For the angler, the past week had it all: good tides, including low mornings for sight fishing and high in the afternoons, fishable weather with just enough breeze to keep it cool, but light enough on most days to safely venture offshore, and days without rain.
October mornings combined with low tide is the perfect recipe for sight fishing the flats, with redfish at the top of the list. Reds were targeted either pushing water or tailing in south Matlacha Pass along the eastern shore near the power lines, in Pine Island Sound near Panther Key and to the west between Captiva and Redfish passes. With the rising water, schooling reds were found throughout Pine Island Sound and along the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor, on the highest stages of tide fish were targeted over oyster bars and along mangrove shorelines. Many fish are running over size, but there was a good mix of upper slot fish reported.
Snook got off to a pretty slow start as season reopened last month but appears to be gaining some momentum. Fish up to 36 inches were reported near Redfish and Blind passes and in sand potholes near McKeever Keys. Capt. Cliff Simer reports landing 31 and 29-inch snook on consecutive casts over the afternoon high water in the northern sound while fishing live baits near oyster bars. From land, a few snook were caught after the sunset from the Matlacha Bridge and the 3rd bridge near the Sandy Hook Restaurant.
With water cooling down, grouper are moving near shore and inshore. Pictured is Jake Russell with an 11-pound gag that took a live pinfish in less than 10 feet of water in Pine Island Sound on Capt. Bill Russell's boat last week.
The real surprise continues to be the amount of pompano in the area. From the Sanibel Pier to Boca Grande Pass with lots of areas in between, pompano were reported, and often in good numbers. As pompano are crustacean eaters with a relatively small mouth, it's imperative to fish small bait and hooks for success. While shrimp is great bait, it's often difficult to keep one on the hook long enough before little bait stealers take it. Often a better option is casting a small pompano jig, or recently, the Silly Willy jig has been gaining a lot of popularity. This will allow you to cover a large area of water and not have to deal with the bait stealers. A slow, vertical jigging retrieve, allowing the bait to rise off the bottom then fall back (picture how a shrimp might move across the bottom) can be deadly once you get the rhythm right. Watch your wake for fish (pompano) skipping from the water, many anglers will not fish until they skip a few.
Also inshore, Spanish mackerel were hooked throughout Charlotte Harbor, bull and blacktip sharks were found around mullet schools in the mid-sound and a few good-sized gag grouper were caught around structure. Big jack crevalle are arriving over the flats, expect to hook some big ones while working oyster bars and shorelines.
Offshore, Spanish mackerel schools were found near the last bell buoy west of Boca Grande Pass and a few miles off Redfish Pass. A mixed bag including sheepsheads, flounder, snapper, trout, mackerel and sharks were caught on shrimp, pilchards and cut bait on man-made near-shore reefs in less than 30 feet. Further offshore, red grouper up to 24 inches were taken from 55 to 70-foot depths, and a few big gags were reported from 60 to 80-foot depths.
After what felt like an endless summer of rain, maybe it's over for a while, and our waters will get a chance to clean up. Many of the areas I fish the water is actually pretty clear; it's just very dark from the tannin stained rain run-off. That's the only thing missing as we begin to cool down, our pristine waters.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.