Tarpon season was just kicking off with good reports, and then the wind arrived and stayed with us all week. Before the wind, tarpon were making a good showing in all their usual haunts. Off the beaches, concentrations of fish were located between the lighthouse and Knapp's Point on Sanibel, just to the north of Blind Pass and off the southern end of Cayo Costa. Most hook-ups were reported on live thread herring, small crabs and various flies.
Inshore, tarpon were jumped between Picnic Island and Sanibel's C-span, around the clam leases in Pine Island Sound and in Charlotte Harbor from Bokeelia to Boca Grande Pass.
As the wind picked up, offshore waters became unfishable, pushing most anglers to fish the western side of Pine Island Sound. With a steady southwest wind, the Islands of Sanibel, Captiva, and Cayo Costa offered protection and a good number of tarpon were hooked. A few boats found success drifting live thread herrings, but most opted to anchor and fish dead bait on the bottom. A variety of sharks and large stingrays were also hooked.
Fishing the windy conditions last week while vacationing on Sanibel, John Morris of Pittsburgh scored a 'slam' with a 35-inch snook, 25-inch redfish and 28-inch 'gator' trout. All fish were caught and released near the southern end of Charlotte Harbor while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
While the wind often made it very difficult for tarpon anglers, coupled with an incoming tide, it was often a benefit for anglers fishing redfish and snook. Both species were reported from anglers targeting oyster bars, island points and sand holes with a good wind/tide flow moving the same direction. A few notable areas included bars, holes and points near Regla Island and MacKeever Keys in the lower sound and Wood Keys to the north, the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor between Burnt Store Marina and Pirates Harbor, and northern Matlacha Pass. Remember, snook season is closed, as with all fish to be released, please handle them gently and return them to the water as quickly as possible.
Trout fishing for legal or keeper size was good if you were in the right place and a struggle if not. The better sized trout appear to be on the move almost daily; I have found myself constantly moving or relocating to find the better fish. If you are only catching sub-legal fish, give it a few minutes and make a move and keep at it until you locate the bigger fish.
Trout to 21 inches were found on the flats off the north end of Roosevelt Channel on Captiva, north of Hemp Key in the mid sound, and between Part Island and Bokeelia at the north end. Mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks and small sharks were also common catches from these areas. Some really large trout, with many over 24 inches, were caught in Matlacha Pass and along the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor. The wind had the water stirred up and dirty in places, try to find the cleanest water possible.
Cobia reports were on the rise over the week, with several anglers reporting either hooking or cobia following their bait to the boat. We boated one near Bokeelia while snook fishing just shy of the 33-inch to the fork minimum, but still a great fight on light tackle. Keep that heavier rod rigged and ready and keep an eye open for that big brown torpedo cruising around your boat. Watch for big stingrays!
When the weather interferes with your fishing plans, keep an open mind and it can save the day. Tarpon are great fun when the seas are calm and you can actively see the fish, but can become a real challenge, or for me, very boring when the bite is slow, the seas are rough and the fish aren't showing. These same conditions that make tarpon chasing often impossible are often the perfect conditions for fishing the flats for snook, redfish and big trout. Be willing to adapt and make the best of the conditions and it can save the day and lead you to some great, unexpected fishing.
Have a safe week and good fishin'