Little wind and flat, calm seas are both good and bad - it's good for making long comfortable runs offshore, but in the middle of summer, without a breeze, it can get scorching hot on the water. We had several of those days over the past week, with little to no wind from morning to early afternoon before the afternoon sea breeze kicked in. Calm water allowed boats of all sizes to venture into the Gulf, and an average grouper bite was reported by most. Inshore, the best action was early morning on the shallower flats, then fishing deeper water during the heat of the day.
Gag grouper up to 28 inches were caught as close to shore as 45-foot depths on out to 90-plus feet - the deeper the water the larger the fish on average. Most were taken over natural structure, primarily limestone ledges, with live bait fished on a heavy jig or on a circle hook under a large sinker. Pinfish, grunts and large thread herrings were the top baits. Watch for huge schools of thread herring pushing across the surface on the calm mornings. Red grouper were also found in depths from 58 to 75 feet west/southwest of the Sanibel Lighthouse, live bait also worked best. Smaller bait and tackle also yielded lane snapper and grunts from the same area. Several cobia were also boated by grouper diggers not too far from the ARC reef, and mangrove snapper fishing was consistent over structure.
Inshore, despite less than ideal water conditions, fishing wasn't too bad for many species. Mangrove snapper are showing about everywhere - docks, bridges, oyster bars, shorelines, potholes, the passes. Chances are good if you go fishing you will catch a snapper. Redfish were caught on the upper stages of tides in Pine Island Sound around Wulfert and Buck keys near Sanibel and Captiva, and further north around Black Island west of Pineland. Also, reds were reported across the harbor in Turtle Bay. With the warm days and at times dirty water, reds are feeding more by smell than sight, cut bait often worked best to get the scent in the water. Medium-sized pinfish with the tail cut off and ladyfish steaks worked well, but be prepared to also catch a lot of unwanted catfish and stingrays.
Although there were a few large trout up to 22 inches caught, the overall trout bite was nothing to write home about. The best bet is to search for the clearest water you can find over grass flats in 5 to 8-foot depths. On the days with slower moving current, it often pays to fish flats near the passes where the water movement is stronger.
Spanish mackerel were a pleasant surprise over inshore flats around Charlotte Harbor and near the Sanibel Causeway. The best bite was over the incoming tide with a few big macks pushing 30 inches. For baits, live pinfish and pilchards fished under a float or free lined worked best, or small silver spoons with a fast retrieve. Pompano catches were also reported just off the beaches near Boca Grande and Blind Pass. Fish to 3 pounds were hooked while fishing shrimp, sand fleas and Silly Willy Jigs.
Summer is moving fast and the kids are back in school before you know it. If you get a chance, take a kids fishing before the classrooms open.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.