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On the Water: It was a busy week out on the water

By Staff | Mar 25, 2020

As the warming trend continues, fish are getting hungry. Greg Middles-worth caught and released this nice redfish near Bokeelia while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

We enjoyed another week of sunny skies and warm weather on the waters of Southwest Florida. There were a lot of boats on the water all week and even more for the weekend — some fishing, others enjoying the outdoors. It was good to see people take a break to de-stress and enjoy our waters.

Offshore, apart from a couple breezy days, it was absolutely beautiful, and the water was often crystal clear. Fishing in 40-foot depths, we could watch the fish on bottom moving around our baits. Of course, it’s harder to fool the fish when the clarity is that good. Large bait pods were working depths from 20 to 40 feet and produced good action with Spanish mackerel. One captain reported while chumming up mackerel in 30-foot depths, blackfin tuna moved in. They hooked and landed a blackfin that scaled 20-plus pounds. Artificial reefs in 20 to 40-foot depths is a good place to begin your search. Be prepared for sharks as well.

Bottom fishing depths from 25 to 40 feet turned up sheepshead, snapper and grunts but not in the numbers of previous weeks. The sheepshead run is appearing to be near an end as they are running smaller and in lower numbers. About half our fish had already spawned and the other looked very near.

Further west in the Gulf, in depths from 70 to 110 feet, a good variety of fish were hooked. Species included red and scamp grouper, mangrove, lane and vermilion snapper, African pompano, porgy, triggerfish, amberjack, barracuda, king mackerel, goliath grouper and sharks. Fish were found over hard bottom, ledges and some of the large artificial reefs.

Spanish mackerel are plentiful around the Gulf passes as the incoming tide gave fast action for anglers trolling or drifting. Small mylar jigs and silver spoons were top baits when fished with a fast retrieve. Plenty of ladyfish were willing to play as well.

If you fished in our around Pine Island Sound or threw a cast net, you more than likely had issues with grass. Not sure of its proper name, I have known it as snot grass for as long as I can remember. It can make a cast net almost unusable after one throw and when suspended in the water column, it is very difficult to keep a bait, lure or line clean. As most know, if you want to catch anything but catfish, your bait needs to be clean.

So, if you could find clean water in the Sound, there were fish to be caught. Sharks from 3 to 6 feet and several tarpon were hooked in Pine Island Sound from Captiva Rocks south to the clam leases near Demere Key. Cut mullet and ladyfish were top baits.

With low tides for much of each day, anglers targeting snook and redfish hooked up while targeting sand holes and drop-offs along islands and keys on the eastern side of Pine Island Sound. This same area also yielded catch-and-release seatrout over grass bottom in 3 to 6-foot depths.

Anglers fishing Charlotte Harbor hooked into Spanish mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle north of Patricio Island, around oyster shoals off Bokeelia and across the harbor outside Turtle Bay. A few snook and redfish were also reported along shorelines around Bokeelia and Bull Bay.

In Matlacha Pass, snook, redfish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel were caught. Snook, redfish and jacks were found along deeper shorelines and oyster bars in north and south Matlacha Pass and Spanish mackerel were hooked from the Matlacha Drawbridge.

Snook, seatrout and redfish remain closed with catch and release only. Visit www.myfwc for all current fishing regulations.

With news, restrictions and closures changing daily, we aren’t sure what the next day holds. I could be wrong, but I do not know a better way to practice social distancing and clear your mind than a day on your boat or with nature. Like all of you, I well be glad when this is behind us and a since of normalcy returns.

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.