With summer heating up, fishing both inshore and offshore continues to move along with good reports of snapper inshore and gag grouper season once again open in state waters of the gulf.
Limits of gag grouper were reported as close as 7 miles off the beaches all the way out to 120 feet, and many areas in between. Trolling deep diving lures or dropping hand-size pinfish over limestone ledges took gags to 24 inches a short distance off beaches and well in sight of the Captiva Islands. Limits of gags up to 28 inches were caught in 70 to 80-foot depths west of Sanibel with large pinfish, sand perch, thread herring and small blue runners the top baits. Several nice red grouper up to 24 inches were also taken with the gags. Farther west in depths from 100 to 120 feet, gags up to 32 inches were boated plus big red grouper and mangrove snapper with a few well over 20 inches. Mutton snapper were also hooked in depths exceeding 120 feet. Live baits, including pinfish, large thread herring, Spanish sardines and grunts, did most of the damage, with large jig/squid combos also taking some fish. The bite was often reported as off and on throughout each day, either the fish were eating everything or nothing. Go to www.myfwc.com for up to date grouper regulations.
For action look for bonito and Spanish mackerel harassing bait schools offshore in depths between 35 and 80 feet. Trolling silver spoons or Tuna Jets in various colors has brought instant hookups when trolled around feeding activity. Watch for birds and surface commotion to locate the fish.
On vacation for the July 4th holiday, Connor, 7, and Paige, 11, Warmus of Sheboygan, Wis., got to spend a morning fishing around Pine Island. They teamed up with their father and grandfather to catch a nice mess of mangrove snapper for dinner while fishing with Captain Bill Russell.
Snook continue as a good bet along the beaches, either walking the surf or fishing from a boat. On the light wind days the fish are easily visible just a few feet off the beach. Snook up to 36 inches were caught and released on small live pilchards, 1/4 ounce white bucktail jigs, 3-inch Riptide Mullet lures and small white Deceiver and Clouser Flies. A few hotspots included Bowman's Beach on Sanibel, Blind Pass on the Sanibel/Captiva Line and north or Upper Captiva.
Mangrove snapper were also found in good numbers under the bridge, and around docks and rock jetties at Blind Pass.
Inshore, the mangrove snapper bite continues to heat up as fish to 15 inches were caught from Matlacha Pass, Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and around the gulf passes. A variety of baits including shrimp, pilchards, herring, small pinfish and cut bait have enticed fish around docks, piers, bridges, under deeper mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, sand potholes and rock ledges in and near the passes.
Mangrove snapper are one of our tastier fish and fight really hard for their size and make a great summer target. They are often leader and hook shy, if the water is clear it's necessary to lighten the tackle. Inshore, I generally go with a couple feet pf 20lb fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 circle hook.
Sharks are another summertime favorite. A variety of species both large and small are common catches both inshore and off. While they are a nuisance for some, many anglers target them for their fighting ability. Sharks play an important role in our ecosystem; please make every effort to quickly release them unharmed.
Every kid loves to catch a shark of any size, now is a good time, just make sure and do it safely for both the angler and the shark.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.