Calm seas over the first several days of grouper season led anglers to some impressive catches offshore, and inshore the reds and snook were biting on both calm and windy days.
Good reports of red grouper came offshore from depths ranging from 55 to 85 off the coast southwest of Knapp's Point north to the waters off Boca Grande. Fishing over structure including hard Swiss cheese bottom, rock piles, and ledges yielded grouper up to 29 inches with many boats limiting out. Baits included live pinfish, grunts, blue runners fished live and dead baits included mullet strips and Spanish sardines.
Grunts, porgies, lane and mangrove snapper were also caught with the grouper and a few anglers reported that large goliath grouper were often a nuisance as they were stealing grouper off the hook.
Visiting from Minnesota over the Easter Holiday, 10-year-old Aaron TerHaar caught an inshore slam that included trout, snook, and this hard fighting 29-inch redfish, plus another redfish that measured 26 inches. He was fishing in Charlotte Harbor with his dad Keith, Grandpa Dave Hubner, and Capt. Bill Russell. The boy is gonna be a fisherman for sure!
Tarpon are beginning to arrive off the beaches, early last week before the winds picked up fish were both sighted and hooked off Sanibel between Bow-man's Beach and Sundial Resort. Tarpon in singles and pairs were also found in Charlotte Harbor and between Captiva and Redfish Pass sunning over sandy potholes.
Trout fishing remained steady with fish reported in about all the inshore waters, not as many "gator" trout were reported over the week, but plenty of fish from just undersize up to 20 inches. A few notable areas that held fish included the grass flats south of Bert's Bar in Matlacha Pass and Buzzard Bay to the north. In Pine Island Sound, grass flats from Blind Pass Channel north to Redfish Pass and grass flats and potholes west of Cabbage Key. Baits included live shrimp, pilchards and a host of artificials including white and chartreuse soft shad tails and top water lures early in the mornings.
Finally, some days with good tides made it easier to target redfish. On the morning low water, fish were found moving across the turtle grass flats with the rising water in Pine Island Sound from Pineland south to Panther Key and also across the Sound off the eastern shore of Cayo Costa. On the higher water, reds were caught under the mangroves and on oyster bars on the eastern side of Buck Key, in south Matlacha Pass between Tropical Point and the power lines and in Charlotte Harbor on the eastern shore and Bull Bay. Reds were averaging 21 to 25 inches with a few up to 30 inches reported. Baits included shrimp, pilchards, pinfish, gold spoons, and Gulp shrimp.
Anglers targeting redfish with live bait are also reporting snook in good numbers. The warm weather has snook on the move and hungry, while they are a blast to catch snook season remains closed. Have fun catching them, just make sure to use circle hooks with live or dead bait to prevent deep hook-ups, handle them with care, and get them back in the water safely and quickly. They appear to be on the rebound from the devastating winter freeze two years ago, if we all do are part, then just maybe we well have a snook season again, sooner rather than later.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.