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On the Water: April might be top month for fishing in Southwest Florida

By Staff | Apr 1, 2020

Tarpon are here! Capt. Cliff Simer picked a fight with this big tarpon in Charlotte Harbor over a busy boating weekend. PHOTO PROVIDED

Let’s think positive and look forward to great fishing opportunities that may present themselves over the upcoming month.

If I had to choose one month of the year to fish in Southwest Florida, it would be hard to pass on the month of April. As we transition into spring, our coastal waters are warming, and fish are moving and hungry. Weather is generally great for the month with light winds and mild sunny days, plus not much threat of daily thunderstorms. Also, until the summer rains begin, inshore waters are the clearest we will see all year.

Anglers will hook into the largest seatrout of the year with many going well over 20 inches and a few pushing 30. Spanish mackerel are running large and schooling across our inshore waters, in the gulf passes and a short distance offshore. Bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle and sharks are often mixed with the mackerel. In gulf waters, king mackerel, often large, also follow the Spanish mackerel. If you want to tug on something larger, toss a larger bait out for a big cobia or shark when you get mackerel or other fish biting. Both are curious and always looking for an easy meal.

Large sharks are making their way into our waters — it’s possible to hook up with big bulls and lemons inshore with some pushing 10 feet. Also, blacktip and spinner sharks are roaming inshore and off the beaches. They may range from 3 to 6 feet and are some of the hardest fighting fish in the water, plus they often give an impressive aerial show when hooked.

Tarpon fishing kicks off this month throughout Southwest Florida. It’s possible to hook into a big silver king if you are fishing for them or not. They are just as likely to gulp down a live shrimp or small lure as anything. With calm days, look for schools of fish a short distance off the beach. Early morning is the best time to toss a small live crab or Atlantic thread herring ahead of the school. Tarpon numbers will increase inshore, in the passes and off the beaches as the month progresses.

After months of winter lows, we get some high (spring) tides during the day. This is the time to target redfish under the bushes or mangroves shorelines as they use the higher water to get under the tree overhangs to root out their next meal. Fishing a stretch of shoreline over the last couple hours of the rising and first of the falling on the big tide days will result in plenty of redfish action. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the month will hold mornings with ultra-low tides, just the ticket for sight fishing reds over the shallow flats. Hit the flats at first light for the best results.

This may be our best month of the year for chasing snook. If there is one fish in Southwest Florida that is very easy to get obsessed with, it would be snook. To me, they are without a doubt our premier gamefish, and after you hook a few it’s very easy to get the snook bug. When releasing snook, or all fish to be released, it’s important to quickly get them unhooked and back in the water. If you do not remove them from the water while unhooking, even better. If fishing live or natural baits, circle hooks are the way to go as they prevent deep damaging hook sets.

Season remains closed for snook, seatrout and redfish in waters of Southwest Florida from the Hernando / Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. With the closure, stocks are rebounding nicely, and another year of catch and release can only help. You can visit www.myfwc.com for all current regulations.

You can go a different direction fishing each day from inshore to offshore and not cover all the possibilities. If there is one month that just don’t have enough days to take advantage of all the great fishing in our waters, April is it. I hope we get the chance to test the waters.

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 Flori-da, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.