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On the Water: Some areas fishy while others suffer

August 29, 2018
By Capt. Dick May , Pine Island Eagle

As we close out the month, the waters along are coast still have high concentrations of red tide in areas and algae blooms, plus fresh water releases from Lake Okeechobee continues to plague Southwest Florida. While some of our waters are clean and offer good fishing, other areas are still feeling the impact of toxic waters.

Areas in-shore where anglers found good water and hungry fish included the far eastern side of Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass from the powerlines north, plus the eastern half of Charlotte Harbor from Pirates Harbor to Bokeelia.

In Pine Island Sound, the best bet was fishing live or cut bait in sand or pot holes on the low water and working along shorelines mid-way up on the rising tide. The main catch was redfish, plus a few snook, sea trout and mangrove snapper. Sharks from 2 to 5 feet were also working these areas.

Article Photos

Cindy Caldren and family visiting from north Florida enjoyed a morning of fishing before returning home. Cindy caught and released this 24-inch trout in Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.


In Matlacha Pass, a mix of pompano, permit, redfish, sea trout, snapper, jack crevalle and bluefish were caught. Shrimp was the top bait, with cut mullet, live pilchards and pinfish, plus a mix of artificials all catching fish. Best fishing came along shoreline points, oyster bars and channel edges.

Across Charlotte Harbor, tarpon were sighted over the early morning hours between Burnt Store Marina and the point of Cape Haze. Schools of ladyfish were also in the same area. Spanish mackerel mixed with ladyfish, bluefish, jack crevalle and small sharks were hooked in 4 to 8 feet of water off bar edges near Bokeelia. Fishing from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier yielded mangrove snapper, pompano and a few big snook. Along the eastern side of the harbor, redfish and snook were concentrated along shoreline and Island Points.

Offshore, there were no reports inside of about 70 feet. Boats fishing from 70 out to deeper water caught a mix of bottom fish, including mangrove and lane snapper, grunts, triggerfish, lots of undersize grouper, plus a few keeper-size red grouper.

Since returning from vacation, I have stayed on my side of the island to fish. From Matlacha, to the west side of Bokeelia, and across the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor, that's the only area I have fished or seen for that matter. No dead fish, plenty of bait and decent fishing, no real reason to go anywhere else. Well, Friday I decided to round the corner and go take a look around the outer islands. I wished I would have stayed on my side of the island.

We started at Boca Grande Pass and it looked pretty good, clean water and plenty of healthy snook. As we headed south towards Captiva Pass running about a half mile off the beach, the further south we went the worse it got.

From the south end of Cayo Costa to Redfish Pass the Gulf was littered with dead fish as far as the eye could see. Fish of all species, including some big snook and goliath grouper. I can't even begin to tell you what the smell was like.

We headed in through Redfish Pass and north up the Sound and a lot of dead fish dotted the surface all the way to Useppa Island. I never knew there were so many puffer fish in our waters. As we were idling along Captiva Pass, we were witnessing sea robins and flounder coming up for their last living breath. You see it on the news or social media and hear people talking about it, but when you witness it first hand it really hits home. The sight and smell will stay with you for a long time.

I know things will improve, I like to keep this column positive. This area is getting a lot of national attention and many people and organizations are putting a lot of time and effort demanding change moving forward. It's going to take all of us to make that change happen. In the meantime, I sure hope conditions improve along the coast quickly.

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

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. 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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