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On the Water: Tarpon are moving into area waters

April 20, 2016
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

For the most part, the week brought us decent weather allowing anglers to go after a host of species both inshore and off. We had a few windy days but also days with calm seas and plenty of sunshine.

Offshore, a wide variety of fish were hooked over the week. Red grouper to 15 pounds and large amberjack were boated a good distance offshore in depths from 90 to 140 feet. Live blue runners, pinfish and thread herring were the top baits. Artificial reefs and natural reliefs in depths from 30 to 50 feet yielded a mix of bottom fish including mangrove snapper, sheepshead, porgy, grunts and a few flounder. Flat lining live baits into the current did the trick to hook speedy king and Spanish mackerel, plus cobia. Permit were also hanging over structure where small live crabs enticed some good catches. Hammerhead and tiger sharks were also either hooked or sighted.

The tarpon bite heated up this week with good numbers of fish showing off the Sanibel and Captiva beaches, between St. James and the Sanibel Causeway, mid-Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor, and Boca Grande Pass. A large influx of Atlantic threadfin schools invaded inshore waters over the week, fishing around them is always a good place to locate tarpon.

Article Photos

John Morris, visiting from Pittsburgh, enticed this 29-inch snook while casting a live shiner under the mangroves. John was fishing Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.


In general, inshore fishing was good at times and slow at others; tides more than likely played a factor as there were multiple hours with little water movement. Snook fishing was good with water movement and a little breeze with lots of mostly undersized fish were caught and released from Blind Pass to Wulfert Keys on the bay side of Sanibel.

Good action, again with mostly undersized fish, was reported from Charlotte Harbor's eastern side near Burnt Store Marina and across the harbor around Turtle Bay. Bigger snook are showing up around the gulf passes where fish to 36 inches were hooked on the afternoon falling tide.

Redfish have been a challenge for many; they just don't appear to be in the numbers we are accustomed to for April. A few slot fish were caught in south Matlacha Pass and north Pine Island Sound but better results appear to be coming from Charlotte Harbor up past Burnt Store Marina and from Turtle and Bull Bays.

Trout fishing was steady with a good number of fish averaging 14 to 16 inches, plus a few larger fish to 24 inches. The bite was often slow with the poor tides and much better with moving water. Inshore water clarity has improved dramatically and possibly put fish on the move, look for the bigger fish off island points, oyster bars, and sand potholes.

Good size Spanish mackerel were hooked in the Harbor near Bokeelia, about a half mile inside Captiva Pass and the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway. Live baits or casting and trolling silver spoons worked best. The biggest challenge with catching mackerel is keeping the dolphin away. They are very smart and know a tired fish is an easy meal and despite how cool they are, they're really becoming a pain. It's often best to just start up and move, but odds are if you don't go far, they will just follow you or a new group will be waiting at the next stop. Oh well, at least they are always smiling.

With the slow moving water, snapper fishing was good in the gulf passes where fish to 14 inches were boated with live shrimp for bait. If you are fishing in or near Boca Grande Pass, the seasonal tarpon rules are in effect. If you are tarpon fishing or not, you can only have three lines in the water at one time. It doesn't make a lot of sense if you are snapper fishing but that's the rules, and there is an officer in the pass enforcing it about every day, so beware.

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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