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On the Water: Hot summer fishing

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Jul 21, 2021

Snapper fishing has been good. Herb Webb and family took home their limit of tasty mangrove snapper while fishing near Captiva Island with Captain Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Weather was good on the water over the past week. Of course, it is summer, so it was hot as expected and afternoon thunderstorms common. Mornings felt relatively cool with a light breeze before giving away to the heat around noon. Fishing was good at times, slow at times, and unpredictable from day to day, but that’s normal for the heat of summer. 

 Red grouper with a few pushing 30 inches were caught over hard bottom in depths from 80 to 110 feet. A mix of snapper, porgy, and grunts also came from the same bottom. Red snapper reports came from depths starting at one-hundred forty feet and deeper. Seems like the deeper the water the bigger the snapper. Red snapper season is windy down as season come to close on July 29.  

Public or man-made wrecks and reefs in the 50-to-100-foot depths yielded hard fighting fish including amberjack, goliath grouper, bonito, king mackerel, barracuda, and some large sharks. Fishing nearshore artificial reefs from 25 to 50-foot depths, anglers report a variety including snook, snapper, Spanish mackerel, barracuda, sharks, goliath undersize red and gag grouper, tripletail, and permit.  

The Spanish mackerel bite was off and on around the gulf passes and the gulf side of the Sanibel causeway. Small silver spoons with a fast retrieve were the top method while on the drift, and freelining live pilchards, herring, or shrimp worked well. Ladyfish were often numerous to pick up the slack if the mackerel bite was off. Spanish mackerel were hooked in good numbers chasing bait schools in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia, off the eastern side of Useppa Island, and along bar edges inside Redfish and Captiva Passes. 

With snook in their summer spawn pattern, the best action came from areas near and around the gulf passes.  Fish up to thirty-eight inches were caught and released from docks around Punta Rassa, the Sanibel Fishing Pier and north to Boca Grande Pass, including the beaches, passes, and structure between. Best baits included live pinfish, pigfish or grunts, and pilchards, sardines, or herring. Schools of male snook from 20 to 27 inches were sighted fished along the surf of Sanibel, Captiva Islands, and Cayo Costa Islands. Small white jigs and flies, plus live shrimp, pilchards, and small pinfish were top baits. 

The inshore mangrove snapper bite has remained consistent week after week. Some days are better than others, but with a little time and effort most anglers are returning with a limit. Fish up to 15 inches were boxed in and around the gulf passes and nearby mangrove shorelines and docks. Shore bound anglers hooked snapper from Blind Pass, the Sanibel and Bokeelia Fishing Piers, and the Matlacha Draw Bridge. Baits of choice include live and dead shrimp, pilchard’s dead, or alive, and frozen sardines. There are a lot of catfish around, at times its hard to get the bait past the cats to hook a snapper. Sometimes when this occurs, its better to just move on and fishing another spot. 

Spotted sea trout were widespread across grass flats from four to eight feet deep across north Matlacha Pass, off the eastern and western walls of Charlotte Harbor, and Pine Island Sound west of Bokeelia, south of Cabbage Key, and between Rocky Channel and Hemp Key. Either targeting channel edges or drifting worked for trout to 21 inches. Most trout are running undersize, but many anglers caught a limit. Mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle, and small sharks were also hooked. 

Make sure and stay up to date with fishing regulations by visiting www.myfwc.com. Also, upload the Fish Rules app on your phone. It has current regulations with pictures to help identify fish.  

 Summer gives us the potential for nasty thunderstorms to appear daily and develop rather quick. Watch the clouds develop and have a plan. If the lightning starts popping, get to a sheltered or protected area. Pulling up against a mangrove island or shoreline is far safer than remaining over open water. Make your boat as low profile as possible as well. Get the fishing rods or graphite lightning sticks out of the rod holders and down low. While rain is just an inconvenience, lightning is deadly, please take it seriously. 

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.