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On the Water: Fishing is improving with the weather

March 9, 2016
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Overall, the weather was good over the past week and fishing wasn't too bad either. Reports were good and getting better through the week then the bite slowed through the weekend as a weak cool front moved through.

Trout fishing was on the rise throughout Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and areas of Matlacha Pass. Trout were not only caught in good numbers but also in size with plenty of fish over 20 and up to 24 inches reported. In the Sound, trout were caught throughout the area including deep sand holes off the shallow flats on low water and grass flats from 4-6 feet in depth. Similar type terrain yielded trout off the shorelines around Charlotte Harbor. In Matlacha Pass, trout were caught while targeting oyster bars or drifting over 3 to 5-bottom near the powerlines south of the bridge.

Live shrimp and shrimp imitations were the best baits for trout. On the cooler days or mornings with water temperature 65 or below, the best bet to get a strike was keeping the bait low, near or on bottom and either letting it sit or working very slow.

Article Photos

Steve Kreuger caught this 24-inch redfish while targeting snook with live pilchards for bait. Steve was fishing near Cayo Costa State Park with Capt. Bill Russell.

Photo provided

We are beginning to hear a few more reports of redfish than previous weeks. Reds up to 30 inches were caught along shorelines and sand potholes in mid Pine Island Sound and across Charlotte Harbor around Bull Bay. Live shrimp, cut mullet, and weedless gold spoons were top baits.

Snook season opened on the first but there isn't much to report. A decent number of small fish were caught and a few slot or keeper snook hooked but the weather temperature is still a little cool. I have seen a lot of snook in their usual haunts and expect the bite to heat up as the water temperature continues to rise.

Finally starting to hear of few angers catching pompano - it's been pretty slow going the past few months so it's good news. Most have come from the western side of Pine Island Sound while targeting either trout or sheepshead with the same shrimp rigs. A few permit up to 5 pounds were also caught.

Good reports of sheepshead came from nearshore reefs and structure around the Gulf passes. Fish to 20 inches were caught under docks from Sanibel north to Boca Grande; fish up to 18 inches were caught in Gulf waters from the Causeway Reef north the Belton Johnson Reef. Small live shrimp or cut shrimp on a small jig worked best.

Last week gave us several flat, calm days offshore and anglers turned in a wide variety of catches. Large amberjack were hooked over structure in depths around a hundred feet, red grouper and big mangrove snapper were reported from 70 to 90-foot depths and a few cobia and king mackerel were hooked in the same areas. Closer to shore (including the same areas mentioned for sheepshead), mangrove snapper, grunts, hogfish, Spanish mackerel and bonito or false albacore were caught. Often anchoring up current of structure and hanging a chum bag off the stern helped concentrate the fish.

We made it a week with no rain and the water is really beginning to clear in many areas. The areas I fished in Matlacha Pass, Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor are looking good; I have heard offshore waters are looking good as well. Bait fish have been sparse but that should change very soon as the water warms. Overall it's looking good and I expect fishing to continue to improve.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, on the Web at or email:

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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