Weather continues to dictate when and how far offshore anglers can run, and with most days holding a stiff breeze, it's been tough to venture very far.
Gag grouper to 25 inches were reported in 40 to 45 feet of water west of Captiva. Most were caught while trolling large diving lures, while a few were taken on live pinfish, along with lots of sharks running 4 to 6 feet.
On one of the few calm days, large schools of bonito were reported feeding everywhere a short distance off the beach from Knapp's Point on Sanibel. The captain reports that birds and bonito were both converged on baitfish schools and could be seen from a good distance. Several schools of Spanish mackerel were also reported in the same vicinity.
Richard Clayville of Brandon, Fla., with a 24-inch redfish caught near Pineland.
Inshore the weather has played a role in fishing each day with the best reports coming just ahead of the approaching cool fronts, or when the wind was not howling from the northeast.
Capt. Gary Clark of Ultimate Charters spent most of the week working oyster bars and shorelines from southern Pine Island Sound to San Carlos Bay. On his trips he reports plenty of undersized redfish and catch-and-release trout, with some up to 22 inches over oyster bars. Live shrimp fished under a popping cork over the last two hours of the incoming tide yielded the best bite. Spanish mackerel, trout and a few pompano were caught over the grassflats on the Gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway on white Redfish Magic soft plastics and shrimp/popping cork rigs.
In Matlacha Pass Capt. Joe Harley took advantage of the morning low tides to stalk tailing redfish. He reports taking reds on fly and spin tackle both south and north of the bridge. The skinny water was most active over the first couple hours of the rising water.
On my boat we found a variety of fish including snook, redfish, trout, mackerel and flounder. We are still fishing with live bait including shiners - pilchards - and pinfish. We carried live shrimp with us each day, but there are just too many bait stealing pinfish to think about fishing shrimp as long as the bait fish are still around. A couple more cold fronts and that will change - the pinfish will move offshore and shrimp will become the preferred bait.
We found redfish on the upper stages of the incoming tide in northern Pine Island Sound from Burgess Bay south to Panther Key. They actually were a decent average size with most running from 22 to 24 inches. Most were caught on freelined live shiners around schooling mullet several feet off Island points. A few snook and some really nice trout, both catch and release only, were also mixed with the reds. Smaller reds, a few snook and flounder were caught with the same tactics in northern Matlacha Pass.
We found plenty of Spanish mackerel in Charlotte Harbor north of Bokeelia. They were not huge with an average size of 14 to 18 inches but they gave us almost non-stop action. We caught the mackerel on live shiners rigged on an extra long shank 2/0 stainless hook and on Clark silver spoons. Bonnethead sharks, trout and ladyfish were with the macks in water depths averaging 6 to 9 feet.
We also came across a large school of really big black drum working down a sand bar in the harbor. I would guess there were better than 200 fish with most looking to go 20 to 40 pounds or better - they were big. We worked the school for a good quarter mile while throwing shrimp and anything else that looked like a crustacean to no avail. They were not eating, at least not what we were throwing. Still, it was great to see a large school in our area. If you run into them please let us know.
Let us not forget, gag grouper season will be closed beginning Nov. 16th, I believe, in both state and federal waters. Trout are off limits until the first of the year and snook will remain closed until at least September 2012. It is hard to keep up with the ever changing rules and regulations. Rather than taking someone's word for it or relying on secondhand information, I strongly encourage you to visit: www.myfwc. and get the latest rules and regulations directly from the horse's mouth.