With summer almost over, the past week held days filled with blue skies and barely a breeze, giving anglers plenty of chances to target a range of fish, either inshore or offshore.
Inshore, redfish was the dominate target. Reds were found under the mangrove shorelines on the morning high water, around oyster bars, and large schooling fish (with a few schools holding a few hundred or better) were reported in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Most of the schooling reds are running from 26 to 30 inches. Best baits included live and dead pilchards, pinfish and herrings, cut mullet or ladyfish, gold spoons and top water lures. If you get a hook into the path of a school, I don't think what bait is that important, they seem to vacuum up anything that resembles food. Look for schools in 3 to 5 feet of water, especially moving parallel to shallower bars throughout Pine Island Sound, the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor and Matlacha Pass. These big fish fight hard and a large percentage are oversized; please make sure to land them quickly and get them back in the water to ensure their survival.
For lots of bites and continuous action, most of the grass flats throughout Pine Island Sound and north Matlacha Pass are loaded with small bait schools of all sizes. Look for gulls and terns working the water in 4 to 8-foot depths. Trout, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and an occasional shark could be expected to quickly jump on live or artificial bait. Trout are mixed in size, averaging anywhere from 13 to 21 inches.
Redfish are schooling! Michael Jones and Wayne Murphy managed to pull a couple reds small enough for dinner from a school of mostly oversize fish. They were fishing with Capt. Bill Russell while staying in Pineland at the Tarpon Lodge.
For the sportsman, tarpon are showing in good numbers throughout the region and hard fighting jack crevalle are roaming in schools around many of the bridges, piers and on the flats. Tarpon from 20 to well over 100 pounds were showing in good numbers on calm mornings in Charlotte Harbor between Bokeelia and Burnt Store Marina, in Pine Island Sound west of Regla Island, near Part Island and around the Matlacha and Sanibel Bridges.
Offshore, gag grouper up to 28 inches were boated in depths between 30 and 45 feet. Mangrove snapper and grunts were also caught while fishing over ledges. Large shrimp and pinfish were the preferred baits while anchored up and chumming. A few grouper were also taken from the same depths while trolling red and white CD 30 lures just off the bottom.
A little farther out, red grouper were reported on soft coral or sponge bottom between 58 and 65-foot depths. Hand-size pinfish and jigs tipped with sardines or squid were the best baits. Grunts and lane snapper were also caught on smaller tackle rigged with live shrimp and pilchards. Most boats are reporting acres and acres of bait schools a mile or so offshore, often with mackerel rocketing into the air.
The weather is cooling ever so slightly, the waters are alive with fish and bait of all sizes, and best of all, there just aren't many anglers this month (except on tournament weekends). Take a day or two and take advantage of it, it won't be long before the crowds return and cold fronts will change our fishing.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.