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On the Water: Bite is heating up with the weather

February 14, 2018
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Finally, a week of warm weather and blue skies warmed up the waters around Southwest Florida and put a smile on many anglers.

Inshore water temperatures climbed above 70 degrees resulting in a consistent bite and lots of little bait fish moving into the area. By weeks end there were times you could literally see an acre or more of fish busting bait on the surface at once. Most were ladyfish, a great sign that spring is on the way. Just for the fun of catching, ladyfish are hard to beat, hard fighting with lots of jumps and plentiful. Schools were reported from North Matlacha Pass all the way around Charlotte Harbor to the west side of Bokeelia. The gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway and around Hell's Half Acre inside of Captiva Pass also held schooling "ladies."

Spanish mackerel are beginning to show inshore as they were hooked in the same areas as the ladies, plus inside of Redfish Pass and off the east side of Punta Blanca Island near Cayo Costa State Park. Also, plenty of bonnet head sharks averaging from 2 to 4 feet were hooked throughout Pine Island Sound. Shrimp under a popping cork was the best bait to hook a bonnet head.

Article Photos

Great weather and good fishing

That's what Susan Beaudry of Cape Coral experienced Saturday as her catch included this 23-inch spotted sea trout. She was fishing in northern Pine Island Sound with Capt. Bill Russell.


We really noticed a boost in the trout fishing over the week, not in just number but size. Many fish are running 17 inches or larger and fish over 20 inches are becoming common. A variety of baits, including live shrimp and pilchards, top water lures and various soft plastics, did the trick for fish up to 24 inches. This is a sure sign the larger fish of spring are on their way.

With water in the low to mid-70s, snook are coming out of their winter hiding with an increasing appetite. Snook were found on both sides of Pine Island Sound and around Blind Pass and Roosevelt Channel at Captiva. Season is closed until next month but they're still a blast to catch when they get on a good feed, just make sure to quickly release them.

Redfish action was spotty, with the larger fish falling for cut bait on the shallows. Tailing and waking fish were found along the eastern wall of Pine Island Sound and near Bull Bay in Charlotte Harbor but were skittish and often hard to entice with a bait. Smaller, most under 18-inch fish were hooked in the creeks of "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge and on the back side of north Captiva near Foster's Point. Shrimp was the best bait for the smaller fish.

Nearshore reefs produced steady action for the offshore boats. Dropping shrimp to the bottom resulted in mixed bag catches of sheepshead, snapper, margate grunts, grouper, and a few Spanish mackerel. Season is closed but a few gags over 25 inches were caught and released and a lot more rocked up and broke off on the nearshore reefs. Further offshore the red grouper bite was steady in depths between 80 and 110 feet. Most anglers that made a day of it came home with a limit. Lane and mangrove, plus porgies and grunts were also caught with the grouper.

Also offshore, many anglers are targeting tripletail with success running depths anywhere from just off the beach out to 50 feet. Look for them on the trap lines; they will eat an artificial that mimics a crustacean, but a properly placed live shrimp is deadly. Bait pods are moving up the coast and a few boats found bonito to 10 pounds plus sharks around the pods.

This week you could feel and sense the changing of seasons, as the temperature rises the water is coming to life. Let's hope this trend continues as it could bring some great fishing in the upcoming weeks.

If you have a fishing report of for charter information, please contact us at: Gulf Coast Guide Service, phone: 239-283-7960, Website: 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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