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On the Water: You have to fish early to beat the heat

June 28, 2017
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Again this week and typical for summer, fishing reports were all over the place. Early in the week we dealt with wind and rain then settled into a typical summer pattern heading into the weekend. Reports varied from great to mediocre to not so good.

As the winds subsided and seas settled, boats off all sizes ventured into gulf waters. Fishing depths between 65 and 95 feet, red grouper to 12 pounds were boxed with many boats limiting out. Favored baits included live pinfish, thread herring, white nylon jigs fished with a mullet strip and Diamond jigs. Fishing lighter tackle over the same bottom yielded a mix of snapper, porgies and grunts. Further offshore, red snapper were reported along with a few large gag grouper and mangrove snapper.

Most of the tarpon action continued just off the beaches and around the passes. Early mornings found tarpon pods west of Boca Grande Pass and a mile or less from the beach in either direction. Top baits included small live crabs, thread herring and squirrel fish. Further south, tarpon were hooked on cut bait fished on bottom north of Captiva Pass and south of Redfish Pass a short distance off the beach.

Article Photos

On a recent windy morning, Laurie Russell of Matlacha caught and released this 32-inch redfish off a mangrove shoreline on Cayo Costa State Park. She was fishing with husband Capt. Bill Russell.


Catch-and-release snook action was good with the best bite coming early to mid-morning and then over the late afternoon falling tide. Snook to 39 inches were released from areas inside Captiva and Redfish passes, and fish to 38 inches were hooked along shorelines near the mouth of the Caloosa-hatchee River. Smaller fish often gave steady action from the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge to Blind Pass, along the beaches of Sanibel and Cayo Costa State Park, just outside Bull and Turtle bays, and along Charlotte Harbors eastern shore near Burnt Store Marina. Baits included live pinfish, pigfish (grunts), pilchards and herrings, plus artificial including DOA Airheads, YoZuri Crystal Minnows and white deceiver or clouser flies.

Redfish were also caught with snook in a few of the previously mentioned areas including Bull and Turtle bay, outside "Ding" Darling and the mouth of the Caloosa-hatchee River. With the strong incoming tides, reds to 31 inches were boated while targeting island points in mid-Pine Island Sound. Best baits included live and cut pinfish, cut ladyfish and small blue crabs cut in half.

Mangrove snapper to 15 inches were caught inshore around areas near the mouth of the Caloosa-hatchee River, throughout Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound, and near Captiva and Boca Grande passes. Baits of choice included live shrimp, pilchards, small pinfish and a variety of cut baits. A little chumming often helped to get the bite started.

Fishing around showering schools of baitfish resulted in hook-ups with trout, bluefish, snapper, ladyfish and small sharks in areas near the channel in north Matlacha Pass, between St. James City and Sanibel's Tarpon Bay, inside Redfish Pass and in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. Watch for birds diving and surface activity to locate the action.

With the summer days settling in, it can get really hot on the water. It's easy to get caught in the moment while chasing tarpon or catching fish and lose track of time. That's not a bad thing as long as you make an effort to continuously hydrate with water - drink and drink often. Always bring way more water than you think you will need and make sure all aboard drink it, especially the youngsters. Becoming dehydrated in the heat of the day can become very serious, but it's very easy to avoid, just bring water and drink it!

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at Gulf Coast Guide Service 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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