On the Water: It was a beautiful week on the water
Overall it was a great week on the water with plenty of sunshine and blue skies. Bottom fishing was good in Gulf waters and the inshore bite was on and off depending on the tides.
In the Gulf of Mexico, fishing depths from 80 to 110 feet yielded red grouper, a mixed snapper bag consisting of mangrove, lane, yellowtail and vermilion, plus porgy and grunts. Sharks and amberjack were also caught and released. Within sight of land in depths from 30 to 50 feet, large sheepshead, plus mangrove snapper and grunts were caught along with smaller red and gag grouper. We fished in 40-foot depths several days early in the week and boated some of the biggest sheepshead of the season. Tripletail up to 10 pounds were hooked around buoys and a few schooling bonito were sight fished busting bait schools.
Spanish mackerel up to 24 inches were caught outside or on the Gulf side of north Captiva Island, Cayo Costa State Park and Captiva Pass. Silver spoons, live shrimp and pilchards worked best.
Schooling baitfish made their appearance in Pine Island Sound with warmer waters over the week. On the moving water or good tides, snook were hungry across Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor. While targeting Island Points and oyster bars, snook up to 37 inches were caught and released. Best baits included live shrimp, pilchards and Rapala X-rap or Shallow rap lures. In Pine Island Sound, redfish from 16 to 30 inches were caught and released from the same areas, and reds to 26 inches were reported inside the bars on the east and west walls of Charlotte Harbor. Like snook, redfish are also catch and release only.
Hard-fighting jack crevasse were often found in good numbers and size in Matlacha Pass, the Sound and Harbor. Many were hooked while targeting snook in areas mentioned plus along residential canals, the Matlacha Drawbridge and Bokeelia fishing pier. For just pure fun, I don’t believe there is a harder fighting fish in our inshore waters.
A few anglers sight fished cobia following stingrays around Charlotte Harbor. On a sunny day with light winds, they are fairly easy to locate as the water in the Harbor is crystal clear. Also, a few tripletail were sight fished in mid-Pine Island Sound as they were sunning on their side under the surface.
While the size wasn’t as large inshore, the sheepshead bite is still on. Fish up to 15 inches were caught around the Gulf passes, both the Sanibel and Bokeelia fishing piers, plus the Matlacha Drawbridge. Small live shrimp was the bait of choice, with a few pompano, flounder, black drum and mangrove snapper also caught.
Spotted seatrout were hit and miss but appears to be improving slightly. The reports I received came from south Matlacha Pass near the powerlines, south of Demere Key in the Sound, and upper Pine Island Sound. Fish ranged from 13 to 22 inches and reports were scattered.
Florida Fish and Wildlife imposed a new regulation that we may not harvest any seatrout over 20 inches. One fish of your limit of four previously could measure over 20 inches. There is still a four fish limit per person measuring between 15 and 20 inches. All seatrout measuring over 20 inches must be handled with care and released
This is a good rule and should have been implemented years ago. These large fish are the breeders and carry thousands of eggs, plus they have beaten the odds to grow to this size, so they have good genetics. FWC listened to the concerns of anglers about the lack of trout catches after the summers red tide and took appropriate action.
I love this time of year when our waters begin to make the transition out of winter to spring. You could really see it this week as bait schools arrived in good numbers, birds are active everywhere, along with manatees and dolphin. We might still see a couple late season cool fronts to set us back a day or two, but our fishing will only get better in the upcoming weeks. Get out there and enjoy it!
If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, via the Website www.fishpineisland.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.