A big full moon not only brought us great fishing tides over the past week, there was also a big showing of tarpon and sharks, plus some great action with catch-and-release snook.
Its tarpon season in Southwest Florida! Large numbers were reported throughout the area including off Sanibel Beach near Knapp's Point, off the beach of Cayo Costa, Boca Grande Pass, across Charlotte Harbor, and in Pine Island Sound. Calm waters in the early morning is the best time to locate fish rolling or free jumping, and also the best time for sight and fly fishing. Tarpon were hooked throughout the day and into the evening hours on a host of artificial baits, live and cut bait.
Sharks, notably blacktips, also made a strong presence in the same areas as the tarpon and also shadowing mackerel schools. Hard fighting, high flying blacktips up to 5 feet were hooked in depths from 4 to 12 feet inshore, and a short distance off the beaches on the gulf side. In Pine Island Sound near Rocky Channel, lemon sharks to 6 feet were hooked on cut ladyfish over the afternoon falling tides.
Warm days and strong tides turned on the snook bite. John Morris visiting Sanibel from Pittsburgh with a 33-inch snook that released in Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
The full moon of April was one of the best times of the year to target tasty snook before the full season closure in 2010 following a hard freeze that dealt a deadly blow to our snook population. Well, it appears snook are on a steady rebound, although it's catch-and-release only, the snook fishing over the past week was reminiscent of years past for many anglers. Linesides up to 40 inches were caught along the beaches, the gulf passes, Keys and Islands throughout Pine Island Sound, and Charlotte Harbor, plus deep shorelines along the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. The best baits were live pilchards or herrings and artificial lures that mimicked pilchards, herring, and small mullet.
The largest trout reported were from the same areas as the snook in potholes and shorelines on the same baits with a good number of fish from 21 to 25 inches caught. Schooling trout averaging 14 to 17 inches were found over 5 to 8-foot grass flats in the harbor north of Bokeelia, between Useppa Island and the fish shacks in the northern sound, and between Buck Key and the channel in the lower sound. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, sharks and big ladyfish were also common catches with the trout.
Afternoon high water brought good opportunities for targeting redfish under the shade of the mangrove shorelines. Fish from 17 to 28 inches were hooked on cut, live and imitation baits in Matlacha Pass east of McCardle Island and in Smokehouse Bay, across the harbor in Turtle Bay, and throughout the keys and islands in the mid-sound.
Offshore, the strong full moon tides often made it difficult to anchor up over a wreck or reef and get the baits to the bottom. The best grouper reports came from 65 to 75-foot depths southwest of Sanibel over live or coral bottom. Red grouper to 27 inches were taken on live pinfish, thread herring, and squid/jig rigs. Snapper, porgies, and grunts were also caught from the same bottom on lighter tackle.
It's time to dust off the gear and go chase some poons. The best part of tarpon fishing is the hunt, hook-up and the adrenaline rush that first gill rattling explosive jump brings. After that it's just a hard battle with a really strong, determined fish. Many anglers just as soon part ways with a big tarpon after the first couple jumps and try to do it again, rather than engage in a long battle. If you hook into a big tarpon, and he parts ways after a few magnificent leaps, don't be discouraged, be thrilled for the opportunity and get back on the hunt, that's the fun part.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.