On the water you could feel the transition from summer to fall over a good part of the week. While cooler mornings with a stiff breeze made for comfortable fishing, the northeast winds also made for challenging fishing conditions.
Inshore, stiff winds over a good part of the week made it difficult, if not impossible, to locate schooling redfish and stay with them. It's possible to sight them from a good distance as they move in schools pushing over shallow water on calm mornings, but they can be very difficult to locate in choppy water.
A few schools were noted in areas that included near Big Jim Creek, north of Pineland, northwest of Demere Key and in Matlacha Pass along the shoreline southeast of the draw ridge.
Pictured are Bobby Gurganus, Peggy Sullivan and John Cammick with trout measuring 21 to 23 inches. Along with big trout, the trio also caught snook and redfish last week fishing with Capt. Bill Russell in Matlacha Pass.
The best bet for hooking into reds was working with the wind and fishing island points, potholes and oyster bars with the wind pushing in. Throughout Pine Island Sound and along the harbors eastern shore, redfish measuring from 17 to 26 inches were taken from these areas on a variety of baits that included shrimp, pinfish, pilchards, cut mullet and scented soft plastic lures. The best bite was right at the top of the tide into the first hour of the falling.
For lots of bites and continuous action, most of the grass flats throughout Pine Island Sound and north Matlacha Pass are loaded with small bait schools of all sizes. Look for gulls and terns working the water in 4 to 8-foot depths. Trout, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and an occasional shark could be expected to quickly jump on live or artificial bait. Trout are mixed in size, averaging anywhere for 13 to 21 inches. On my boat we did manage to get a limit of trout on most days in the northern sound between Bokeelia and Cayo Costa. The largest trout we found in Matlacha Pass, where a good number of fish went over 20 inches. Look for the larger fish around schooling mullet.
Offshore, reports were good not too far from shore. Gag grouper up to 28 inches were boated in depths between 30 and 45 feet. Mangrove snapper, grunts and a couple hogfish were also in the mix while fishing over ledges. Large shrimp and pinfish were the preferred baits while anchored up and chumming. Grouper were also taken from the same depths while trolling red and white CD 30 lures just off the bottom.
A little farther out, red grouper were reported on soft coral or sponge bottom between 58 and 65-foot depths. Hand-size pinfish, and jigs tipped with sardines or squid were the best baits. Grunts and lane snapper were also caught on smaller tackle rigged with live shrimp and pilchards.
It's a great time of year to spend some time on the water. The weather is cooling ever so slightly, the waters are alive with fish and bait of all sizes and best of all, there just aren't many anglers this month. Take a day or two and take advantage of it, it won't be long before the crowds return and cold fronts will change our fishing.
Have a safe week and good fishin' .