Despite slow tides much of the week, fishing wasn't all bad as anglers found cooperative fish both inshore and off. There were durations of time with little tide movement where the bite was off but on most days a modest to stiff breeze helped push the water to increase the action.
Sea trout were widespread throughout the inshore waters with fish running anywhere from 12 to 26 inches. In Matlacha Pass, fish over 20 inches were caught around oyster bars between the power lines and St. James City. Trout were also caught over grass bottom over the flats south of Picnic Island and the flats outside Tarpon Bay. A few large trout were also hooked in the early morning hours while walking the dog with top water Zara Spooks inside Tarpon Bay on Sanibel. In Pine Island Sound, trout were reported off the flats near Wulfert Keys, off the north side of Chino Island, and between Rocky Channel and Captiva Rocks. In Charlotte Harbor, trout were reported near marker 9 off Bokeelia and the outside flats of Bull and Turtle bays. Many of these areas also yielded a mix of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.
Slow moving water often made it difficult for catching redfish, but on many days a stiff south breeze helped move the water. Fish from 17 to 30 inches were reported throughout the keys in Pine Island Sound and in south Matlacha Pass. During low water, fish were either targeted in potholes or sight-fished on the shallow flats, then as the wind picked up and the tide rose fish were caught while targeting Island points and under the bushes.
Snook have been a pleasant surprise this spring with impressive numbers reported throughout the sound and harbor. This is great news as they have been out of season since the population was decimated during a cold snap in the winter of 2010. Although they are off limits to keep, they are still a blast to catch, just handle them with care when unhooking and releasing. Many are on the move; a pothole or shoreline might be stacked one day and gone the next, but it's great to see the stock rebounding.
Tarpon reports are becoming more common with fish sightings around the C span of the Sanibel Causeway, the beach north of Redfish Pass, south of Rocky Channel in the sound, and in Charlotte Harbor. The best time to sight rolling fish is after sunrise on calm mornings. Most hook-ups were reported on large live Atlantic thread herrings or cut mullet. Blacktip, bull and lemon sharks were also hooked from the same areas.
Offshore, many days the wind kept the seas whipped up but there were a few fishable days. Red grouper up to 17 pounds were hauled up from depths averaging 80 to 110 feet with dead Spanish sardines and live pinfish the best baits. A good number of gag grouper (out of season) were also caught, vented and released. Scamp, porgies and snapper were also caught from these depths. A little closer to shore in 55 to 80 foot depths, kingfish up to 14 pounds were caught over structure while flat lining live blue runners. Spanish mackerel up to 5 pounds were caught in 20 feet of water of Knapp's Point on Sanibel and near the last bell buoy west of Boca Grande Pass.
Last week the tides were weak, this week we will see some of our best tides so far this year. As we approach full moon at week's end look for stronger tides each day with some big afternoon highs. If you can break away, take advantage of some great tides, it could lead to some excellent fishing.
Have a great week and good fishin'.