homepage logo

On the Water: Tropical Storm Sally disrupts fishing in the area

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Sep 16, 2020

Look for Spanish mackerel over nearshore reefs, around the gulf passes, and inshore waters. The pictured mackerel was caught along with bluefish, snapper, sea trout, and blacktip sharks in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia just ahead of tropical storm Sally while fishing with Captain Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Fishing was going good right up until Tropical Storm Sally formed over south Florida. Sally brought gusty winds and endless rain throughout the weekend as she slowly churned off our coast. Ahead of the foul weather, fishing reports were good for most anglers.  

Snapper, snapper, and more snapper, that’s the word from fisherman throughout the area. About anywhere you chose to fish inshore, chances are good you will hook snapper, and lots of them. Limits of snapper up to 15 inches were boxed throughout Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass, and Charlotte Harbor, plus around the gulf passes. Boats trout fishing over grass flats report nonstop action with snapper in 4 to 7-foot depths. The best action came with good tide movement in areas hold schooling bait fish. Best baits included live shrimp, live and cut pilchards or thread herring, and cut ballyhoo. 

Redfish up to 31 inches were caught and released in Pine Island Sound near Buck Key, and along the eastern shore of north Captiva and Cayo Costa Islands. Reds were reported with a few snook along Charlotte Harbors eastern shore and between Matlacha and Bokeelia near Smokehouse Bay. Live pinfish with tail trimmed and ladyfish chunks were the favored baits.  

Anglers found hungry snook throughout the keys and islands in Pine Island Sound and around the gulf passes and beaches. Snook were also caught and released from the Bokeelia and Sanibel Fishing Piers.  

Large sea trout with a few over 24 inches were caught and released between Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa, and off Bokeelia near oyster shoals. Steady action with sea trout of all sizes came from Pine Island Sound west of the fish shacks, red light shoals in the southern Sound, and outside of Bokeelia’s Shell Cut. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, snapper, and a lot of 3 to 4-foot blacktip sharks were hooked as well. 

Bottom fishing for grouper and snapper was steady in gulf waters ahead of Sally. Limits of red grouper came from depths between 75 to 90 feet. Captains found they often would boat a few keepers from an area then it would shut down where they would make a short move and repeat. Best baits included live sand perch, big pinfish, mullet strips, and whole squid. Mangrove and lane snapper were also boxed. Boats anchoring over artificial reefs in thirty to 50-foot depths and dropping a chum block caught mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. Sharks and barracuda were numerous as well. 

I believe we reached our rain quota for a while due to Sally. With the rain, wind, and lack of sunshine, our water temperature will no doubt drop several degrees. This may be good for a couple reasons. First, fish should respond and become more active with the drop, and second, the cooler the water, the less likely a strong hurricane will form or maintain its strength in our waters.  

Season remains closed for snook, spotted sea trout, and redfish in waters of southwest Florida from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. You can visit www.myfwc.com for all current regulations. 

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fish pineisland.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.