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On the Water: Good fishing with favorable weather and tides

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Sep 30, 2020

The Nieman family enjoyed great weather and good fishing for a variety of species and brought home a mess of mangrove snapper and one large pompano for dinner. They were fishing Charlotte Harbor and north Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

It was another beautiful week on the water that started with cooler temperatures and breezy days. As the week concluded, flat seas returned as well as hot days. After a great summer snapper season across our inshore waters, they appear to be thinning out as they make their way offshore as the seasons change. They are still around but not even close to the numbers of the past month or so. Most reported over the week were in small schools around oyster bars, creeks and mangrove overhangs, and in the Gulf passes. On my boat we caught a limit each day we targeted snapper, but one day they wanted live bait and the next they would only go after cut bait. Pilchards and thread herring were our baits of choice.

While snapper numbers are decreasing the amount of bait around is on the rise. Schooling bait could be sighted or located throughout Matlacha Pass, Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. At times, the bait schools are so dense in numbers, you are lucky to get the net in the boat there are so many baits. If you want to have some fun be on the water at sunrise around the bait schools as a host of fish come in for breakfast. The water is alive with feeding fish, including sea trout, jack crevalle, bluefish, ladyfish, mackerel, sharks and who knows what else. This is a great time to get out there with a fly rod or work a top-water lure for explosive strikes.

Anglers took advantage of the high morning water and strong outgoing tides for good catch-and-release redfish action. Reds up to 29 inches were hooked in the northwest area of Matlacha Pass, around Burgess Bay and Jug Creek at Bokeelia, in Pine Island Sound north of Demere Key, and around Blind and Redfish passes. Baits included live or cut, and a variety of paddle or shad tail soft plastics.

The outgoing tide was also good for catch-and-release snook fishing around the Gulf passes, in the creeks around “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge and along the eastern side of Captiva and Cayo Costa State Park. From shore, snook were reported from the Matlacha Drawbridge and Bokeelia fishing pier, along with a host of other species.

For catch-and-release sea trout, find the bait schools and you will find the trout. Most days and especially during the morning hours pelicans are hammering the bait making them easy to locate. Cormorants, gulls and terns concentrated in an area is also a sure sign food is in water.

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.

Once the gulf waters settled down, offshore captains reported a good bite. Limits of red grouper, plus a mix of snapper including mangrove, lane and yellowtail were caught over hard bottom and ledges in depths from 60 to 95 feet. Artificial reefs are holding large numbers of barracuda, plus amberjack and sharks.

This really is a great time to pick a calm morning and get on the water at first light. The waters come alive with each new day and watching the circle of life unfold is so cool and takes us away from our daily routine. If you fish or just watch nature, it’s a great way to get away from reality for a few hours. 

 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.