Little wind and flat calm seas are both good and bad - it's good for making long comfortable runs offshore, but in the middle of summer, without a breeze, it can get scorching hot on the water. We had several of those days over the past week, with little to no wind from mid-morning to early afternoon before the afternoon sea breeze kicked in.
Calm water allowed boats of all sizes to venture into the gulf, and a better than average grouper bite was reported by most. Inshore, the best action was early morning on the shallower flats, then fishing deeper water during the heat of the day.
Gag grouper up to 29 inches were caught as close to shore as 40-foot depths on out to 90-plus feet. Most were taken over natural structure, primarily limestone ledges, with live bait fished on a heavy jig or on a circle hook under a large sinker. Pinfish and large thread herrings were the top baits, watch for huge schools of thread herring pushing across the surface on the calm mornings. Red grouper were also found in depths from 55 to 70 feet west of the Sanibel Lighthouse, Live bait also worked best. Smaller bait and tackle also yielded lane snapper and grunts from the same area. Several cobia of legal size were also boated by grouper diggers not too far from the ARC reef.
Before returning to class at Florida State University, Drew Blakeslee of Atlanta was treated to a day of fishing for his birthday from his family. Drew finished of the day with this 35-inch cobia that he caught in Charlotte Harbor while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
Inshore, despite less than ideal water conditions, fishing wasn't too bad for many species. As the huge volumes of fresh water continues to dump into our area from Lake Okeechobee, fish appear to have adapted somewhat. Redfish were caught on the upper stages of tides in Pine Island Sound around Wulfert and Buck Keys near Sanibel and Captiva, and further north around Black Island west of Pineland. Also, reds were reported across the harbor in Turtle Bay. With the dark, dirty water, reds are feeding more by smell than sight. Cut bait often worked best to get the scent in the water. Medium sized pinfish with the tail cut off and 1-inch ladyfish steaks worked well but be prepared to also catch a lot of unwanted catfish.
Although there were a few large trout up to 24 inches caught, the overall trout bite was nothing to write home about. The best bet is to search for the clearest water you can find over grass flats in 5 to 8- foot depths. We caught several trout from 22 to 24 inches over the week, most were loners, hanging around smaller trout and were caught near Captiva Pass and Bokeelia.
Spanish mackerel were a pleasant surprise over inshore flats around Charlotte Harbor and near the Sanibel Cause-way. The best bite was over the incoming tide with some really large macks pushing 30 inches. We found on most days when we located the mackerel we also kept busy with bluefish, ladyfish, trout and lots of small blacktip sharks, plus a few cobia in Charlotte Harbor.
For baits, live pinfish and pilchards fished under a float or free lined worked best. If you want to possibly hook into a large cobia or shark, it's a good idea to send a live ladyfish behind the boat on a heavier rod rigged with a few feet of wire and a large circle hook. If the tide is flowing strong, I like to lip hook the ladyfish from bottom to top so it looks natural swimming into the current. The pictured cobia was caught this way west of Bokeelia on the incoming tide.
So, your glass can be half full or half empty, yes it's hot on the water (it is August), and yes we should be very concerned about the long-term affects the fresh water dumping well have on our area. But, fish are still biting and if you avoid the hottest part of the day, I could think of a lot worse ways to spend a day.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.