With waters cooling down from the summer heat ever so slightly, fish are becoming more active throughout the day. As we roll into the first week of fall, anglers found good fishing for trout and redfish inshore, plus grouper and mackerel in the Gulf.
Big spring like trout, with many well over 20 inches and up to 24 inches, were caught in various areas around the island including north Matlacha Pass, the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor and the northeast corner of Pine Island Sound.
The big fish were busting top water lures including Zara Spooks and Mirrolures around oyster bars over the early morning high tides and caught later in the day in shallow channels and potholes along the shallows using pinfish under a rattling cork. Redfish were also caught with the same baits from these locations.
The big reds are here!
Pictured is Glen 'Hildy' Hildebrand with a 30 inch redfish, one of many he caught and released in Charlotte Harbor while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
School-size trout running from 14 to 16 inches were caught over 3 to 6-foot grass flats between Useppa Island and the fish shacks, between Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa State Park, east of Marker 74 in Matlacha Pass, and over the same type bottom between Redfish Pass and Roosevelt Channel. Live shrimp, pilchards, pinfish, and pigfish under popping corks, plus Gulp shad and DOA shrimp were the reported baits of choice.
Capt. Gary Clark reports good action with redfish southeast of St. James near Punta Rassa. On the higher stages of tide, fish from 21 to 27 inches were found schooling around oyster bars. The reds were caught on live or cut pinfish. Capt. Clark also reports that due to the large amount of fresh water released from Lake Okeechobee through the Caloosahatchee River that most of the other targeted inshore species appear to have moved from areas near the river's mouth to areas more favorable with higher salinity levels.
Island resident Gerard Cicoria broke away from work for a late afternoon fishing trip and was rewarded with a large 30-plus-inch redfish that busted a top water plug over shallow water. After a dog fight the big red was safely released to battle another day. He was fishing in Matlacha Pass near McCardle Island.
Over-sized reds were also found along Charlotte Harbors eastern shore and northern Pine Island Sound. Most of the fish are averaging near 30 inches and were found in small schools from a dozen to 50 in a pack. On my boat we got into a couple of these schools over the week and they all measured from a small of 28 inches up to 32 inches and are very fat, healthy, and incredibly strong fighters. Lots of fun!
In and near Captiva and Boca Grande Passes, schools of Spanish mackerel and bonito made their presence known with lots of surface feeding activity and screaming drags. Most fish were hooked either by trolling or casting small to mid -size silver spoons around the feeding activity. Watch for birds!
Offshore gag grouper catches were reported anywhere from 40 to 90 feet out from Blind Pass and north to Boca Grande. Live pinfish and heavy jigs tipped with whole Spanish sardines took fish to 31 inches in the deeper water and in water shallower than 45 feet, grouper were caught trolling large deep diving lures just off the bottom. Schools of Spanish mackerel and bonito were sighted surface feeding anywhere from 2 to 20 miles offshore also.
Finally, summer is over, I can feel the change and I believe the fish feel it, too. The water is cooling down, it's a lot easier to keep a mess of bait alive in the well and the fish can be active any time of day. Unlike summer where it was just too darn hot for fish and anglers in the middle of the, now is a good time to catch fish the entire day and often the best bite well be smack in the middle of the day.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.