A busy Memorial Day weekend likely put lots of anglers on the water; some were probably very successful with good catches while others found fishing slow despite some great weather.
Over the past week tarpon fishing was inconsistent; they cooperated great on some days and were difficult on others. Fish were found off the beaches from Cayo Costa to the southern end of Sanibel; one day they were showing good, rolling and free-jumping everywhere, then the next day not so much. No real pattern from day to day.
They are averaging from 70 to about 120 pounds, with larger fish in the mix. For bait, most anglers are using large Atlantic thread herrings, pinfish and crabs for live bait. Schools of bait have really made a push into our waters with large schools of herring showing in Charlotte Harbor, the sound and off the beaches.
Look for sharks of all variety and size willing to bend a rod both inshore and offshore. Tracey Barrette caught a hammerhead that intercepted a live threadfin herring that was intended for a tarpon. It was caught while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell off Knapp's Point of Sanibel.
They are easy to locate on the calm days, look for schools on the surface (looks like rain on the water) and birds. If you don't have a big, heavy, fast-sinking cast net to catch them with, remember, small Sabiki rigs work great for catching threads and other desirable bait fish. Plus they live better and are friskier than those cast netted. Tarpon were also reported in Charlotte Harbor near Boca Grande Pass in the morning hours and again in the late afternoon on the hill just inside the pass.
Big Spanish mackerel and a variety of sharks including blacktips, hammerheads and dusky sharks were also common catches on the tarpon baits. Blacktip and spinner sharks were very common and often a nuisance for tarpon anglers throughout the area. They are running in size from 3 to 6 feet.
On days when the tarpon bite is off, a big blacktip can be a trip saver as they are an undervalued game fish that offers and extremely hard fight and an aerial display that falls just short of rivaling a tarpon. If you got some young ones that want to tangle with a shark, right know is a great time to hook them up with a blacktip.
There were a few good reports of late afternoon and nighttime snapper fishing west of Captiva Pass in 55 to 70-foot depths. Anchoring up and hanging a chum bag over the side resulted in limits of mangrove snapper to 20 inches. Pilchard, both live and dead, and frozen Spanish sardines dropped back into the chum took most of the snapper. From the Caloosahatchee River, through the sound and Matlacha Pass snapper up to 16 inches were common catches and appear to be showing in larger numbers each day.
There is still a good number of big trout both on the deeper grass flats and in potholes or around oyster bars. Capt. Gary Clark reports several days with non-stop action on the flats off the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway, with lots of big trout to 23 inches taken on live shiners. Capt. Cliff Simer also reports similar action with trout on the incoming tide north of Bokeelia. While targeting snook around oyster bars on my boat we landed several big trout including one that measured 26 inches.
Redfish seem to be getting a little more consistent with fish reported on Captiva's east side, north of Charlie Pass, near Demere Key on the east side of the Sound, and both north and south Matlacha Pass. Fish are averaging 17 to 25 inches and baits varied from live shrimp, pilchards, and pinfish to cut ladyfish, pinfish and scented artificials. The best fishing was during the highest portion of the tide.
Snook are making a push to the beaches for the summer as shore-bound anglers report catch and releasing fish up to 38 inches on Sanibel between the lighthouse and Knapp's Point. Snook were also reported on Bowman's Beach, Captiva Pass, the northern end of Cayo Costa, and Charlotte Harbors eastern shore near Burnt Store Marina.
Tarpon fishing should hit its peak over the next couple weeks, sharks are very abundant and summer catch and release snook fishing is heating up.
For a tasty dinner don't overlook mangrove snapper, there appear to be more and larger fish inshore than in years past. Inshore snapper are easily assessable and offer some great eating. The kids are on summer vacation, get out there and enjoy our waters!
Have a safe week and good fishin'.