpon were sighted just off the beach south of Redfish Pass and between the Light house and Knapp's Point on Sanibel. They were most active the first few hours after sunrise. Spanish and king mackerel, bonito and sharks were also feeding in the bait schools. Look for birds and surface activity on the water to locate the feeding frenzies. A few tripletail were also reported just off shore hanging under the idle zone markers south of Blind Pass along Sanibel's Beach.
The mackerel are back. Weston Davis took a break from med school in Raleigh NC to get in some fishing time and found large spanish mackerel willing to do battle. He was fishing Charlotte Harbor on a trip with family and friends guided by Captain Bill Russell
Inshore, the best bet was schooling redfish if you could find them or mackerel and trout on the deeper flats. Over the mid day falling tides mostly oversize redfish were reported inside Captiva and Boca Grande Passes schooling near docks and pilings. A variety of live baitfish drifted just off bottom with the tide worked best for the reds, several snook were also caught and released. Schools of redfish were also reported near Cabbage Key and on the east side of Charlotte Harbor.
For action, the best bet is to look to the open water grassflats where a mix of mackerel, bluefish, trout, ladyfish and small sharks are tearing into bait schools. This can provide plenty of action and also put some meat in the cooler. Trout are running anywhere from fourteen to twenty inches on average and we are catching some of the largest Spanish mackerel of the year. If you don't have access to a boat similar action was reported on both the Sanibel and Bokeelia Piers where oversize bull reds were also caught.
If you like catching or eating pompano there are plenty around. Most are cruising along the deep edge of sandbars, watch for them skipping out of the water across your wake while underway, if you see a couple circle around and drift the area while casting with a small pompano or Silly Willy jig or shrimp.
Mark your calendar for Oct. 23. that's the date for the Pine Island Elementary 13th annual Fishing Derby & Tournament. It's a great event presented by the "Matlacha Hookers", women's service organization. All proceeds benefit the kids at our elementary school on Pine Island. As usual it's held at the Olde Fish House Marina in Matlacha with a Kids Derby from the docks and the weigh-in for the Fishing Tournament at 3:00 PM. Registered children are invited to participate in games, face-painting, T-shirt-painting, the fishing derby in three age divisions, lunch, and a trophy award ceremony. Tournament registration fee for adult anglers is $50, which includes a free T-shirt and a meal ticket to the fish fry; this is a very affordable tournament. Let's mark it on the calendar and support our Island school children by attending this event, you will be glad you did. For further information visit www.matlachahookers.org.