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On the Water: Strong fishing with change of the seasons

September 25, 2013
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Fishing reports were good over the past week as a full, harvest moon brought on strong tides and we officially transitioned into the cooler autumn season.

Most days over the past week held tides that ranged from low in the mornings to very high in the afternoons, perfect for chasing redfish. Anglers found reds on the low water over shallow flats and schooled up in sand holes, where they were often sighted, waving their tails and busting bait on the surface. Weedless flies, spoons and small top water lures, plus shrimp rigged weedless and mullet chunks worked for fish anywhere in size between 17 and 30 inches. Fish were reported throughout Pine Island Sound with a few notable areas including flats and oyster bars around Buck Key near Captiva Island, the flats from the Flamingo Bay channel south to Galt Island on the southwest side of Pine Island and flats south and west from Pineland.

With rising water the afternoon redfish bite was good on oyster bars, under mangroves and island points throughout Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound. Schools of a hundred or more reds were also located around the eastern and western sides of Charlotte Harbor, plus Pine Island Sound. Scented jerk baits, live pinfish, pilchards and shrimp, plus ladyfish steaks took fish averaging from 23 to 31 inches with about half reported over the legal size.

Article Photos

Stuart Bernd, Scot Schroeder and Donnie Schroeder scored with a mess of trout and redfish over a morning of fishing.  They were caught in north Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell


Trout fishing continues to improve, not only in numbers, but also in size, as fish up to 25 inches were reported in Matlacha Pass, the sound and off the Sanibel beach. Try to find areas with decent water clarity, tide movement and signs of bait schools for the best chance of getting on a good trout bite. Expect to catch a mixture of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish where you find this combination.

Inshore, mangrove snapper should just about be at its peak before the bigger fish make their way out into gulf waters. Anglers continue to report great snapper fishing throughout inshore waters either from land or boat. Fish up to 15 inches were caught from the Bokeelia Pier, Sanibel Pier and causeway, Matlacha Pass Bridge, and Blind Pass by shore-bound anglers, and throughout Pine Island Sound and around the beaches and passes from boat. Live shrimp, dead shrimp, live or dead pinfish or pilchards, cut or whole, and small tipped jigs all worked equally well. Small hooks and bait, 1/0 or less, and light leaders improved odds of bringing home a bucket of tasty snapper filets.

A surprising number of pompano were reported either caught or sighted skipping behind moving boats. Fish from 1 to 3 pounds were found off the channel edges in Matlacha Pass, off the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor and in the sound from Pelican Bay to Captiva Pass. For baits either live shrimp under popping corks, shrimp tipped jigs and shrimp flavored soft plastics worked best. Remember, pompano feed on crustaceans (shrimp, crab, sand fleas) and turn their nose up at any type of fishy bait. Keep an eye over your shoulder while under way and watch for them skipping across the surface to give away their location. Shore-bound anglers also scored with pompano from the Matlacha Pass Bridge, the Sanibel Pier and Bokeelia Pier.

Larger fish continue to lurk throughout our inshore waters with tarpon sightings and hook-ups reported in Charlotte Harbor near Two-pines, in Pine Island Sound of the southwest side of Cabbage Key, and in the lower sound near Galt Island. Sharks, including blacktip, lemon and bulls averaging 4 to 6 feet, were reported throughout Pine Island Sound, often sighted around mullet or redfish schools in 3 to 5 feet of water. Also keep an eye out for cobia cruising around your boat as they are making their migration south through our waters.

Offshore, Spanish mackerel schools were common over most of the nearshore artificial reefs and often sighted busting through bait schools a mile or better from shore. A few king mackerel to 12 pounds were hooked around structure in 30 to 45-foot depths, plus cobia sightings were on the rise. Mangrove snapper, sheepshead and flounder were also caught from artificial reefs, plus a good number of undersized gag grouper with one occasionally big enough to invite home. Larger gag and red grouper were found in depths from 55 to 90 feet southwest of Knapp's Point at Sanibel and west of Boca Grade Pass.

Fall is officially here, time for some of our best fishing and weather of the year. The next month or so gives us so much opportunity for not only good fishing, but just plain beautiful weather to be outdoors. Get out there and enjoy it, it won't last forever!

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, visit or email

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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