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On the Water: April brings great weather and excellent fishing

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Mar 31, 2021

Spanish mackerel are hungry and roaming inshore, nearshore and waters around the gulf passes. Tim Benedict, visiting from Wisconsin, with a big mackerel caught near Captiva Pass fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

It doesn’t get much better than springtime fishing around the islands and coastal waters of Southwest Florida. The month of April generally brings great weather and fishing for our broadest range of species of the year. 

The choice is yours on any given day on what species to target. Schooling fish such as seatrout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and others are throughout the inshore waters and provide fun constant action. Look for clear water over bottom with a grass/sand mix with a good current flow. Always watch for birds feeding and fish striking the water’s surface to help locate the action. 

Speaking of clear water, now is the time our waters provide the best clarity or visibility of the year. It’s a great month for sight fishing everything from redfish to cobia. Make sure to fish with fluorocarbon leader and you may need to lighten up the pound test if strikes aren’t happening. If you generally fish 40-pound test drop to 30 and so forth. Clear water also makes it a great time for exploring and learning new areas. 

Although season is closed on both species throughout most of Southwest Florida, it is my favorite time to hunt for snook and redfish. Snook do not like the cooler waters of winter as they become somewhat dormant. As the water warms, they are on the move, aggressive and hungry. Snook feed heavily on oily baitfish over the upcoming months and stage along mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, sand holes and structure. Redfish are sight fished on the morning low tides over the shallow flats and hooked under the mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars on the higher tides.  

Season remains closed for trout, snook and redfish on waters of Southwest Florida from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. Visit [http://www.myfwc,com]www.myfwc,com for all our current fishing regulations.   

 Tarpon fishing kicks off throughout the area. They often travel and stage in large schools and may be located just off the gulf beaches, the gulf passes and throughout the inshore waters. Some days they eat well and other days not so much. They often get very finicky for such a large fish with a high metabolism. Although they are tough to entice to eat at times, they have a very broad diet. Tarpon hook-ups were reported in late March off the beach near Sanibel’s Knapp’s Point and throughout Pine Island Sound. 

This is the time to hook into sharks large and small. Springtime in Southwest Florida means fish are hungry and feeding on schooling bait fish. This activity attracts sharks that may range from just a couple feet, to well over 10 feet. Large female sharks move into the estuaries to give birth to their pups over the next few months. The largest, generally bulls and hammerheads, follow the tarpon schools, awaiting a fish in distress for an easy meal.  

Nearshore artificial reefs offer a lot for anglers. Those that fish the entire water column from bottom to top are likely to hook into a broad mix of fish. This list may include grouper, snapper, snook, pompano, permit, barracuda, goliath grouper, Spanish and king mackerel, cobia and, of course, sharks. There are many other species you may encounter as well.  A favorite technique is to anchor on the up current side of the reef and hang a frozen chum block. This attracts everything from small bait fish to large sharks. Make sure and bring more than one chum block, there is nothing worse than getting a good slick going, attracting hungry fish, then running out of chum.  

 If I could give a word of advice for fishing this time of year, it’s to be prepared and ready. Keep a variety of rods from light to heavy available at short notice. Always watch the water, keep an eye out for any fish that comes within sight and be ready. Anglers that have the best success and land those surprise fish like a big cobia are prepared and ready for anything that comes along at a moment’s notice.

This is a great time on the water in Southwest Florida, 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.