Right as fishing was getting good and you could feel the transition from winter to spring, Mother Nature had other thoughts. A cool front followed by extreme slow tides brought several days of tough fishing conditions. Action was good early in the week ahead of the front for both inshore and offshore anglers. This past weekend was some of the slowest fishing I have encountered in a long time, especially Sunday. No doubt some anglers had a good weekend, but those that I spoke with also found the bite very slow.
Good news for trout anglers, large fish are showing up in good numbers throughout Pine Island Sound and also in areas of Charlotte Harbor. Many were running over 20 inches with several measuring up to 24 inches. Of course, the recent weather slowed the action down for a few days, but the bite will pick right back up as the weather warms.
The best fishing was in Pine Island Sound; trout reports came from areas including the flats between Chino Island and the power lines, "Ding" Darling, east of Marker 34, Foster's Point and between Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key. Fish were caught with shrimp under popping corks, Redfish Magic shad tails in white color, Berkley Gulp Shrimp, suspended Mirrolures and live pinfish or shiners. On my boat we noticed a big jump in the size of the trout over several days leading up to the cool down. We caught trout up to 24 inches with a good number of fish just shy of 20 inches in Pine Island Sound.
Judy Tracy visiting from Whitewater, Wis., said she was 'just happy to get out of the cold.' On a bright sunny Florida afternoon she landed this big 24-inch trout near Bokeelia while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
The Spanish mackerel bite was strong ahead of the cool down and should get back on track this week. Look for action over bottom with a sand/ grass mix in 5 to 10-foot depths. Hot areas included Charlotte Harbor, west and north of Bokeelia, and inside Boca Grande Pass, inside Captiva Pass near the channel and the flats on the gulf side of the Sanibel Causeway. If you are shore-bound, the Sanibel and Bokeelia piers are a good choice to hook into some macks along with a variety of other fish.
Early last week small schools of redfish were reported on the eastern side of Pine Island Sound where fish up to 30 inches were taken on various artificials. On the afternoon high water, reds up to 28 inches were caught on live bait around oyster bars and shorelines in Charlotte Harbor. Snook were just beginning to consistently eat before the water temperature dropped back into the 60s. Look for their appetite to grow after a few warm, sunny days.
Offshore, red grouper to 12 pounds were boated in depths between 70 and 85 feet. At times the bite was extremely slow and other times red hot. Anglers patiently working an area were rewarded with a box of nice fish. Closer to land the near-shore reefs continue to yield a mix of sheepshead, grunts, snapper, flounder and Spanish mackerel. Most fish were caught on shrimp/jig combination or shrimp fished on a small circle hook. Big sheepshead were also reported on the beaches from Sanibel to Boca Grande around submerged debris.
In March, fishing rebounds from cold fronts quickly, the days are growing longer, average temperature is warmer and the water just doesn't stay cold as long. Look for good fishing as a front approaches, followed by a day or two of slow action after it arrives. Once the north wind settles down and the bright Florida sun returns look for the action to pick right back up again.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.