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Tarpon season reaches its peak in local waters

June 18, 2014
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Day or night, inshore or offshore, anglers found a variety of species to target. At times the bite was good, at times it was dismal, but overall it was good week on the water.

Inshore, tarpon continues as the big prize with the weekend full moon escalating hopes of a hot bite before the height of season begins to wind down. With the big moon falling on a weekend, many anglers took to Boca Grande Pass for the afternoon/evening hill tide. This is the strong falling tide that flushes bait, including small "pass" crabs through the pass and hopefully into awaiting tarpons' mouths. When the bite goes off it can get crazy. Most mornings tarpon are moving from the pass into Charlotte Harbor, and anglers have done equally well on crabs and thread herring. On the calm mornings, get away from the crowds, shut the boat down and watch for fish to surface. Pods of fish could also be located off the beaches; small live crabs were the best bet but hook-ups were also reported on herring and squirrelfish. At times, particularly on the incoming tide, the water is extremely clear, and a stealthy approach and lighter (60 lb. or less) fluorocarbon leader will increase your odds of a hook-up.

Nighttime anglers found cooperative tarpon in the Caloosahatchee River near the mouth and also around the C-span of the Sanibel Causeway and the Matlacha Drawdridge. Also at night from the river, several sawfish were caught and released while shark or tarpon fishing. After dark also turned up catches of bull and blacktip sharks to 6 feet while fishing dead bait either on bottom or suspended at mid-depth.

Article Photos

Mike Tavener of South Ft Myers scored with his first tarpon, a big girl that went well over 150 pounds. It was hooked on a thread herring in Charlotte while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.


There is a good hatch of small baitfish throughout the area, while most are still too little to catch and use for bait, gamefish are locating and foraging on the small fries. Mackerel, trout and a variety of other fish were caught around bait schools in and outside of Sanibel's Tarpon Bay, inside of Redfish and Captiva passes and west of Bokeelia along Bokeelia Shoals. Small spoons, small live pinfish and cut ladyfish or thread herring strips under a bobber worked well for everything from trout to sharks.

Redfish reports varied, but most that were caught were either near the upper end of the legal slot or oversize. The best bite was over the upper stages of the incoming tide. Fish were caught on the east wall of Charlotte Harbor up past Burnt Store Marina, Indian Fields and Smokehouse Bay of Matlacha Pas, and the islands north of Rocky Channel in Pine Island Sound.

Snook numbers are good on the beaches, however the clear water often makes it a real challenge enticing them to eat. They appear to be feeding on very small pilchards and glass minnows - a small lure or fly mimicking those two baits attached to a light fluorocarbon leader will increase your odds. Several snook in the 20-pound class were caught and released over the week, including at least one on a stretch of Sanibel Beach and others in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

Offshore, the ultra-short American red snapper season is over and pretty much anyone that went reported easy limits of fish in depths from 120 to 160 feet. Red grouper were also plentiful in the same depth if you could get your bait past the snapper. Also a good number of dolphin (mahi-mahi) were caught as schools showed up around boats fishing. Generally the fish we see at this distance are the very small peanuts, but many anglers lucked into schools of fish large enough for some tasty filets.

A little closer in red grouper to 31 inches were hooked from 65 to 80-foot depths, plus lane and mangrove snapper along with grunts, porgy and an occasional hog snapper. Schools of bonito and Spanish mackerel were also around bait schools from 30 to 60-foot depths.

As we reach the bottom half of the month, many anglers continue to focus on tarpon as the height of season nears an end. If you are not into the tarpon thing, this is a great time to go after other inshore species and pretty much have them all to yourself. It won't be long before the passes are empty and the inshore fishing pressure increases. Take advantage of the time while you can.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 238-283-7960, on the web at or email:

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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