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On the Water: It was an inconsistent week of fishing

By Capt. Bill Russell - | May 19, 2021

Randy Compton, with a little help from fishing buddy Joe Waggoner, recently won the battle with this big 39-inch snook. It was caught and released along a shoreline in Charlotte Harbor fishing with Capt. Rob Locke. PHOTO PROVIDED

Fishing was all over the place during the past week — some days the bite was great then the following day not so much. Areas held good action for a day or two then dried up. And, of course, there was the wind to deal with once again.

Shark fishing was the one constant. If you were fishing for sharks or not, chances are you hooked into one or more. As often happens on windy days, tarpon anglers switch to anchoring and fishing dead or cut bait on bottom. In Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, sharks from barely 2 feet to well over 6 feet harassed baits intended for tarpon. Blacktip and spinners were also hooked on large live pinfish and thread herring suspended under a float. Big stingray hook-ups were also common on cut bait.

Anglers pursuing tarpon were often running from location to location looking for active fish and a bite. The late afternoon and evening falling hill tide brought tarpon anglers to Boca Grande Pass over the week. The crab flush was often towards the end of the tide with the better tarpon bite often right around dusk. Windy conditions often made pass fishing difficult. Tarpon were reported between Useppa Island and Captiva Pass, Captiva Rocks and off the beach south of Redfish Pass.

Redfish and snook may have provided the best action over the week. Bruiser reds well over 30 inches were caught and released around Sanibel and Captiva Islands around docks, shorelines and oyster bars. Reds up to 28 inches took scented jerk baits, plus live and cut bait under mangrove overhangs and island points in north Matlacha Pass and islands south of Demere Key. Redfish were caught and released from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier along with a variety of other species.

Snook numbers were good, and size ranged from barely over a foot up to 39 inches. Several days gave steady action on snook from 20 to 26 inches in the surf and along the beaches and nearby structure. Keys and islands in Pine Island Sound yielded decent snook numbers with fish up to 33 inches. Similar action was reported around Charlotte Harbor including areas near Burnt Store Marina, Pirate’s Harbor and Turtle Bay.

Grass bottom in depths from 4 to 7 feet turned up good action with catch-and-release seatrout, plus Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle, big ladyfish and, of course, sharks. Areas included the southern end of the Sound near red light shoals, south of Cabbage Key and Charlotte Harbor around Bokeelia. Also in Charlotte Harbor, cobia were traveling with large schools of cow nose rays as several were sighted or hooked over the week. 

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. However, changes are coming, and seatrout is set to reopen across our waters on June 1. Visit www.myfwc,com for all current fishing regulations. 

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.