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On the Water: It was a good week of fishing in local waters

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Sep 16, 2021

Lisa Portz holds her first cobia, a nice fish but one inch short of the 33-inch legal size. She caught and released the cobia in Charlotte Harbor on a morning fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

From all accounts, fishing was good across our waters over the past week for a variety of species.

Anglers report good times with rod-bending action on redfish schools across the inshore waters. Fish averaging 27-31 inches are roaming the inshore waters throughout Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and around the Gulf passes. For the next month or so it’s possible to run across a school of several hundred or more reds as they move along bar edges and shorelines. Redfish up to 28 inches were reported under the mangroves on higher stages of the tide in Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound around Panther Key. 

Catch-and-release snook fishing continued strong around the barrier islands of Sanibel, Captiva and Cayo Costa Islands. Snook were also hooked from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier and Matlacha Drawbridge, and along the east and west walls of Charlotte Harbor.

Anglers found hungry seatrout over grass flats near Redfish and Captiva passes, plus south of Rocky Channel, off the north side of Bokeelia and in south Matlacha Pass near the powerlines. Most fish are averaging 13-16 inches with and good number running over 19 inches.

With a little effort, anglers are boxing a limit of tasty mangrove snapper across the inshore waters. Throughout Matlacha Pass, Pine Island Sound and the Harbor, snapper schools were chummed up around channel edges, bar drop-offs, shorelines and structure. Most inshore snapper are averaging 10-15 inches. Over the slower stages of the tides, snapper up to 16 inches were caught over hard bottom in Captiva and Boca Grande passes.

A few boats came across large schools of big black drum averaging 40-60 pounds in Charlotte Harbor. They often travel just under the surface with their fins protruding, an easy giveaway if you are paying attention to your surroundings. They seldom eat any type of bait fish, but a shrimp, gulp bait or properly placed fly can be deadly. Large black drum are a blast to catch, just make sure and return them to the water quickly.

Cobia and tarpon were also sighted or hooked around Charlotte Harbor. Most cobia are running slightly undersize in the 30-inch range and tarpon from 80-150 pounds were located around schooling thread herring and ladyfish. 

Offshore, red grouper up to 26 inches came from live or Swiss cheese bottom southwest of Captiva in 70 to 90-foot depths. Mangrove and lane snapper, plus goliath grouper and sharks were hooked from the same depths. 

Inshore waters around the islands look good with lots of healthy grass on the flats, loads of baitfish and plenty of predator or game fish. Inshore waters should start cooling down, ever so slightly, making it even better. 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.  

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.