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On the Water: Fishing returns to normal after storm

By Capt. Dave Hanson - | Jul 14, 2021

Matlacha's own Leoma Lovegrove with a nice permit she caught fishing one of our nearshore reefs with Capt. Jason Ramer out of Tarpon Lodge. PHOTO PROVIDED

After Hurricane Elsa passed our coast, it took a few days for the weather to settle down and fishing to return to normal. After a few windy, rainy days, we returned to our normal summer pattern of calm mornings and stormy afternoons.

Spanish mackerel were found in good numbers across Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, outside the Gulf passes and off either side of the Sanibel Causeway. Mackerel up to 24 inches were caught while trolling small silver spoons, drift casting mylar or white jigs or fishing live shrimp or pilchards under a bobber. Schools of small baitfish are common over shallow grass flats; the best fishing often comes over the shallow flats on high water and around nearby channel edges and drop-offs. Ladyfish, seatrout, bluefish, Jack crevalle and sharks were hooked along with the mackerel.

Seatrout up to 21 inches were caught over grass flats in 4 to 6-foot depths in north Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound near Rocky Channel. Over lower stages of the tide, seatrout came from sand potholes surrounded by turtle grass flats between the fish shacks in the Sound and Pineland. A few redfish and snook were also hooked in sand holes next to the islands.

Most fish are actively feeding on the abundant supply of small bait fry, so small lures and live bait will result in more hook-ups.

If there are bait schools, and fish feeding on bait schools, you can bet sharks are nearby. A large live pinfish, or a chunk of fresh ladyfish or mullet fished under a float is sure to get one’s attention. You can expect to hook into a variety of sharks running in size from 2 to 8 feet. Make sure to put on a couple feet of wire leader to prevent cut-offs. Different species of sharks have different regulations, make sure you know how to identify a shark before handling it. You can download the Fish Rules app on your phone, it’s a great resource for sharks and all of our local fish and regulations.

As usual for the heat of summer, most snook reports are from the beaches and barrier islands. Catch-and-release snook action was consistent along the shoreline of north Captiva and Cayo Costa State Park. Snook, plus redfish to 27 inches were caught and released around “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, between Buck Key and the Blind Pass Bridge and around Foster’s Point.

Mangrove snapper are likely to be hooked anywhere inshore right now. Many are staged in their usual haunts such as oyster bars, mangrove overhangs, docks, piers and bridges. Snapper are also following the small bait fish around the inshore waters. Areas previously mentioned for mackerel can also be great for snapper. They may be on a spot for a day or two and move on. Also, snapper fishing can be productive at any of the Gulf passes during the slack and slower tides.

Offshore, after the seas settled down, boats making long runs, returned with limits of red snapper and grouper, plus a mixed bag of snapper and other bottom fish. Boat fished depths from 90 to 160 feet.

Nearshore reefs in 30 t0 50-foot depths gave anglers a mixed bag of snapper, grunts, undersize grouper, catch-and-release snook, a few permit, Spanish mackerel, plenty of sharks and large goliath grouper.

Daisy chaining tarpon were common just off the beaches from Captiva Pass north to Stump Pass. The bite was often difficult, but a properly placed small crab or pinfish was the best bet at first light and just before dark, weather permitting.

It’s summer, the mornings are pleasant followed with scalding heat that sets in before noon, then afternoon thunderstorms. The better and more comfortable fishing occurs in the morning hours. Get out early, bring plenty of water and drink it, and get back to the house ahead of the mid-day heat and storms.

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.