Weather played a key factor in fishing over the week. While it made a tough week for those looking to head offshore into the Gulf, it worked in favor for inshore anglers that took advantage of it.
For most of the week seas were too rough to fish offshore comfortably, with the only reports coming from near shore reefs. Gag grouper (out of season) up to 26 inches were caught while trolling diving lures in 30 feet of water west of Redfish Pass. Spanish mackerel, trout and snapper were caught bottom fishing over man-made reefs west of Blind Pass while using shrimp or herrings for bait.
Tarpon were reported in both Redfish and Captiva passes and several hook-ups were reported on the afternoon falling tides. Capt. Cliff Simer reports hooking into a 60 to 80-pound tarpon while trout fishing near Bokeelia. Tarpon were also sighted rolling or free-jumping just inside the Sanibel Causeway. Once the wind lies down fish should begin to get bunched up off the beaches from Fort Myers Beach north to Boca Grande.
Foul weather couldn't stop the Chicago Gang. Gary Strandt and friends did not allow the rain and wind Saturday to effect their annual Pine Island fishing trip. Pictured is Gary with a 25-inch redfish caught along Charlotte Harbors eastern shore while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell
While windy days often make it miserable for offshore fishing, it can really kick up the action inshore if the wind direction and tide are right. As the week progressed and the tides grew stronger and weather became less stabile, the few that chose to fish found fishing good for trout, snook and redfish.
In San Carlos Bay and the southern end of Pine Island Sound near Sanibel, Capt. Gary Clark reports trout averaging 14 to 17 inches over grass bottom from Tarpon Bay to Fishermen's Key. On the windy days Capt. Clark found redfish feeding over oyster bars on the super high tides in the afternoons between Punta Rassa and Shell Point. The reds averaged 17 to 24 inches and like the trout were caught on live shiners and thread herrings.
Capt. Cliff Simer found plenty of action with trout near Bokeelia in Charlotte Harbor, plus mackerel and bluefish. Many of the trout are just under-sized, but fish up to 20 inches were common. Trout up to 22 inches were also caught near Captiva Rocks in the sound on the rising tide. On the mid-day high water, snook and a few redfish were caught along the mangroves from Safety Harbor to Redfish Pass and around the keys in the eastern Sound north of Demere Key.
On my boat, the farther we got into the week the better the fishing. There are plenty of trout around from Bokeelia to Two-pines in the Harbor over grass flats. Many are just under-size but there are enough slot fish mixed in to catch a limit with a little effort, plus some nice mackerel. On the afternoons when the westerly sea breeze and strong incoming tide moved lots of water we found action with redfish and snook. I'm not talking about 30 or 40 redfish like some anglers report, but an honest six to 10 on our best day and about the same amount of snook. The redfish all averaged 21 to 26 inches and the largest snook just shy of 32 inches. The best bite was right at the top of the tide, the last hour of the rising into the first hour of the falling.
Wind can really spoil a day planned for offshore fishing, but for us inshore anglers we can often use it to our advantage. I would rather fish for snook or redfish on a windy day than calm almost always, especially if the winds comes from any southern or westerly direction. Add overcast skies and the potential for rain and it's even better, not only are fish often fired up and feeding, but most of the fair weather fishermen are home watching fishing shows, often you will have the water all to yourself. Don't get me wrong, pay attention to the weather and use common sense. Avoid days that strong winds are just unsafe and thunderstorms are likely. There is almost always somewhere to fish inshore on days with a less than desirable forecast, instead of canceling your day of fishing, give it a try; you might be surprised what you catch.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.