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On the Water: Summer fishing has arrived in Southwest Florida

June 25, 2014
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

The official start to summer brought sunny warm days and an overall good weekend to spend on the water. Early morning high tides brought the best opportunities for inshore action, followed by a noticeably slower bite during the mid-day falling and low tide.

Charlotte Harbor continues to hold a good number of tarpon as fish move east from Boca Grande Pass during the early morning hours. At times they were chewing pretty good and others times were not interested in any type bait.

That's typical for tarpon - consistently inconsistent. As usual, in the harbor the best baits were small live crabs, live Atlantic thread herring, squirrel fish and mojarra. Hook-ups were also reported on soft plastics that mimicked herring and shad.

Article Photos

While vacationing in Matlacha, Amelia Swetnam of Grand Junction, Colo., won the battle with this big 33-inch redfish. She caught and released the big red on a live herring while fishing Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.


Early morning was also the best time for tarpon along the beaches as pods of fish were reported from Blind Pass north to Johnson Shoals.

Catch and release snook fishing continues strong in and near the gulf passes and on the beaches. Fish averaging 24 to 26 inches were caught on live pilchards and pilchard imitating flies around downed trees and rock piles and open stretches of beach from Sanibel north to Cayo Costa.

A few larger snook over 40 inches were also released, plus trout, snapper and a few flounder. The beaches are loaded with schools of small pilchards - they are fishable and easy to cast net, but you will need a quarter-inch mesh to prevent gilling them and have a real mess to clean up. These little pilchards are like candy to mangrove snapper.

Speaking of snapper, the summer inshore snapper action heated up over the past week with fish up to 16 inches caught throughout the inshore waters. Look for snapper around any type structure, oyster bars and under the mangroves on the higher tides. Many nice snapper are caught while targeting redfish; scale down your hook and bait size and chances are good that you will put a mess of nice snapper in the cooler to go with the redfish.

Trout fishing has been hit or miss, it's been pretty easy to catch a bunch but more difficult to catch a bunch of legal size. A few notable areas where good numbers of keeper size fish were reported included the grass flats surrounding Captiva Rocks, grass flats on the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway and around structure along the beaches.

Favorite baits included small live pilchards and pinfish, plus Berkley Gulp Shad, all suspended under rattling or popping corks.

The morning incoming tide also brought good action with Spanish mackerel and small sharks near Bokeelia in Charlotte Harbor. Some days the mackerel action was good and others they were hard to find. The sharks are averaging 2 to 4 feet and are a ton of fun if you have kids on board.

Michael Schulte from the Bokeelia Pier reports good fishing for customers with a variety. Mangrove snapper up to 16 inches were a common catch as well as catch-and-release snook to 27 inches. Trout, with an average size of 18 inches were also frequent catches. All were either caught on the small pilchards that are common around the pier or live shrimp.

Sharks large and small were hooked, including hammerhead and nurse sharks, plus tarpon sighting were frequent.

If you do not have a boat and are looking for a great place to wet a line, you should give the Bokeelia Pier a try, it's one of those places where you never know what may swim through.

Offshore, calm summer mornings make for a quick run to the grouper grounds from 60 to 100-foot depths. Red grouper were boated over various types of natural and manmade bottom with live bait including pinfish, thread herring and grunts working best, and jigs tipped with large strips of squid or mullet also a good choice. Near shore reefs and ledges are holding mangrove snapper with good catches reported when anchoring up tide and hanging a chum bag over the side.

When we get into an early summer weather pattern with calm sunny mornings followed by afternoon thunderstorms, it's best to get out early and take advantage of it.

Most days you can count on flat seas in the morning, making for an easy offshore run or slick calm inshore waters. 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.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, or

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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