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On the Water: A good week fishing offshore and inshore

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Jan 27, 2021

Sheepshead, snapper and grunts for dinner. Brad and Sarah Riggen visiting from Indiana took advantage of the great weather while fishing near shore reefs with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Although a little cold to start the week, weather conditions were near perfect from mid-week through the weekend. Flat calm seas allowed boats from large to small to venture into Gulf waters. Inshore, despite the beautiful weather, slow tides impacted the bite at times throughout the week.

Working offshore in depths from 70 to 100 feet, anglers boxed red grouper up to 31 inches with many boats limiting out. Large mangrove snapper were also caught from the same depth, plus lane snapper and porgy. Grouper were hooked on jig/squid rigs, live pinfish and live or cut sand perch. Snapper went for live pilchards and shrimp, plus cut sand perch and squid.

In the 30 to 45-foot range, a mix of fish including snapper, sheepshead, grunts, Spanish mackerel, hog fish and out-of-season triggerfish and gag grouper were hooked around ledges and hard bottom. All hog fish reported were undersize but fun to catch. Live shrimp and cut squid were top baits.

Action was also found around artificial public reefs from nearshore out to 100-foot depths. Reefs within sight of land yielded sheepshead, mangrove snapper and mackerel for the table, plus sharks from 3 to 6 feet. In deeper water, large reefs held yellowtail and mangrove snapper, plus hard fighting amberjack, barracuda and goliath grouper.

When fishing around public numbers, there generally is good bottom not publicly marked nearby. If you have a bottom machine or sonar, take your time, and explore. Look for good bottom or fish, mark the area and drop a line. Not all spots will be winners, but a few will. This is a great way to increase your catch and begin making your own library of fishing spots. Make sure and back up those new numbers from your machine after each trip to save a lot of aggravation and disappointment if your unit fails.

Inshore, it was the usual winter fishing. Sheepshead up to 4 pounds were reported around the Gulf passes, Punta Rassa docks and the Bokeelia Fishing Pier. Redfish and snook were caught and released in areas around Blind Pass, Roosevelt Channel, Galt Island, Burgess Bay and the Bokeelia Pier. Good numbers of large snook were reported in areas of the Caloosahatchee River from Sword’s Point east to the Cape Coral Bridge. Black drum also were caught in the river.

Anglers found Spanish mackerel and ladyfish schooled up in Pine Island Sound from the powerlines north to Captiva Pass in water from four to seven feet. Catch-and-release sea trout, plus a few pompano were caught as well. Baits included live shrimp under popping or rattling corks, silver spoons and Vudu Shrimp. Similar action with less mackerel, more ladyfish, plus jack crevalle came from the transition from Matlacha Pass to Charlotte Harbor, from marker 76 (at least where marker 76 should be, it’s missing, but the double posted speed zone sign adjacent to it is still there) to the Two Pines cut on the harbor side of the long bar.

I sure hope everyone took advantage of the weather and got on the water this past week. If you had luck catching fish or not, conditions were perfect to spend time on the water.

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.