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On the Water: Red tide still lingering in Southwest Florida waters

November 30, 2016
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Over the past week, red tide again played a factor in fishing as anglers continued to express concerns over dead fish, an itchy throat and a slow bite. Red tide is a naturally-occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the toxic microscopic algae Karenia brevis. In some areas I fished near Bokeelia and in Charlotte Harbor, bait would die instantly in the live well, but less than a mile away bait stayed alive and fishing was decent.

Many anglers report better fishing in the southern portion of Pine Island Sound. Sea trout to 18 inches were caught over grass flats in 4 to 6-foot depths. Also mixed in were ladyfish, jack crevalle and a few Spanish mackerel. Live shrimp suspended under popping corks were the bait of choice.

As the water warmed after Thanksgiving, snook were caught along shorelines near Galt Island and north of Demere Key, plus several redfish to 28 inches were hooked on the higher tide fishing mangrove shorelines with cut bait or gold spoons. Several redfish ranging from 17-24 inches were caught along islands and oyster bars between the Punta Rasa boat ramp and St. James.

Article Photos

Ken Gunderson of South Fort Myers won the battle with this hard-fighting 33-inch redfish. The red was caught and released in south Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.


Sheepshead are beginning to make their inshore presence as fish to 4 pounds were caught around oyster bars and docks in south Matlacha Pass, around St. James and in the sound from Blind to Redfish passes. Live or cut shrimp was the bait of choice. Look for sheepshead fishing to get better and better over the next month.

Good numbers of undersized gag grouper plus a couple keepers measuring over 24 inches were caught around Captiva Pass while drifting live pinfish over the deeper holes of the Pass.

In gulf waters, tripletail were sighted along Sanibel's idle buoys and stone crab trap lines from Bowman's Beach and to the south. Live shrimp and flies mimicking small crabs were top baits.

Gag grouper to 30 inches were taken while trolling deep-diving lures in 30 to 40-foot depths off Sanibel with red and white the top producing colors. Gag grouper were also reported west of Captiva in depths from 45 to 60 feet along with a mix of red grouper, mangrove snapper and grunts. A few king mackerel to 20 pounds were also taken either while trolling or with a live bait on a flat line while fishing structure.

Our weather's been fantastic with sunny mild days with light winds, if we could just get that toxic algae to clear up everything would be great. With the great weather many anglers are opting to run offshore with good results. If you are fishing inshore and you feel like your fishing in an area is being affected by the red tide, pick up and run a little distance, keep moving until you find unaffected areas. That's where you'll find the hungry fish.

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'.

As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.



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