Slowly but surely summer heat is giving way to cooler days. On the water from sunrise to late morning it's been pleasantly cool before the mid-day heat takes over. Fish appear to have taken notice as an active bite was reported much of the week.
Inshore, trout catches are on the rise, snapper are around in good numbers, the redfish bite is consistent, and for most, catching a snook of legal size is a challenge. Also, tarpon from big to small were showing throughout in-shore waters.
Catching legal or keeper size trout became much easier over the past week with good numbers of fish from 15 to 19 inches reported in southern Pine Island Sound between McKeever Keys and the power lines, further north in the sound over flats north of Rocky Channel, and north of Patricio Island near Bokeelia. Baits included live pilchards, pinfish under a popping cork, and Berkley shad tails, also under popping corks.
Look for an increase in big schooling redfish as the month progresses. Art Wilson holds a big red that inhaled a live pinfish over flats near Pine Island while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
Seems like anywhere inshore where the current is moving good and bait schools are in the area is a good place to look for mangrove snapper. Such areas include dock and pier pilings, plus rock jetties around Sanibel and Captiva, and also deeper sand troughs surrounded by grass flats. Most mangs are running 10 to 12 inches with a few pushing 14 inches, if you catch one, expect more as they are often in schools. Live or cut bait will work, just keep it small and use a 1/0 or smaller circle hook.
There's been a few reports of larger redfish beginning to school in Pine Island Sound, as they were sighted working along shallow bars on the lower incoming tide. Watch for a big push of water, birds, or dolphins in these areas to help locate the school. As the month progresses schools should get larger and more consistent.
Working mangrove shorelines on the rising water yielded reds with many in the upper slot from "Ding" Darling north to Blind Pass behind Sanibel, in mid-sound around Wood Key and Black Island and south of the Matlacha Bridge near Tropical Homesites in Matlacha Pass. For baits, live and cut pinfish or pigfish, shrimp, and gold spoons worked best.
Some anglers found snook in good numbers with all running under size; others found it difficult to get one of any size to eat, while a few were lucky enough to only hook one and of legal size. Fish averaging 22 to 26 inches were caught in decent numbers along the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor on live shiners and pinfish over the incoming tide. A few 30 to 32-inch snook were taken under the mangroves on the bay side of Sanibel near the power lines on live pinfish, also on the incoming tide. On the falling tide, snook were reported at both Redfish and Captiva passes while drifting live baits over and near structure.
At night, snook were hooked from bridges and piers with good tide flow on live bait and white half-ounce Terroreyz, while casting up current and allowing the bait to naturally flow with water.
Lots of anglers are noting tarpon, generally sighted rolling on calm mornings throughout our area, including the sound around Regla Island, Roosevelt Channel at Captiva, west of Cabbage Key, off the east and west walls of Charlotte Harbor, and in Matlacha Pass, around Island Points and in the channel. Most are averaging 15 to 50 pounds with some areas holding larger fish. Tarpon this time of year do not see much fishing pressure, if you want to have some fun with these smaller, high flying fish, this is a great time.
Offshore, grouper catches consisting of a mix of gag and reds came from depths averaging 70 to 100 feet. For bait, many anglers are loading up the live well with pinfish before heading out, then either drifting over structure or areas with hard bottom with either conventional or fish-finder rigs. Along with grouper up to 28 inches, mangrove snapper averaging 16 to 20 inches were caught on smaller pinfish and cut bait. On the way to the fishing grounds, schools of bonito and Spanish mackerel were often sighted busting bait on the surface.
Slowly but surely the seasons are changing, you can see it and feel it on the water each day. As the water begins to cool, more and more bait fish well migrate into our waters and game fish well begin to feed heavily.
With cooler days and less chance of thunderstorms on the near horizon, plus hungry fish, it's a great time to set aside a few days to wet a line.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.