It's been a great week for offshore anglers, the weather has cooperated, fuel prices are down, and most of the targeted species are in season. Inshore anglers also benefited from great weather and strong full moon tides despite some hot days and afternoon thunderstorms.
Many long time offshore fishermen are reporting that fishing is the best it's been in many years for grouper and snapper. Captain Sean McQuade reports limiting out over several days on red and gag grouper, plus American red snapper. Fishing depths from 100 to 150 ft. west of Captiva resulted in snapper to 21 lbs., red grouper to 20 pounds, and the largest gag was a hefty 28 pounder. Other fish caught over the week included mangrove and yellowtail snapper, blackfin tuna, porgies and a seven foot tiger shark that was released boat side. Most were small, (below the 20 inch minimum) but dolphin or mahi-mahi, often called chicken dolphin when this size, were found in large schools around the boat at anchor. All fish were caught on cut bait with Spanish sardines working the best.
From St. James, Better Days Charter Captain Bill Schwalm found American red snapper and grouper 52 miles west of Redfish Pass. The heaviest snapper topped the scale at fourteen pounds and the largest grouper was a ten pound red.
Five-year-old Leo Parktaber visiting from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was all smiles after winning the battle with a hard fighting Spanish mackerel. Fishing with his dad and grandfather on a charter with Capt. Bill Russell, he also caught trout and several sharks on his first Florida fishing trip.
Other anglers caught gag grouper while trolling Bomber and Mirrolure deep diving lures in depths from forty to sixty feet from Blind Pass north to Boca Grande.
Catch and release snook fishing continues strong near the Gulf Passes and on the beaches. Fish averaging 24 to 26 inches were caught on live pilchards and pilchard imitating flies around downed trees and rock piles from Sanibel north to Cayo Costa. A few larger snook over 30 inches were also released, plus trout, snapper, and a few flounder.
Trout fishing has been hit or miss, it's been pretty easy to catch a bunch but more difficult to catch a bunch of legal size. A few notable areas where good numbers of keeper size fish were reported included the grass flats surrounding Captiva Rocks, grass flats on the Gulf Side of the Sanibel Causeway between the B and C span, and 5 to 8 foot grass bottom around the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor. Favorite baits included small live pilchards and pinfish, plus Berkley Gulp Shad, all suspended under rattling or popping corks.
The morning incoming tide also brought good action with Spanish mackerel and small sharks near Bokeelia in Charlotte Harbor. They were caught in the same water depths and with the same baits as the trout and were often mixed with the trout. The sharks are averaging 2 to 4 feet and are a ton of fun if you have kids on board.
When we get into this weather pattern with calm sunny mornings followed by afternoon thunderstorms its best to get out early and take advantage of it. Most days you can count on flats seas in the morning, making for an easy offshore run. No doubt it can get hot, bring plenty of drinking water and shade if you can. Watch the sky and plan on being back at the dock ahead of the afternoon thunderstorms
Have a safe week and good fishin'.