The first week of April rolled through with beautiful weather giving anglers good opportunities inshore and offshore.
Calm seas allowed boats to comfortably run to deep water in the gulf that resulted in good grouper fishing for many. Limits of red grouper were taken in depths from 60 to 90 feet; the deeper the water the larger the fish. Live bait, including pinfish, blue runners and cigar minnows, worked equally well, and large jigs tipped with cut pinfish, bonito and squid also produced.
Large lane snapper were also mixed with grouper in 60 to 70-foot depths west of the Sanibel Lighthouse.
The 'Gator' trout are biting! Eleven-year-old Erin Terhaar left the cold of Minnesota or some Florida sunshine and fishing over spring break. Erin holds a 24-inch trout, one of many he and his father caught and released in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
Anglers fishing nearshore reefs in 20 to 35-foot depths hooked up with a mix of fish including sheepshead, snapper, Spanish mackerel, sharks, and undersized grouper. Bonito up to 20 pounds were also caught from the same depths as they were sighted busting schools of bait fish on the surface.
Inshore, water temperatures climbed up above 70 degrees improving the bite. At times, flat calm water and no, to very slow tides stalled the bite, but when the water was moving fishing was good. This is the time for some of the largest trout of the year, with fish measuring 24 inches fairly common. The largest trout were taken on live bait, including pilchards, herring, pinfish and finger mullet, and also on cut pinfish or ladyfish.
Calm mornings also yielded some dandy fish from anglers working top-water lures or flies over the shallow flats. School-size trout in the 15 to 20-inch "keeper" range were reported over the flats off Rocky Channel in Pine Island Sound, further south near Red Light Shoals and off the power lines near "Ding" Darling.
Some are reporting good catches of redfish while others have struggled. Reports from the eastern side of Pine Island Sound are encouraging with small schools of fish throughout the islands and keys. Most are in the upper slot to oversized, with cut bait and artificials working best. Similar sized reds were also found east of St. James, near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River along shorelines and the perimeter of oyster bars.
Snook fishing is slowly rebounding after the last cool down, the smaller fish were fairly active, but the larger ones were only reported by a lucky few. April is the last month of snook season until September, as the water warms look for the bite to get much better. With the 5-inch (28 to 33 inches) keeper slot, it's difficult to boat one to take home. It's kind of like winning the lottery. The numbers are still down, have fun trying, but don't get too discouraged if you don't get one.
Where's the bait? Boy, I have heard that question a lot lately. If you are a live bait angler you probably know exactly what I mean. I wish I had an answer, there is some out there, you just have to look and work for it. It should get much better in the weeks ahead.
If you are attempting to cast net your own bait, please show some courtesy and keep a good distance from other boats already anchored up and chumming. I've watched several boats, including one guide boat over the past week (I assume new to the game), that's has driven right through chum lines not more than 50 feet from the boat, and has done this on multiple occasions. If you don't know or are unsure of proper etiquette, use some common sense and learn it.
When bait catching is tough and guys are working hard, the last thing you need is someone motoring through your chum line, tempers can get tested easy. Don't be that guy!
Have a great week and good fishin'.