Many days with slow tides, wind and lack of live bait had many anglers scrambling much of last week. On top of that, the water in areas of Pine Island Sound was very stirred up and milky from the wind - not very desirable conditions for catching fish.
Tarpon season is now in full swing, with many anglers devoting their time to chase the Silver King. Tarpon schools were reported off the Sanibel beaches and near the Sanibel Causeway, where large live Atlantic thread herring was the bait of choice. Watch for rolling or free-jumping fish, position your boat up wind or up tide, shut down the motor and make a quiet drift through the area with free lined baits for the best chance of hooking up. Big sharks were a common nuisance off the beaches, if you have a tarpon hooked up, tighten the drag, apply a lot of pressure to shorten the fight, have a spotter on the look-out when the tarpon is close to the boat, touch the leader and release it as quick as possible. These measures will increase the chances of survival. If a shark gets after the tarpon during the fight, its best to lock the drag, break the line and give the tarpon a fighting chance. Also, pay attention and beware if you are handling a fish at boat side, keep a spotter on the look-out.
Tarpon were also hooked while fishing cut bait on the bottom south of Cabbage Key in the sound and outside "Ding" Darling, south of the power lines. Sharks, including blacktip, spinners, sand and lemons, were a common nuisance for tarpon anglers. A few mornings with light winds and clear water allowed fly anglers good opportunities for sight fishing tarpon along the sand bars in Charlotte Harbor and off the beaches of Captiva and Cayo Costa.
With tarpon the main target for many, it's a good time for hunting redfish without much competition. Low morning tides and afternoon highs held good opportunities for redfish, sight fishing on the lows and fishing under the bushes on the highs. The keys on the far east side of Pine Island Sound held fairly clear water and was a good choice for targeting fish on the low water. On the upper stage of the incoming tide, cut pinfish, either on a quarter-ounce jighead or a circle hook connected with reds up to 32 inches.
The key was looking for mangrove shorelines with mullet activity and casting the bait up under the shadow of the trees. A few large redfish and mostly undersized snook were reported from the Blind Pass Bridge and surrounding docks.
Offshore, schools of Spanish mackerel and bonito were found around bait schools several miles off the beaches. Watch for birds and fish rocketing from the water. Both were caught on live bait and spoons, either trolling or making long cast. A few king mackerel were also reported. Further out in depths from 60 to 90 feet, red grouper up to 12 pounds were caught over reefs and coral bottom, along with catch and release gag grouper. Mangrove and lane snapper, plus grunts and porgies were also mixed over the same bottom.
For the past several months it's been a challenge to catch live bait (pilchards) with any consistency. Generally in the spring they are very abundant, for whatever reason this spring they are not. There are just not many around, but I guess they could show up in masses at any time. That's exactly what has happened with the Atlantic thread herring over the last several days. Large schools invaded Charlotte Harbor and areas of the sound. Although they are not as hardy as the pilchards, they make a great substitute. Any fish that will eat a pilchard will also inhale a thread herring (threadfin).
Have a safe week and good fishin'.