The mangrove snapper bite was good much of the summer and it really heated up over the past week. Limits of tasty snapper were caught inshore, offshore and areas between.
Inshore, you are likely to catch a mess of snapper about anywhere, from mangrove shorelines, open water areas and, of course, around structure. Often they were found in good numbers on the grass flats (both shallow and deep) when concentrating efforts around sand potholes or mottled bottom. Once a few show up, the action can get better and better. With a good tide movement, chumming can help. Live shrimp, small pilchards or pinfish, dead or alive, and cut bait worked best fished on a small circle hook and light fluorocarbon leader.
Snapper were biting in Captiva and Boca Grande passes on the slower stages of the tide while drifting small baits bounced over hard bottom. Near shore and offshore structure, including ledges and man-made reefs, yielded snapper in good numbers day and night. Anchoring up current with a chum bag deployed then dropping light rigs with shrimp, pilchards or herring back into the chum worked for limits of fish, with many well over 2 pounds.
For his birthday, Jack Morton of Matlacha was surprised by his wife Jan to a day of fishing. Jack took advantage of the day catching a mess of nice fish, including this 25-inch redfish. Jack was fishing Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor with Capt. Bill Russell.
Also offshore, way offshore, gag grouper and amberjack were reported. Gags were found over structure, often small areas, barely visible on the screen, in depths from 110 to 140 feet. Live bait out-fished dead, with live pinfish, squirrelfish, grunts and big thread herring working best. Amberjack were caught in depths from 120 to 160 feet over larger structure on the same live baits used for grouper, plus live blue runners. A few gag grouper of legal size were also caught closer to shore over ledges west of Captiva in 30 to 40-foot depths.
Inshore, water quality varied dramatically throughout Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor. In Matlacha Pass the water is very dark with not much clarity at all. Around the harbor, the water was actually very clear, just dark stained, and the sound, in some areas the water was the best I've seen it look since last spring. The best looking water was in the mid to upper sound over the incoming tide.
Along with snapper, the redfish bite was consistent on both sides of Pine Island. Anglers fishing natural baits found fishing under the mangroves on the higher tide stages best and those sight fishing shallows preferred the beginning of the incoming tide in the mornings. Schools of larger reds were reported across Charlotte Harbor moving along the bar drop-offs outside Bull and Turtle bays. Shallow water flats outside Pineland in the upper sound and north of Galt Island in the southern sound held singles, doubles and schools of several dozen reds feeding just as the tide began moving in. Most anglers fishing reds under the mangroves found cut bait easily out fishing anything else. Fresh pinfish, ladyfish, mullet, crabs and shrimp worked for fish up to 30 inches around islands in north Matlacha Pass and throughout the sound on both the eastern and western sides. Snook up to 30 inches were also caught and released on cut bait.
For good, fun action, watch for birds over bait schools in the sound and harbor. There is a lot of bait along sand bars and grass flats with a variety of predator fish foraging. We found mackerel, bluefish, trout, snapper, jacks and, of course, ladyfish all mixed together, giving you a bite on about every cast. Also, if you get in this type action there is a good chance a big blacktip shark or two are also hanging around. Get out a heavier rig, don't forget the wire leader, and rig it with a small live ladyfish or jack, if a shark is hanging around you should know pretty quick.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.