On the Water: Fall fishing begins across Southwest Florida
As we put summer behind us and head into the first week of fall, anglers will find good fishing opportunities inshore and in gulf waters.
Large bait schools are hanging over grass flats throughout Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Fishing these areas gives the opportunity to hook spotted and grey trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, snapper, ladyfish, jack crevalle, cobia, sharks and others. If live bait fishing, a couple handfuls of crippled minnows is often all that was needed to get the bite started. Once a few fish start feeding more generally move in. Small silver spoons and small mylar jigs also produced well.
Leading up to the seasonal change, over the past week snook were caught and released around Redfish and Captiva passes fishing live bait on the falling tide. Snook were hooked around Blind Pass, either drifting the channel or fishing docks. In Charlotte Harbor, snook are in good numbers off the eastern and western walls of Charlotte Harbor and mid to north Pine Island Sound. Snook were hooked after dark from both the Matlacha Drawbridge and the Sanibel Pier while freelining live shrimp or casting white buck tail jigs. Snook, along with redfish, snapper, mackerel, seatrout and ladyfish, were hooked from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier
Look for redfish, often in large schools, along bars around Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, plus in and around the Gulf passes. Redfish this time of year may measure well over 30 inches.
Hard fighting jack crevalle are also schooled up and roaming the flats and channel edges. They commonly travel the same path along bars and shorelines as redfish schools this time of year. Mullet are schooling up for their fall run and are candy to big jacks. If you see a push of water or feeding commotion, make a long cast with a top water lure and hold on!
If you are looking for dinner, mangrove snapper is the best option. Small live or cut baits, including pilchards, herring, pinfish and shrimp, are the best choice while fishing sand holes, oyster bars shorelines, or around structure and ledges. Over the past month or so, snapper are about everywhere inshore. Most will push offshore soon, but in the meantime, take advantage of this easily accessible, great eating fish.
In Gulf waters, nearshore fishing should be good as the water cools. Look for mangrove snapper in good numbers over structure including hard bottom, ledges, and reefs beginning in depths around twenty feet. It’s a little early, but you may get lucky and hook into a few big sheepsheads as well. Odds improve at catching a keeper size gag grouper as numbers of larger fish increase over shallower waters nearshore. As weather begins to cool to the north, it will send migrating or pelagic species off our coast as water temperature drops. Hook-ups with king mackerel, cobia, tripletail, tarpon, bonito, and blackfin tuna are a good possibility.
Fall is officially here — time for some of our best fishing and weather of the year. The next month or so gives us so much opportunity for not only good fishing, but beautiful weather to be outdoors. Get out there and enjoy it!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.