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On the Water: Beautiful weather to close out the month

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Mar 3, 2021

Photo provided Nick and Jane Mohar of St. James City and friends took advantage of beautiful weather to fish nearshore reefs in gulf waters. They boxed good eating sheepshead, snapper and grunts on a morning fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell.

Overall, it was a great week on the water with plenty of sunshine and blue skies to close out the month. Bottom fishing was good in gulf waters and the inshore bite was on and off.

In the Gulf of Mexico, fishing depths from 80 to 110 feet yielded red grouper, a mixed snapper bag consisting of mangrove, lane, yellowtail and vermilion, plus porgy and grunts. Sharks, amberjack and goliath grouper were caught and released as well. Within sight of land, in depths from 25 to 50 feet, large sheepsheads, plus mangrove snapper and grunts were caught, plus catch-and-release gag grouper and undersize red grouper. We fished 40-foot depths over several days and boated some of the biggest sheepshead of the season. Tripletail up to 8 pounds were hooked around buoys and a few schooling bonito plus Spanish mackerel were hooked over artificial reefs.

Spanish mackerel up to 24 inches were caught outside or on the gulf side of north Captiva Island, Cayo Costa State Park and Captiva Pass. Silver spoons, live shrimp and pilchards worked best. Mackerel were also reported in Pine Island Sound near Useppa Island and between Bokeelia and Boca Grande Pass. 

Baitfish were plentiful in Pine Island Sound with warmer waters over the week. On moving water or good tides, snook were hungry across Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor. Fishing island points and oyster bars, snook up to 34 inches were caught and released. Best baits included live shrimp, pilchards and Rapala X-Rap or Shallow Shad Rap lures. In Pine Island Sound, redfish from 16 to 28 inches were caught and released from the same areas, and reds to 26 inches were reported inside the bars around the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor.

Hard fighting jack crevasse are in good numbers in Matlacha Pass, the Sound and Harbor. Many were hooked while targeting snook, sheepshead, seatrout and other species. For just pure fun, I don’t believe there is a harder fighting fish in our inshore waters.

A couple anglers sight fished cobia following stingrays or manatees around Charlotte Harbor and northern Pine Island Sound. On a sunny day with light winds, they are somewhat easy to locate as the water becomes very clear this time of year. Cobia are curious and may show up cruising around your boat anytime fishing. Keep an eye on the water and rigged rod ready if the opportunity arises.

Sheepshead up to 15 inches were caught around the Gulf passes, both the Sanibel and Bokeelia fishing piers, plus the Matlacha Drawbridge. Shrimp fished on bottom was the common bait. A few pompano, flounder, black drum, mangrove snapper and, of course, jack crevalle were caught as well.

Spotted seatrout are getting larger by the day. We are entering their spring spawning season where both numbers and size increase. Fish over 20 inches are common with many pushing 24 inches or larger. True “gator trout.” Trout were reported in south Matlacha Pass near the powerlines, in the Sound north of Galt Island, and between Flamingo Bay and Rocky Channel. Also, reports came from grass flats west of Bokeelia and west of Cabbage Key.

Season remains closed for snook, spotted seatrout and redfish  in waters of Southwest Florida from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County.  Also, new flounder regulations begin March 1. Go to  www.myfwc.com  for all current and updated regulations.

I love this time of year when our waters begin to make the transition out of winter to spring. You could really see it this week as bait schools arrived in good numbers, birds are active everywhere, along with manatees and dolphin. We might still see a couple late season cool fronts to set us back a day or two, but our fishing will only get better in the upcoming weeks. Get out there and enjoy it! 

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.