For fast, reel screaming action, it's hard to beat Spanish mackerel — and that's just what anglers found the first week of spring. While slow moving, quarter moon tides made fishing somewhat difficult for other species, the hard hitting, high speed macks were there to take up the slack.
With the slower tide days the best action came from waters near the Passes and Sanibel Causeway that funneled water creating a better tidal flow. The deeper grass flats on the Gulf side of the Causeway, a short distance inside or outside Redfish or Captiva Passes, and the waters between Bokeelia and Boca Grande Pass all yielded good action. Anglers also found schooling mackerel just outside Boca Grande Pass.
Baits varied from shrimp under a popping cork, to live shiners and a host of artificials, with silver spoons retrieved about as fast as you can turn the handle irresistible. Drifting works well for many, while other anglers choose to anchor up and bring the fish to them. This may be accomplished by simply deploying a chum bag over the side of the boat, or if you are lucky enough to have netted a live well full of shiners. Simply squeezing a couple live shiners to disorient them and tossing them behind the boat every minute or so is a great way to get the action going — just be prepared to feed the birds half the bait fish. A chum bag is a simpler way and very effective.
The mackerel vary in size, but the average is getting bigger each week. Charlotte Harbor is holding plenty of big fish, with many in the five pound range. Sea trout, bluefish and ladyfish are also coming from the same area. That makes it fun; you never really know what the next fish will be. With the chum and action, you should expect sharks cruising nearby, it's very common for them to attack a hooked fish during the fight. If you want to tangle with a shark, bring along a heavier outfit with a wire leader and circle hook. Cut a ladyfish in half, cast it away from the boat and either let it settle on bottom or tie a balloon a few feet above the bait to keep it suspended. If you don't want to play tug-o-war with a carhood-sized stingray, I would go with the bait suspended under a balloon.
A quick reminder: It is illegal to cut any fish and use for bait that has a measurable size. This means mackerel, sea trout, bluefish and other fish with size limits, it is illegal to cut them in half and use for bait, no matter how big the fish is. Measurable fish must remain in their whole state while on the water. These rules can get quite confusing, but I have heard more than once of an angler getting pulled over by law enforcement while anchored up shark or tarpon fishing and getting a citation for having a half a mackerel on a line for bait. For more information on our fishing rules and regulations, go to www.myfwc.com.
Speaking of tarpon, more are moving into our waters with each warming day. If you put out a shark rig, it just might become a tarpon rig. Same thing with cobia; they are curious and attracted to activity. A fresh chunk of meat dangled under a balloon is a great way to go home with some delicious cobia steaks. These hard fighters must be 33 inches measured from the tip of the mouth or head to the fork in the tail to be legal. Remember, it measured to the fork of the tail, not the overall length; mackerel are measured in the same manner. It takes a pretty good size cobia to be of keeper size and often anglers get confused with the measuring techniques.
I have to send out a big "Thank You" to my Little Bobbers kids fishing team from this past Saturday's 13th annual Bobby Holloway Memorial Fishing Tournament. Our team, the Little Bobarossa's, consisted of Stephen, Kohl, Shelby, Jacob and my wife Laurie. They fished hard all day, caught lots of fish and ended the day in third place. Congratulations to all the Little Bobber teams and Captains. It was a great day with lots of happy kids — that's what it's all about. Also, thank you to all the men, women and businesses that work so hard to make this event such a success for so many years. My hats off to you!
If you have a fishing story or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960 or www.fishpineisland.com. Have a safe week and good fishin'.
Pine Islander Kohl Long and his team, the Little Bobarossa's, battled lots of big Spanish mackerel on tournament day. They were fishing with Captain Bill and Laurie Russell.