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On the Water: Snook, redfish and seatrout closure extended

By Staff | Feb 26, 2020

Members of the Palmera Fishing Club in Estero took advantage of last week's great weather and sheepshead bite. They were fishing a few miles offshore of Cayo Costa State Park with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

We almost made it through the entire week with great weather and spring like conditions. Light wind and blue skies kept anglers smiling right up until Friday as strong winds and a cold front dropped in for the weekend.

Offshore, fishing for red grouper was good from depths beginning at 75 feet out to 100 plus with fish up to 30 inches boxed. Snapper, porgy and grunts were taken from those depths as well. Artificial reefs from 40 feet out to 90 feet held good numbers of barracuda, sharks, amberjack and goliath grouper — all hard-fighting, tackle-testing bruisers. Good size mangrove and yellowtail snapper were reported over the deeper wrecks.

The sheepshead bite was going strong near shore within sight of land, as fish were hooked in good numbers with several up to 6 pounds. I expect the next week or so the sheepshead bite will peak and then the decline will begin as they complete their annual spawn. Grunts and mangrove snapper were also caught, along with a good number of catch-and-release gray triggerfish. Spanish mackerel were often in large schools and a few permit were hooked as well. Anglers also hooked into Spanish mackerel just off the beaches near the gulf passes

Inshore, most of the sheepshead reports came from waters in or near the gulf islands and passes. The best bite came around structure with moving water. We had poor afternoon tides for many days that slowed the bite. For shore-bound anglers, sheepshead were hooked from the Sanibel and Bokeelia fishing piers.

With water temperature climbing above 75 degrees last week, the snook were hungry, as they were hooked on live pilchards, pinfish and lures. Again, tide or water movement played a factor, the more water moving the better the bite. Snook were caught and released from north Matlacha Pass, Bokeelia, in and around Jug Creek, Blind Pass and shorelines on the back or east side of Captiva and Cayo Costa islands.

Seatrout were hooked feeding over open water grass flats in Pine Island Sound south of the fish shacks and on the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway between the B and C spans. Jack crevalle, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and small sharks were hooked from the same areas. Most fish were hooked with live shrimp or Gulp shrimp under popping corks plus white shad tails and silver spoons. Large schools of big jack crevalle were located along the channel edges in north Matlacha Pass where any type off top water lure was instantly inhaled.

A couple tarpon hook-ups came from boats soaking cut mullet on bottom in Pine Island Sound and Big San Carlos Bay. Large stingrays and sharks also took the baits.

Last week the FWC (Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission) extended the current closure on snook, red fish and seatrout for our waters around Southwest Florida. This is the update from the FWC website:

The FWC Commission listened to public testimony on and discussed several marine fisheries management items at the Feb. 19-20 meeting in Tallahassee.

Snook, Red Drum and Seatrout SW Florida Update: Current catch-and-release measures for snook, red drum, and spotted seatrout will be extended for an additional year (through May 31, 2021) in all waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. These fisheries have been catch-and-release due to impacts from a prolonged red tide that lasted from November 2017 through February 2019.

This news may be upsetting to some, but most people in touch with our local fisheries took it as good news and much needed. Yes, our fish are making a comeback after a severe decline, however the numbers are nowhere near where they should be or what we have experienced in the past. With another year to grow and breed, our snook, redfish and trout numbers should continue to increase at a good rate. In the meantime, enjoy catch-and-release fishing for the three species, and experiment with some new fish for the dinner table.

You can go to www.myfwc.com for all the current regulations.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fishpineisland.com; or via email at gcl2fish@live.com. Holiday gift certificates are available.

Have a safe week and good fishin’.

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.