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Locals keeping an eye out for signs of red tide

October 10, 2012
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL - On the Water , Pine Island Eagle

While fishing was mostly consistent throughout our waters, there were also reports of the possibility of deadly red tide looming offshore.

Inshore, trout continue to bite in northern Matlacha Pass, Charlotte Harbor's eastern shore and throughout Pine Island Sound, from the power lines north. Fish are averaging 13 to 17 inches with large fish mixed in. The best bet is to look for the clearest water you can find in 3 to 6-foot depths over grassy areas and a good tide flow. Drift fishing while casting a host of artificial lures or fishing live baits under popping corks is working well. Ladyfish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel were also reported in good numbers over the trout grounds.

Speaking of mackerel, they were caught around the Sanibel Causeway and pier at the southern end and throughout Charlotte Harbor to the north, and in the sound near the passes. Most are averaging 16 to 22 inches and were often located by watching for birds.

Article Photos

Photo provided
Look for the larger trout around oyster bars. 14-year-old Sean Smith boated this fat 22-inch trout off an oyster bar near Patricio Island. It was caught on the falling tide with live bait while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.

Fishing from the beach on Sanibel and Captiva was very productive for a wide variety of fish including trout, mackerel, jacks, bluefish, pompano, sheepshead, flounder, redfish and snook. Schools of small baitfish are working down the shore in the surf with a host of predators on their heels. Small silver Diamond Spoons worked great for many of the fish while live shrimp and shrimp tipped pompano jigs was a better option for others.

Offshore, there were some reports of decent fishing but also some bad news of dead fish floating, presumably from red tide. Good news first: Spanish mackerel were found busting up bait schools anywhere from a mile off the beaches out to 15 miles, plus a few king mackerel were also reported. Red grouper, lane snapper and grunts were caught southwest of Sanibel in 60 to 75-foot depths over live coral bottom. Farther north in about the same depth, gag grouper were found over limestone ledge bottom along with a few big mangrove snapper.

Most of the boats running offshore reported concentrations of dead fish floating out to 30 miles. Sighted fish included smaller red grouper, grunts, pinfish and others. The affected areas were patchy with some grounds yielding a good bite and other areas not productive at all.

Not sure if there is any correlation between the fish kill offshore and the huge amounts of water dumped from Lake Okeechobee through the Caloosahatchee River, but it seems like red tide appears in our area far too often after huge amounts of water are released. Let's hope it's not too bad, stays off the coast and fades away quickly.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at: 239-283-7960, or

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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