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On the Water: It’s time for summer fishing

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Jun 23, 2021

Ashley Michelle and Tanner Peer scored with a couple big red snapper in gulf waters. They were fishing 100+ miles west of Captiva Pass. PHOTO PROVIDED

Summer has officially arrived and with it comes the hot and humid days. Weekdays are relatively sparse of anglers with weekends getting most of the attention. This summer may be an exception, as it appears a lot more people are visiting our area during our normal off season.

Reports of snook came from areas around Charlotte Harbor, the western side of Pine Island Sound and along the beaches and Gulf passes. Snook up to 40 inches were released and the bite was steady with smaller fish during times with good water movement. Live pilchards, herring, pinfish, pigfish and hand-picked shrimp were the preferred baits. Redfish up to 31 inches were also caught and released from the same areas. 

The mangrove snapper bite was steady inshore if the tide was moving water. Oyster bars, shorelines and structure were good places to target in Matlacha Pass, Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Weak tides over several days put the best snapper bite around the Gulf passes. Live shrimp, small live pinfish and pilchards, plus cut pilchards, were the top baits. Lots of undersized gag and red grouper were hooked with the snapper around the passes.  

Over the past couple weeks many of the inshore grass flats have been covered up with a new hatch of small bait fish, many too small to put on a hook. This is a great place to hook into small sharks, ladyfish, seatrout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, bluefish and you never know what else. Look for birds (pelicans diving), baitfish raining on surface or fish busting baits. Small shiny lures, silver spoons or live bait should get an immediate strike if you’re in the zone.  

Offshore boats found fishing good overall, on some days the bite was solid and others it took some work to fill the box. Red snapper and red grouper, along with mangrove and vermilion snapper were caught on both live and cut bait in depths from 110 to 160 feet. Inside of a hundred feet, red grouper to 24 inches, plus a mix of snapper, grunts and mackerel were boated. Although Tropical Storm Claudette was never a threat to our area, she produced several days of rough condition in Gulf waters.  

Tarpon reports came from Boca Grande and Captiva passes where fish were hooked on crabs, squirrel fish, pigfish and pinfish. Also, tarpon hook-ups were reported in Charlotte Harbor, on the hill inside Boca Grande Pass, near the channel north of Bokeelia, and in 9 to 10-foot depths west of Burnt Store Marina. Crabs, thread herring and ladyfish were top baits in the harbor. Cobia up to 35 inches also were caught in the harbor on baits intended for tarpon. 

Sharks of all sizes were hooked throughout the inshore waters, Gulf passes, just off the beaches and nearshore artificial reefs. Inshore, small blacktips were numerous n depths from 3 to 6 feet. Most are running 3 feet or less and are a blast on light tackle. They were hooked on live pinfish and pilchards, plus a variety of cut baits, either fished on bottom or under a bobber. Make sure to go with a wire leader if you want to keep them hooked up. Also, tarpon anglers are reporting a lot of big bull and hammerhead sharks harassing hooked tarpon in and around the passes. 

Snook and redfish remain closed in our area with catch-and-release only. Visit www.myfwc 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.