Unsettled weather made fishing conditions and catching tough for many anglers. Recent winds stirred up the inshore waters causing loads of floating grass and muddy water. Conditions also made it extremely tough for anglers targeting tarpon off the beaches and in the harbor or sound. With that said, there were still some good catches reported both inshore and offshore.
The red grouper bite is going strong from 60 to 80-foot depths west and southwest of Sanibel. A large number of fish are running just undersized, but limits of respectable sized reds were taken. Top baits included whole squid, large live pinfish, Tsunami Jigs and Hogy 10-inch soft plastics in dark colors. A few cobia were also reported cruising under the surface and a little closer to shore in 25 to 40 feet of water a mix of snapper, grunts and porgies were caught on live shrimp and shrimp or squid tipped jigs.
West winds have really made it difficult for tarpon fishing off the beaches the past couple weeks. Capt. Gary Clark has fished from mid-Fort Myers Beach north to Redfish Pass and found most days challenging. A few days with calmer seas, tarpon were beginning to bunch up in 20 to 25 feet of water off Knapp's Point on Sanibel and also about a mile west of Blind Pass. All hook-ups were on live thread herring and small blue crabs.
Cindy Truncale of St. James caught the snook bug as she caught and released several including this 31-inch fish. She was fishing the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor near the entrance to Buzzard Bay on a trip with Capt. Bill Russell.
Further north, Boca Grande Pass was jam packed with tarpon and also boats, and over many days the bite was very slow. With strong full moon tides going into the past weekend, the action was improving.
The key to catching inshore was locating somewhat clear or clean water. Pine Island Sound was really stirred up, better conditions were reported in Charlotte Harbor, north Matlacha Pass and along the beaches or just inside the passes.
Snook were found in good numbers along the beaches from Boca Grande south to Bowman's on Sanibel. The best action came over the morning incoming tide on live pilchards, herrings or white jigs or flies with a little silver flash. Trout up to 22 inches and several nice mangrove snapper were also caught with the snook.
Wade fishing produced a few nice redfish and trout on the Charley Pass flats between Redfish and Captiva passes. Casting DOA shrimp or live pinfish under popping corks along the sand trenches worked best on the last few hours of the rising tide. Wade fishermen also scored with redfish, snook and trout in Charlotte Harbor near the entrance to Burnt Store Marina.
In north Matlacha Pass jack crevalle and snook were busting top water lures early in the mornings. Working troughs along Mangrove shorelines with Sebile Stick Shad and Zara Spooks resulted in some explosive hits and hook-ups. Snook up to 37 inches were also caught and released near Cattle Dock Point in the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River late in the evening on top water baits.
Winds and weather recently made it difficult to stick with a game plan. You might plan on tarpon fishing the beaches to wake up to 15 to 20 knot westerly winds or the area you planned on fishing inshore looks like a mud puddle that someone just mowed the grass over. When conditions change. keep an open mind, look at your options and adjust your plans accordingly. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, if you want to have routine success you need to be able to adjust on the fly.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.