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On the Water: Hot week on the water

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Jul 30, 2021

Ray Kostlec with his wife and grandsons had a great morning fishing and brought home a mess of tasty mangrove snapper and sea trout. They were fishing near Cayo Costa State Park with Captain Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Summer is here in full force. Fishing was good over the morning hours, but the mid-day heat and lack of afternoon thunderstorms to cool it down made for tough fishing in the afternoons. 

The mangrove snapper bite was hot inshore, around the gulf passes, and nearshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Inshore, snapper to 14 inches, with most keepers averaging 10 to 12 inches were gathered under overhangs on mangrove shorelines, under docks, piers, and bridges, or around oyster bars and channel edges. Best baits included live shrimp, live, or cut pilchards or sardines, and small pinfish. Snapper fishing around the gulf passes was best the last hour of a tide, through the slack, and into the first hour of the change. Snapper averaging 11 to 14 inches were caught on the same baits fished on a jig head or a knocker rig. 

In gulf waters, mangrove snapper up to 17 inches are in good numbers on public artificial reefs in 25 -to 50-foot depths. For the best shot at the bigger snapper, anchor on the up current side of the structure and put out a chum block. Another option if you are cast netting your own bait, is catch a bunch extra, put them in a cooler, and create a chum line by cutting them up. With the vast amounts of small baitfish around, it’s been pretty easy to catch enough for chum without much effort. Many of the reefs see a lot of anglers and the larger snapper are more difficult to fool. Fishing with a long fluorocarbon leader, often six feet or more of 12- to 20 pounds test helps to fool the bigger fish. Last weeks full moon and calm seas also allowed good nighttime snapper fishing on the same reefs. 

Anglers are having a fun time hooking into the numerous supply of small sharks across the inshore waters. Averaging two to four feet, they are a blast on light spinning tackle, especially for kids. Look for them over grass flats from four to six feet. A live pinfish, pilchards, or a chunk of cut ladyfish or mullet will get their attention when drifting or anchored up. A foot or so of light wire attached to a circle hook will keep them on the line. A large percentage of the sharks are blacktips that often get very acrobatic once hooked. 

Sea trout numbers were good although a high percentage are running under the fifteen inch minimum size. They were caught on grass bottom from three to seven feet deep in Pine Island Sound south of Captiva Pass on either side of the channel, off the south side of red-Light Shoals in the southern Sound, and between Mondongo and Punta Blanca Islands. If the grass wasn’t too bad, sub surface twitch baits and DOA paddle tails worked well. Live pilchards and small pinfish or grunts hooked trout up to twenty inches. Jack crevalle, bluefish, and large ladyfish were caught as well. 

Snook fishing remains good along the coast. Good numbers of fish averaging from 22 to 25 inches were found along the surf of Sanibel, Captiva, and Cayo Costa Islands. Larger fish were in the surf as well, but the little guys far outnumbered them and are way more aggressive on the baits. On the bayside of the barrier islands and around the passes, larger snook and redfish were hooked along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars on high water and under docks on the falling tides.  

With the absence of daily afternoon thunderstorms to cool things down it was really hot over the afternoon hours. Inshore water temperature rose to well above 90 degrees on the afternoon falling tides. The best time to fish is over the morning hours, and once the afternoon storms return, fishing can be good after they have cleared and cooled it down for late afternoon and early evening. 

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.