Unlikely weather conditions greeted anglers over the first week of the month often creating challenging fishing conditions. Rain and thunderstorms pushed boats off the water for a few days, then heading into the weekend a late season cool front brought several days of stiff winds. While the cooler temperature and low humidity was a welcome surprise the strong northwest wind made fishing difficult, especially for anglers chasing tarpon.
Before the wind arrived tarpon were making a good showing in all their usual haunts. Off the beaches large concentrations of fish were located near the tripod marker west of Ft. Myers Beach, between Sundial and Knapp's Point on Sanibel, just to the north of Blind Pass, and off the southern end of Cayo Costa. Most hook-ups were reported on live thread herring, small crabs and various flies in the early morning hours. Inshore, tarpon were jumped between Picnic Island and Sanibel's C-span, around the clam leases in Pine Island Sound, and in Charlotte Harbor, inside of Boca Grande Pass. Bull and blacktip sharks, with a few of the bulls of tarpon eating size were also around the tarpon pods. Look for the tarpon action to pick back up as the wind settles down.
While the wind often created a lost fight for tarpon anglers, coupled with an incoming tide it was a benefit for many anglers fishing redfish and snook. Both species were reported over the weekend from anglers targeting oyster bars, Island points, and sand holes with a good wind/tide flow moving the same direction. A few notable areas included bars, holes, and points near Regla Island in the lower Sound and Wood Keys to the north, the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor between Burnt Store Marina and Pirates Harbor, and northern Matlacha Pass. A few mangrove snapper up to 14 inches and flounder were also caught with the snook and reds. Live pilchards, herrings, pinfish, and shrimp were the top baits followed by Berkley Gulp baits in various styles and colors.
On a windy day last Saturday Andy Schudlich from Michigan, vacationing on Sanibel, completed his inshore slam (snook, redfish, and trout) with this fat 28 inch redfish. All fish were caught and released in Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor while fishing with Captain Bill Russell.
Trout fishing for legal or keeper size was good if you were in the right place and a struggle if not. The better size trout appear to be on the move almost daily, I have found myself constantly moving or relocating to find the better fish. If you are only catching sub-legal fish give it a few minutes and make a move and keep at it until you locate the bigger fish. Trout to 21 inches were found on the flats off the north end of Roosevelt Channel on Captiva, north of Hemp Key in the mid Sound, and between Patricio Island and Bokeelia at the north end. Mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, and small sharks were also common catches from these areas.
Cobia reports were on the rise over the week, with several anglers reporting their tarpon baits getting intercepted by cobia in the Harbor and off the beaches. We boated one off Bokeelia a few inches shy of the 33 inch to the fork minimum, but still a great fishing on light tackle. Keep that heavier rod rigged and ready and keep an eye open for that big brown torpedo cruising around your boat.
When the weather interferes with your fishing plans keep an open mind and it can save the day. Tarpon are great fun when the seas are calm and you can actively see the fish, but can become a real challenge, or for me, very boring when the bite is slow, the seas are rough, and the fish aren't showing. These same conditions that make tarpon chasing often impossible are often the perfect conditions for fishing the flats for snook, redfish, and trout. Be willing to adapt and make the best of the conditions and it can save the day and lead you to some great, unexpected fishing.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.