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On the Water: Anglers hook into a variety of fish over the week, including tarpon

By Staff | May 6, 2020

Michelle Cartwright and her family had a fun day catching fish, including this nice redfish that was safely released. They were fishing Pine Island Sound with Capt. Jason Ramer out of Tarpon Lodge. PHOTO PROVIDED

It’s tarpon time in Southwest Florida as more fish are arriving daily. A few of the hotspots included Pine Island Sound near the intracoastal channel, a short distance off the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and Cayo Costa islands in 20 to 30-foot depths, and in Captiva and Boca Grande passes. Tarpon were hooked on various baits including flies, Hogy lures, pinfish, thread herring, squirrel fish or sand perch, small live crabs and cut mullet or catfish tails.

Catch-and-release snook fishing was steady over the morning incoming tides in the surf along the beaches, Blind and Redfish passes, Bull Bay in Charlotte Harbor, and island points and oyster bars in mid to lower Pine Island Sound. Small Clouser minnow flies and small jigs both in a white color worked well along the beaches early and late in the day. Live baits, including pilchards, pinfish, pigfish, thread herring, and shrimp, worked best inshore.

Redfish up to 26 inches were caught and released from many of the same areas mentioned for snook on cut and live bait. Reds were also hooked under mangrove overhangs over the last hour of the incoming and first hour of the falling tides.

The best reports of spotted sea-trout came from areas of mid to northern Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. Most were caught and released in 4 to 7-foot depths with a grass and sand bottom mix.

Snook, sea trout, and redfish remains closed with catch-an-release only. Visit www.myfwc for all current fishing regulations.

If you have been on the water, you have probably noticed pelicans diving and other bird activity both inshore and offshore. There are large baits schools around and if you locate one it could be a great place to bend a rod. A mix of fish, including Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, seatrout and others, were hooked while fishing near bait pods in Charlotte Harbor, the north ends of Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound. Off the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and Cayo Costa out to about 30-foot depths, anglers hooked into Spanish and king mackerel, plus bonito and sharks around bait pods.

As we move closer to summer, mangrove snapper are becoming more abundant around the gulf passes and inshore waters. Snapper up to 13 inches were caught around the gulf islands under mangrove shorelines, submerged structure, docks and oyster bars. Numbers reported were not great but should improve each week. The best bite came with good water movement while fishing live shrimp, small pinfish or pilchards on a small hook and light leader.

Offshore there was some windy days to keep boats dockside. After the wind subsided, boats found red grouper up to 28 inches fishing hard bottom in depths from 70 to 100 feet. A snapper mix including mangrove, yellowtail, lane and vermilion were also caught from the same depths. Sharks, goliath grouper, amberjack and barracuda were reported over wrecks in waters 80 feet and deeper.

Following a beautiful weekend that a huge number of anglers and boaters took advantage of, it looks like we may have more great weather in the upcoming days. If you have a chance to fish a weekday, it is far less crowded and more enjoyable. Hope you can get out there and good luck.

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.