The month of May is at the top for best months for fishing the waters of Southwest Florida. Two good things happen, first local waters are far less crowded as most of our winter visitors took off for the north after Easter passed, and second, it's time for big fish. Tarpon, sharks, snook, redfish, you name it and this is great month to go after the big ones.
The unofficial kick-off to tarpon season begins and if you want to hook into a big tarpon, this is the time to do it. Large schools will gather off the beaches, as well as in Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay and other inshore waters.
Tarpon, aka silver kings, will also be hanging around the Sanibel Causeway, Big Carlos Bridge and the gulf passes with Boca Grande getting the most attention. It's common to see a hundred boats or better on any given day tarpon fishing Boca Grande Pass. If you are going to fish there do your homework first.
Leaving the cold of Minnesota behind, Nick Jacob and his family spent a sunny week over Easter vacationing on North Captiva. The family spent a day fishing in Pine Island Sound with Capt. Bill Russell, where Nick caught and released this hard fighting 32-inch snook.
Where there are tarpon there will be sharks, and some big ones. For that matter, sharks will be about anywhere from the shallow inshore flats to offshore. Many of the larger females including bull, lemon and blacktips move into our inshore waters to give birth to their babies. Sharks are a very under rated game fish - when caught on moderate tackle they are an absolute blast, especially high flying blacktip and spinners. Be very careful when handling them, or better yet leave them in the water at boat side. If you cannot easily remove the hook, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible.
This is the time when the big snook head for the gulf passes for their upcoming summer spawning session. Our snook population appears to be on a slow rebound from the cold winter of 2010. Let's do our part and handle each fish with extra care for a safe release, and never hang a large fish from its lips or mouth; this has proven to do irreversible damage to the heavier fish, likely leading to its death, plus it's illegal. It's best to not remove a big fish from the water at all, not just snook, but any big fish to be released. Snook season closed the first of May and will remain close through August; it is strictly catch-and-release.
Targeting redfish should get more consistent heading into the month. Calm mornings give sight fishermen on the skinny flats some great opportunities at stalking tailers with many in excess of 30 inches. Look for good fishing under the shade of the mangroves on the mid-day high tides; again expect fish from sub legal to in excess of 30 inches.
This is a month to be prepared for anything; you never know what you might run into. I like to always keep a large rig handy, just in case. If you are targeting tarpon or sharks, you will already have the heavy arsenal out, but if you are just having fun on the flats with trout, you never know when that once in a lifetime cobia or school of tarpon might show up. Preparation and awareness is the key, have a rod that will handle the job rigged and ready and pay attention or that trophy fish might just swim right by without you even knowing it.
Weather should be good and fishing even better. Get out there and take advantage of it!
Have a safe week and good fishin'.