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On the Water: Weather back on track for the weekend

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Nov 18, 2020

Big jack crevalle are cruising the inshore waters aggressively feeding. Tonya Aurand of Pine Island hooked into this big boy that was landed and released in Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

After what felt like a full week of dealing with Eta, the storm finally passed and great Southwest Florida weather returned just in time for the weekend.

Gulf waters were still too churned up as of this writing for offshore reports, but we should get some results after the weekend. A few boats found schools of Spanish mackerel and ladyfish off the beaches just outside Redfish and Captiva passes. Silver spoons and live pilchards were the best baits.

Mangrove snapper were hooked bottom fishing in and around the Gulf passes, about half are running undersize with larger fish mixed in. Undersize grouper were also caught and released. Most were caught on live shrimp and small pilchards. A few sheepshead are showing up as they were caught around the passes and Punta Rassa while fishing live or cut shrimp.

Jack crevasse, large and small, were hooked in numbers as schooling fish prowled oyster bars and shorelines. They aren’t much for table fare, but they are without a doubt one of our hardest fighting fish. While live pilchards and herrings are great baits, it’s hard to top the explosive strike you get from a topwater lure. Heddon Super Spook, and Spook Jr., or lures that imitate a small mullet or pilchard are great choices.

Catch-and-release snook were reported around St. James City, in lower Pine Island Sound, and between Blind and Redfish passes. Above average water temperatures and an abundance of bait has kept them active, aggressive and feeding on the right tides.

With the morning low water, anglers fishing from shallow water skiffs, kayaks, canoes or on foot took advantage of the negative tides and fished were most anglers can’t reach. Redfish were caught and released from deeper sand holes and depressions across the eastern side of Pine Island Sound and in northern Matlacha Pass. Tailing redfish were sight fished in Pine Island Sound near Orange Pass, and large sea trout were hooked targeting oyster bar edges. Baits included live baitfish, shrimp and lures including Super Spook Jr., MirrOlure Top Dog and gold spoons, plus various fly patterns.

Once the water settled down, a  good variety of fish including sea trout, bluefish, small sharks, jack crevalle and ladyfish were hooked in northern Pine Island Sound and in Charlotte Harbor off the west and north side of Bokeelia. There is a lot of bait schooling in the area — look for pelicans, cormorants and gulls to point you in the right direction. After locating a promising area, the best bet was to set up a drift. Live shrimp, pilchards and small lures, jigs and spoons worked best. 

Season remains closed with catch-and-release only 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. 

After a long stretch of warm weather, it looks like cooler days are on the way. Many anglers anticipate the start to sheepshead fishing with cooler weather and maybe that is in the near future.  

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.