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On the Water: Release from Lake Okeechobee continues

July 24, 2013
Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

As rainy days continued across south Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers continued to dump large amounts of unwanted fresh water our way. The state is releasing a very high amount of water from Lake Okeechobee through the Caloosahatchee River with the final destination in our back yard. As mentioned last week, it's too early to know what, or how much damage it will cause but as the week progressed you could visually see our inshore waters becoming darker and dirtier. Some anglers report really tough fishing in their favorite inshore holes while others found fishing decent to good.

With the big moon we had very high water and strong tide flow most days, a good combination for redfish. Most redfish reported were caught in northern Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and across the harbor in Bull and Turtle bays. The reds were taken on a variety of natural baits including pinfish (live or cut in half), shrimp, cut ladyfish and larger thread herrings cut in half. The best bite came at the top of the tide around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines, and in adjacent potholes on the lower stages. The reds ranged in size from a small of 16 inches up to 33 inches. A few snook including a 30 incher, plus several big trout were also caught around oyster bars according to Capt. Cliff Simer.

Small to medium tarpon were sighted or hooked in northern Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. A good number of fish looking to weigh from 20 to 60 pounds were sighted rolling around the Matlacha drawbridge following afternoon rains, and tarpon in the same size were spotted rolling or hooked near Cabbage Key while targeting trout. Larger tarpon were found in small pods a mile or less from the beach of northern Cayo Costa.

Article Photos

Greg Lambrecht of St. James with his niece, Anne, visiting with her family from Scottsdale, Ariz. Anne landed this big 33-inch redfish then watched it swim away unharmed after a couple pictures. She caught the red on a live pinfish in Matlacha Pass on a family fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell.


Mackerel and bluefish were caught in Charlotte Harbor but the bite was much slower than the previous week.

The water is way too dark to visually tell grass from sand bottom over the deeper flats, if you have a spot memorized or marked the better bet is to try it first. There are some big blacktips prowling the deeper flats, we hooked two and landed one going between 5 and 6 feet on a live ladyfish near the northern end of Bokeelia. Also, don't be surprised if you hook a big gar fish - yes, a freshwater gar fish, with all the fresh water being flushed they are becoming common in our waters.

Beach anglers on Sanibel found the water extremely stirred up and dirty making it near impossible to sight fish snook or other species along the surf. The clarity is better the further north you go with decent visibility from Redfish Pass north. Several sharks and one large sawfish were also caught and released from the beaches during late evening near Blind Pass. Snook were also caught and released near the bridge on Blind Pass.

Offshore, red and gag grouper were hooked from 40-foot depths out past 100. Several gags up to 30 inches were caught trolling big deep diving lures between 40 and 60 feet, west of Captiva. Out deeper, a mix of reds and gags were caught on various structure, often the best bet was to quickly fish an area and move on if no results. For this style fishing, a large live pinfish on a heavy white jig bounced over the bottom is hard to beat. Schools of Spanish mackerel were located 8 to 12 miles west of Boca Grande. Watching for birds and surface feeding and trolling silver spoons through the area gave the best results.

As fresh water continues to discharge into our bays and estuaries, we need to keep our fingers crossed that the damage to our marine life will be minimal. I have watched before as our lush grass beds were completely wiped out for several years following this same scenario.

I have heard for years and years that a solution is coming soon to prevent these huge dumps of fresh water, let's hope something will be done before the damage is irreversible.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960; on the website at; or via email: at

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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