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On the Water: It was a windy start to the month

By Capt. Bill Russell - | May 12, 2021

Brooklynn Smith visiting from Flint, Michigan, is about as close as you want to get to a giant endangered sawfish. Brooke, along with friends Delaney Hope and Courtney Criswell, battled the big sawfish, estimated at 12 to 15 feet in length, boat side for a picture then a safe release. They were shark fishing with Capt. Jason Ramer out of Pinelands Tarpon Lodge. PHOTO PROVIDED

Like much of April, the first week of May continued with more windy days and a mild late season cool front. Overall, the days were nice, with the exception of the wind and slow tides that hampered anglers.

Tarpon are around in good numbers as many anglers report hook-ups. On the windy days, it was difficult to both locate and fish many areas inshore, around the passes and off the beaches. Fish were reported off the southwest tip of Sanibel around Knapp’s Point in 20-foot depths. The best bite was at first light, then again late afternoon. Anglers fished pods of tarpon inside Boca Grande Pass on the western side of Charlotte Harbor and between the pass and bell buoys on the falling tides. In Pine Island Sound, tarpon were reported off both sides of the intracoastal waterway — look for them rolling on the calm days or free jumping. Best baits over the week included small crabs, thread herring, pilchards, pinfish, cut mullet or ladyfish, catfish tails, shad or menhaden and DOA Bait Buster lures.

Spanish mackerel are on the move, as a location may be great one day then slow the next. Mackerel were found near the gulf passes, outside the Sanibel Causeway, in Charlotte Harbor between Bokeelia and Boca Grande Pass, and in Pine Island Sound near Captiva Pass. From shore, the Sanibel, and Bokeelia piers, plus the Matlacha Drawbridge and rock jetties around Blind Pass yielded mackerel. Best baits included live shrimp or pilchards, plus small shiny lures, spoons and mylar jigs with a fast retrieve. Big ladyfish, jack crevalle and bluefish were often caught with the mackerel.

Seatrout continue as a good bet to bend a rod, but the average size dropped from weeks previous. Steady action with fish ranging from 12 to 14 inches was found over grass flats through Pine Island Sound and around Bokeelia. On the higher stages of the incoming tide, several trout up to 23 inches were caught and released while targeting snook.

Anglers hooked into snook ranging is size from 16 to 34 inches in Matlacha Pass, Pine Island Sound and around the gulf passes. Most went for live baits, including pigfish, pinfish, pilchards and herring. With the steady wind stirring up lots of grass and algae, it was often difficult or near impossible to keep a bait clean to entice a bite. This was especially true over the afternoon falling tides.

Redfish reports came from north Matlacha Pass, mid-Pine Island Sound and creeks in and around the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. Fish up to 28 inches were hooked on live and cut baits, plus soft plastics rigged weedless.

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 www.myfwc,com for all current fishing regulations and to give your input and suggestions on snook, trout and redfish closures.

Sharks are everywhere around the inshore waters and are running from little guys barely a foot long to big bruisers. Sharks harassed tarpon anglers all week as they aggressively fed on cut and live baits intended for tarpon. Several large sawfish were also hooked while soaking dead bait for tarpon and sharks in Pine Island Sound.

It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but enough with the wind! A strong north or easterly wind is counterproductive for just about all fishing on our coast. It works directly against the incoming tide, keeping our water out or lower than normal and it just isn’t fishy. Soon, we have to get into our typical pre-summer pattern, it’s just not right to wake up in May with a cool brisk wind form the north.

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.fishpineisland.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.