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Spring action finally begins in Southwest Florida

March 20, 2013
By Capt. BILL RUSSELL - On the Water , Pine Island Eagle

Finally, winter is officially over and spring is in the air. Several cold fronts over the last few weeks have made it difficult for fish to establish any type off pattern. The change of season should also bring a little more consistent weather and mild days.

Action should really pick up over the open water grass flats averaging 4 to 8 feet in depth. Spanish mackerel, trout, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish can all be caught from the same area. This is great action to get kids with little or no experience into fishing. We had a couple days with little guys under 10 who never fished saltwater before. Needless to say, they now are hooked for life. A few noteworthy areas that should produce some good action include grass flats around the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor, deeper grass bottom near the channel in mid Pine Island Sound, Red Light Shoals at the south end and off the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway. Also expect sharks, cobia and tarpon to move in. Don't be surprised if you hook any of the three on the light rods, and it's a good idea to keep a heavier rod rigged and ready if the opportunity presents itself.

Now is the time to hook into some of the biggest trout of the year, "gators" as locals call them, fish measuring over 24 inches. Look for the larger fish holding in the same areas where you would target snook. For a real challenge and potential reward, get on the shallow grass flats at first light and work a top water lure over the calm shallows in hopes of intersecting a hungry "gator" trout on the prowl.

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Brothers Dylan and Dawson Nash had a great time battling big trout and redfish while on spring break. They were visiting their grandfather David Brown of Matlacha. The fish were caught in Pine Island Sound on an afternoon trip with Capt. Bill Russell

With the warmer temperatures and ample supply of small fish, our area redfish appetites well turn to baitfish including shiners, herring and small pinfish. Cut bait and a host of artificials will also do the trick. Spring tides will bring us some big high tides. Look for the reds under the mangroves and on the perimeter of oyster bars on the high water and in sand holes, troughs or cruising the grass flats on the lower stages of tide.

Snook are on the move. It's common to find schools of several dozen or more holding in an area for a few days then moving on. They also are feeding heavily on baitfish and are often holding in the same areas with the redfish. It's possible this month to put together a Southwest Florida inshore slam (snook, redfish & trout) without moving the boat.

Our annual run of big inshore sheepshead should wind down by month's end. Big fish were reported by shore-bound anglers from the Sanibel Pier, Blind Pass jetties and Cayo Costa beach. A few whiting, pompano and flounder were also caught. By boat, sheepshead up to five pounds were taken from the old Phosphate Docks at Boca Grande, docks inside Captiva and Redfish passes, and inside Tarpon Bay on Sanibel. Sheepshead, grunts, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel were also reported from near shore artificial reefs after the last cold front.

Spring is here, it's that time for the fishing to get really good. If you haven't penciled in a few fishing days on your calendar, I suggest you do it soon; you don't want to miss out on the action.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact Capt. Bill Russell at: Phone: 239-283-7960; Website:; Email:

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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