Anglers and boaters reported areas of dead fish in Pine Island Sound, around the passes and nearshore waters. Red tide -two words an angler never wants to hear - appears to be the culprit as deadly levels of the toxin were recorded. Large schools of mullet were found belly up along with baitfish and a few game fish. With that said, there was still some decent fishing reports around Pine Island and offshore.
The eastern side of Pine Island Sound is home of gin clear water over the shallow grass flats, giving anglers some great opportunities to sight cast to redfish. Reds up to 27 inches were reported near Pineland on the early morning tides. Fish were caught on fly, gold spoons and live shrimp.
Farther south, around the islands inside the Sanibel Causeway, reds up to 23 inches were caught of the points of mangrove islands while casting top water Skitter-walks and white Berkley Gulp Shrimp. In Matlacha Pass, scattered redfish were found on the flats off the shorelines on low water and under the bushes on the higher water from the power lines north to Matlacha. The reds, plus trout, with a few up to 19 inches, and jack crevalle were hooked on live shrimp or small pinfish under a bobber, scented jerk baits and spoons.
Sheepshead are beginning to make their winter push to inshore waters as anglers are catching bigger fish each week. Fish up to four pounds were reported from oyster creeks in "Ding" Darling on Sanibel, taken on live fiddler crabs. South Matlacha Pass, near Tropical Point, also yielded a few fat fish pushing five pounds that were caught on live shrimp around oyster bars. A few pompano and lots of small jacks were also caught around oyster bars.
Offshore the best fishing appeared to happen 30-plus miles out, as there were several reports of areas lacking any fish activity closer to shore, likely due to red tide. Red grouper were found in 70 to 90-foot depths west of Sanibel. Most were caught on live baitfish or tipped jigs over hard coral bottom and ledges. Fishing artificial reefs in the same range, a few boats also hooked into a few big amberjacks and permit. The best permit bait was a live blue crab.
West of Boca Grande Pass, schooling Spanish mackerel were found under bait pods. While the mackerel were feeding on the pods, spinner sharks were feeding on the mackerel. Sharks averaging 5 to 7 feet were sighted or hooked.
A spinner shark hooked on light tackle is one of the hardest fighting, most challenging fish to catch in our waters. They have a super-fast, spinning leap where they explode from the surface tasting that well test your tackle to the max.
Let's hope that toxic levels of red tide diminish quickly from our waters and prevent any more fish kills. I have witnessed a lot of kills over the years, and it seems each time different species of fish are affected more than others. We are fortunate to have a lot of waters to fish in our backyard, if you are in an area that appears to be affected, keep moving until you find good water that looks lively. Mullet are a good indicator this time of year as they are everywhere, if they are jumping and look happy, all is good; if they aren't present where they generally are or appear lethargic, you might want to look somewhere else.
Have a safe week and good fishin'