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On the Water: Another windy week on the water

By Staff | May 20, 2020

Kagen Cooksley won the battle with this big goliath grouper in gulf waters west of Captiva Island. The grouper was caught and released while fishing with Capt. Jason Ramer out of Tarpon Lodge in Pineland. PHOTO PROVIDED

Strong gusty winds hampered fishing efforts throughout the week before settling down for a great weekend on the water.

Tarpon hook-ups were reported in Boca Grande Pass throughout the week although at times it was very difficult or impossible to fish due to rough water conditions. During adverse conditions, anchoring and fishing cut bait is a good option to jump a tarpon. Soaking cut mullet or ladyfish on bottom got the attention of tarpon, sharks and big stingrays in mid-Pine Island Sound and between St. James City and the Sanibel Causeway. Stingrays and sharks were also reported on cut bait outside the bar near Two Pines in Charlotte Harbor.

Mangrove snapper are slowly making their summer migration inshore as a few up to 14 inches were boxed in the Gulf passes and around mangrove islands. Live shrimp, small pinfish and cut thread herring were the top baits. The inshore snapper bite should improve each week moving forward.

Strong east winds and pour tides made for tough snook and redfish fishing over a good part of the week then turned for the better. As the wind let up and good water movement returned, fish were caught and released on the back side of Captiva and Cayo Costa islands and the Indian Fields area of Matlacha Pass. Crystal clear water along the Gulf beaches allowed for great sight fishing opportunities for snook from Sanibel north to Gasparilla Island.

Seatrout mixed with bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and an occasional Spanish mackerel were found over grassy bottoms and sand trough edges south of Rocky Channel and behind Cabbage Key in the Sound, and near Bokeelia. Bluefish and Spanish mackerel were reported over the weekend on the Gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway between the B and C spans.

Large schools of bonito were located harassing bait schools a few miles west of the beaches over the weekend giving anglers a lot of fun and drag-screaming fights. Locating birds and surface action then a well-placed live pilchard or spoon with a fast retrieved was sure to get hammered. Bonito are one of the strongest and hardest fighting fish out there. Most anglers agree the food quality is poor, but the fight is great.

Bottom fishing in state waters out to 9 miles yielded a variety of fish including snapper, grouper, triggerfish, sharks and others. Many of the fish are running small or undersize, but often provided a steady bite. A few boats reported catching and releasing a lot of just undersize yellowtail snapper within sight of land. Dropping a big bait over structure on artificial reefs often resulted in a tug a war with goliath grouper and sharks.

It would be nice to get a sustained period without the wind, especially east wind. If you been offshore or along the beaches you no doubt noticed how clear the water is. If you are fishing in this clear water and not getting bites, lighten up on the tackle — especially terminal tackle such as leader and hooks.

Fish such as snapper have extremely good sight, dropping down to a light fluorocarbon leader and small hook can make the difference between fishing and catching.

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.