Looking back at the past week I would use "challenging" as the best way to describe fishing. After a few nice, warm days, winter proves once again it won't stay away. Cool temperatures, plenty of wind, plus some rain once again challenged anglers. Right about when the weather gets right and the fishing gets good we hit the reset button as another front moves through. This is to be expected in March, it's notoriously a windy month. I know our weather is very mild in comparison to up north, but it can have a huge effect on our fishing.
Some of the biggest trout of the season were reported in Pine Island Sound, with fish up to 27 inches caught on the Sounds western side around oyster bars from Captiva south to the power lines. Many fish are running over 20 inches, the best baits were live baitfish (if you could find and catch them) and top or sub-surface lures that imitated small mullet or sardines. The big trout are gearing up for their spring spawn and feeding heavily on oily baitfish. Smaller school size trout with about one of every ten caught in the keeper range were reported over grass flats north of power lines in the lower Sound and grass flats between Captiva Rocks and the fish shacks in the Sound. Flounder up to 16 inches were often a bonus catch from these areas and also Matlacha Pass
Redfish were hit or miss much of the week, often good numbers were found but unwilling to eat. In the Sound, redfish from 21 to 29 inches were found in small schools on the eastern side. Cut or live pinfish, shrimp, DOA Cal shad tails in a new penny color, and gold weedless spoons got the best response while targeting small sand holes off shorelines on the rising tide. Scattered redfish were reported along the walls of Charlotte Harbor with the best bite coming near the top of the tide with the above mentioned baits and free lined shiners.
After a cool start Wednesday morning the afternoon warmed up and so did the fishing. Jim Manelli of Chicago Illinois landed this 31 inch snook on the rising tide. He was fishing Charlotte Harbor with Captain Bill Russell.
Snook fishing was up and down all week. The change of weather affects snook more than any other inshore fish. There was some really good snook action at times and very slow at others. Fish to 38 inches were caught by anglers using live bait including pinfish, shiners, & thread herring. And those tossing artificials report fish to 30 inches hooked on mid-size top water, DOA TerrorEyz, and Cal shad tails. For some the bite was good over the last stages of the morning falling tide and others found the afternoon high coupled with the sea breeze the ticket. Look for snook around potholes, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines throughout the Sound, Matlacha Pass, and Charlotte Harbor. They are on the move so it's very likely there will be none is an area one day then loaded the next or vice versa.
In north Matlacha Pass, a mix of ladyfish, mackerel, and mostly small trout provided good action along the channel edge from marker 72 south to the S curve. Small silver spoons or live shrimp under popping corks worked best. Similar action was also reported over grass flats near the Sanibel Causeway. Also, hard fighting jack crevalle, large and small, are showing up in good numbers throughout the inshore waters.
There wasn't many calm days for offshore reports with the continuous wind, however a few anglers did manage to fish near shore reefs a few miles off the beach and caught sheepsheads and snapper, plus catch and release gag grouper. Spanish mackerel were also caught over the near shore reefs, most fish were taken on shrimp. As season winds down, big sheepsheads were caught from docks inside the Gulf Passes and docks at Punta Rassa, just inside the Sanibel Causeway. Several pompano and flounder were also caught from these areas. By the weekend the winds were settling down allowing boats to get back offshore.
It's time for the 16th annual Bobby Holloway Jr Memorial Fishing Tournament on Saturday March 29th. Over the years this tournament has grown into a great Island event and one of the oldest & largest tournaments in Southwest Florida. There is far more than just fishing, great Pine Island food, silent auctions, & raffles make this a day event for anyone looking to get a feel for the Island life and some great food and atmosphere. Plus, all profits stay right here on the Island and help our youth. Mark the day on your calendar to attend for a fun time and helping our local children while honoring the memory of a great young man. The event takes place at Pineland Marina, for more information go to: www.hollowaytourney.org/
Have a safe week and great fishin'.