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On the Water: What a week on the water

By Staff | Mar 18, 2020

Nick Mohar, Kathy Gabric and Rocky Meyer of St. James City took advantage of Sunday's great weather and fishing. They were fishing in 40-foot depths west of Captiva with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Wow! What a beautiful week it was on the waters around Southwest Florida. There were a lot of boats and our waters were busy. Hopefully everyone was decompressing from all the negative news of late. Fishing wasn’t too bad either for a variety of fish.

The sheepshead bite was strong all week following the full moon as they are finishing up mating duties. Good numbers and size were caught inshore around the Gulf islands and offshore out to 40-foot depths on hard bottom and reefs. Often the fish were congregated around some type of structure, such as a dock, ledge or maybe an area of an artificial reef. Our best results came by fishing an area and if the results weren’t good moving and repeating until we found a steady bite. Inshore, and around the Gulf passes, the water was very clear at times making it possible to see the fish around structure.

Spanish mackerel action was also very good in areas of Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and the passes. Every day the water temperature rises, more bait fish are arriving. Look for mackerel around bait schools. You often see them rocketing from the water or busting the surface. Birds are a great indicator as well. Over the weekend lots of bait schools were reported from a mile out to five miles from shore in the Gulf waters, inshore in Pine Island Sound and outside the passes.

As expected, with the mild weather the snook bite was heating up. Good numbers of fish with several measuring over 30 inches were caught and released across Charlotte Harbor near Bull Bay, Matlacha Pass, the eastern side of Pine Island Sound and Blind Pass. Light wind and calm water allowed for some hard strikes for anglers casting top-water lures early and late in the day for snook and some big trout. Over the course of the day, most snook were hooked on live pinfish, pigfish, pilchards and hand-pick shrimp.

Pine Island Sound is holding good concentrations or schools of seatrout running from 12 to 16 inches. Most were found over grassy areas in depths from 4 to 7 feet. Ladyfish, bluefish and mackerel were also hooked from these areas. Similar action, along with a few pompano, was reported from the Gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway while drifting similar bottom and depths.

Some large seatrout with a few over 24 inches were released from north Matlacha Pass, the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor and mid-Pine Island Sound. Some were hooked while targeting snook and others found around oyster bars and sand holes. Redfish, with size running anywhere from 16 to 30 inches were also caught and released from the same areas reported for snook and the larger trout.

Season remains closed for snook, seatrout and redfish in our local waters with catch and release only. You can visit www.myfwc.com for all current regulations.

Numbers of sharks and tarpon are on the rise as sharks were hooked inshore from Charlotte Harbor south to San Carlos, in the Gulf passes and over artificial reefs offshore. Several tarpon were sighted, hooked or jumped in Pine Island Sound south of the fish shacks, south of the powerlines, inside the C-span of the Sanibel Causeway and off Knapp’s Point. If the warming trend continues, look for tarpon numbers to increase as well as their appetite.

Offshore, the weather was perfect for those running into the Gulf, and many returned with a box of fish. Red grouper up to 12 pounds were boxed while fishing hard and swiss cheese bottom in depths from 75 to 90 feet. Mangrove and lane snapper, grunts, porgy, triggerfish and scamp were caught from these depths as well. A few king mackerel were hooked plus barracuda and bonito.

I hope everyone gets a chance to spend some time on the water, it eases the mind and soul to separate from the crowds and media. No worries if the store has toilet paper, is the traffic through Matlacha backed up or what time the supermarket closes. Just you and nature. Plus, you are doing the right thing and social distancing yourself. Give it a try, you well be glad you did.

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.

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.