On the Water: May means great weather, fewer boats and good fishing
The month of May kicks off our slow season in Southwest Florida as neighbors and visitors head north for the summer. Just as our roads and restaurants become less congested, far less boats are on the water. While tourist season may be slowing down, fishing may be at its peak without the crowds of winter months.
I would have to say this is the best time to hook into a tarpon, as they move into Southwest Florida waters by the thousands. Look for them a short distance off the beaches, around the Gulf passes and bridges, plus throughout the inshore waters. Tarpon eat a wide variety of bait, however at times they will not eat anything you offer. Live baits, including crabs, Atlantic thread herring, pinfish and large shrimp, are top choices while a variety of cut bait, including mullet, ladyfish, and catfish tails, hook more than their share.
Sharks large and small are roaming the inshore waters, around the Gulf passes and offshore around schooling baitfish and reefs. Large hammerhead and bull sharks follow tarpon schools awaiting their next meal. Spinner and blacktip sharks are almost identical in appearance and both offer an incredibly hard fight, often with a great aerial show. If you are fishing an area and hooking ladyfish or mackerel, you can be assured sharks are nearby. A chunk of ladyfish is sure to get attention, use a minimum of a foot or two of wire leader to prevent cut offs.
Spanish mackerel is an underrated fish that gives an excellent fight as they are super-fast and strong. When Iced down as soon as they are caught and eaten fresh, they are very good on the table. Good numbers of schooling mackerel frequent areas just outside or inside the Gulf passes, around bridges and artificial reefs within sight of land. Either trolling or casting silver spoons with a fast retrieve is the top method for consistently hooking mackerel.
Mangrove snapper may be our tastiest fish and at times the most abundant. As our waters warm, snapper in the Gulf of Mexico move closer to shore, plus many relocate to our inshore waters. What snapper lack in size they make up for in tenacity and food value, plus they may be the easiest fish to target. Many anglers catch their fair share from land while targeting bridges, docks and piers. Live shrimp is the top bait, a small hook and light leader is a must to fool their keen eyesight.
This spring has given us good snook fishing and the bite will continue through the month of May. Many are on the move, as they head to areas in and near the passes for their upcoming summer spawn. Snook may range in size from little guys barely over a foot long to big girls over 40 inches. While snook will pounce on a variety of lures and baits, live oily baitfish, including scaled sardines or pilchards, Atlantic thread herring and grunts or pigfish, are the top baits. Snook are out of season and catch and release only.
For a variety of fish, nearshore artificial reefs are a great place to look. Here you may hook into about anything from smaller fish like snapper to huge goliath grouper and everything in between. An assortment of tackle from light to heavy, a variety of bait and an open mind is the key to taking advantage of what these areas offer on any given day. Reefs are a great place to experiment and try different things while keeping your eyes open for unexpected visitors. Permit should make their way to many of the reefs this month. While they will eat a live shrimp, they seldom pass on a small live crab.
May will give us consistent days of great weather with blue skies and light wind. Our summer afternoon thunderstorm pattern will kick in so always keep an eye on the sky to stay ahead of an approaching storm. Good weather and the potential for great fishing, what’s not to like about the month! Hope to see ya on the water.
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.