For the first time in what seems a long, long time, we settled into a predictable weather pattern for the better part of a week. No strong winds or early day storms, but typical June weather - hot, with very light winds falling way to a welcomed sea breeze in the early afternoons.
As American red snapper season reopened, offshore anglers were all smiles as both weather and fish cooperated. Fishing in depths of 90 feet and beyond, limits of red snapper with many to 15 pounds were reported. Various cut and live baits worked equally well. Red grouper and large mangrove snapper were also hooked over the same grounds as the red snapper.
Closer to shore, in depths from 25 to 40 feet, a mix of Spanish mackerel, sharks, mangrove snapper, grunts and porgies were found over natural and manmade reefs. Live shrimp, pinfish and cut squid on a jig head were top baits.
Nicole Harner of San Antonio, Texas, came to Florida on vacation to visit her Aunt and Uncle Bill and Laurie Russell. Of course, she went fishing and was all smiles after catching her first blacktip shark in Charlotte Harbor near Matlacha Pass.
Just off the beaches, tarpon were hooked daily, with the best action from sun-up to noon. Most hook-ups were reported on live crabs, after anchoring the boat in line of rolling fish and allowing them to locate the crabs, either suspended under a bobber or free lined. Often there are several boats in line fishing the same travel pattern, make sure to approach quietly, take your position at the end of the line and allow plenty of space to the nearest boat.
It's that crazy time of year at Boca Grande Pass, when the tarpon are thick and many anglers lose their common sense or fishing etiquette. For the past week or two FWC has been in or around the pass every day and they are boarding boats and checking that anglers are adhering to the newly adopted laws regarding bottom weighted tarpon jigs and break away gear. I am no expert in the new laws as that is not my style of tarpon fishing, but if you plan on fishing around the pass, I suggest you visit www.myfwc.com and check out the laws and regulations concerning tarpon fishing in the Pass.
Many tarpon are leaving the pass early in the mornings and spending the day in Charlotte Harbor. Most boats are working these fish with trolling motors and for the most part everyone has been courteous and working together. In the harbor, the tarpon are eating live crabs, thread herring, squirrel fish and pinfish. The bite wasn't great on most days, but those who consistently put in the effort were rewarded with a couple hook-ups. Many tarpon are also taking to the beaches along Cayo Costa and Gasparilla, the water is very clear making for some great sight and fly fishing opportunities.
As we would expect in June, there is plenty of sharks around of all sizes. The largest are following the tarpon schools, the smaller and mid-size are everywhere. Inshore, find a fishy grass flat in 4 to 10 of water and you will find sharks. There are so many in the 2 to 3-foot size it's often hard to catch anything else. Look for sharks over the same grass/sand bottom areas as trout, ladyfish, bluefish and mackerel.
With most anglers concentrating on tarpon, I haven't heard of many redfish reports.
A few mid to upper slot fish were caught south of Demere Key on the Pine Island Sound's south side and we spent one morning targeting reds and lucked into four whoppers that measured from 32 to 34 inches in Matlacha Pass that were caught on live threadfins.
When we get into this weather pattern with calm sunny mornings, soon followed by afternoon thunderstorms, its best to get out early and take advantage of it. Most days you can count on flats seas in the morning, making for an easy offshore run. No doubt it can get hot - bring plenty of drinking water and shade if you can. Watch the sky and plan on being back at the dock ahead of the afternoon thunderstorms
Have a safe week and good fishin'