Right as fishing was getting on track and you could feel the transition from winter to spring, Mother Nature had other thoughts as a cold front brought several days of tough fishing conditions. Action was good ahead of the front for both inshore and offshore anglers.
Good news for trout anglers, large fish were showing up in good numbers throughout Pine Island Sound and also in areas of Charlotte Harbor. Many were running over 20 inches with several measuring up to 24 inches. Of course, the weekend cold front slowed the action down for a few days but look for the bite to pick right back up as the weather warms. Fishing in Pine Island Sound, Capt. Cliff Simer reports trout from 18 to 23 inches taking live shiners fished in sand potholes. Most fish were found in the northern sound on the incoming tide, flounder up to 16 inches were also caught from the sand holes.
Capt. Gary Clark found trout up to 21 inches in the southern sound over grass flats north of the power lines. Most fish were caught with shrimp under popping corks or Redfish Magic shad tails in white color. On my boat we noticed a big jump in the size of the trout over several days leading up to the cool down. We caught trout up to 23 inches with a good number of fish just shy of 20 inches in Pine Island Sound and north Matlacha Pass. We are also catching several flounder a day mixed with the trout. Other anglers reported good trout fishing with some large fish mixed in near Captiva Rocks in the sound and over sand holes between Demere Key and Regla Island.
John Debelak of Mineral Springs, Ohio, and a couple of his fishing buddies got into good trout fishing including this fat 23-incher. They were fishing Pine Island Sound as last weekends cold front was approaching on a charter with Capt. Bill Russell.
The Spanish mackerel bite was strong ahead of the cool down and should pick right back up immediately following. Look for action over bottom with a sand/ grass mix in 5 to 10-foot depths. Hot areas included Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia and Boca Grande Pass, inside Captiva Pass near the channel, and the flats on the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway. If you are shore-bound. the Sanibel and Bokeelia piers are a good choice to hook into some macks along with a variety of other fish.
Windy days made it difficult for anglers to take advantage of the full moon negative low tides for stalking tailing redfish. A few fish were reported south of Pineland in the sound and also near the mud hole in Matlacha Pass, but the bite was difficult. Capt. Simer reports landing a few redfish from 22 to 30 inches on the afternoon high water while fishing live shiners under a popping cork along the mangroves in northern Matlacha Pass.
Offshore, on one of the few calm days, Capt. Sean McQuade reports excellent cobia fishing 25 to 30 miles west of Captiva Pass. Five anglers limited out on cobia with the largest estimated near 70 pounds. The fish were caught on live pinfish on a jig head. Closer to land the near-shore reefs continue to yield a mix of sheepshead, grunts, snapper, flounder and Spanish mackerel. Most fish were caught on shrimp/jig combination or shrimp fished on a small circle hook.
In March, fishing rebounds from cold fronts quickly, the days are growing longer, average temperature is warmer and the water just doesn't stay cold as long. Look for good fishing as a front approaches followed by a day or two of slow action after it arrives. Once the north wind settles down and the bright Florida sun returns look for the action to pick right back up again.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.