The July 4th holiday weekend is behind us and long hot days lie ahead for the remainder of the month. That's OK; there are plenty of fish to catch and very few anglers competing. This time of year really takes me back to days gone by or the "good ol' days" as some would say, when you could spend most of the days around the waters of Pine Island without another boat in sight. In reality, I guess not seeing another boat is a pretty far stretch, but it¹s about as close to the "good ol' days" as we are gonna get.
Look for the best fishing early and late in the day when temperatures are coolest, try to coordinate the better tides with this part of the day. Of course, thunderstorms are a strong possibility on any given day, fishing the morning tides is a lot more predictable. However, fishing after an afternoon thunderstorm can be very good. If the sky clears a few hours before the sun sets this is a great time to hit the water.
Redfish and mangrove snapper will be in the sights of many inshore anglers, both thrive in the warm summer temperature and fishing for both should only get better as the month progresses. Anglers will score with redfish using two very different techniques:
First, and this is generally a very early or very late in the day strategy, is sight fishing. This is done over the shallow grass flats when the temperature is cool and the water calm. Unless you have a skinny water boat and have adapted to poling without making much noise the best way to fish is to leave the boat behind and wade fish. Canoe or kayaks can also get you into the skinny water while keeping your feet dry. This style of fishing is a lot like hunting, you are stalking feeding fish by watching for pushes of water, wakes and tailing fish. This style of fishing is Taylor made for fly rodders and those who prefer artificial; there is nothing more exciting than the anticipation of a big redfish exploding on a fly or top water lure in a foot of water. There is a big learning curve for this type of fishing, but once you get it, it can be very productive and addictive
The second method — much easier and also very productive — is fishing under the mangroves islands over the higher tides. Not as much stealth is required here, fish are a lot more settled with the added water over their head plus they feel the security of the mangrove roots and over hangs. Don't get me wrong, anytime fishing relatively shallow water silence is always better, but you can fudge more in the deeper water. Generally the last few hours of the rising tide and first couple when it turns out are best, fish feel the most secure at this stage and really get to rooting under the bushes.
For bait under the bushes, live bait including pilchards, pinfish and shrimp work great, and a variety of dead or cut baits put a scent in the water and quickly attract the hungry fish. Scented artificial baits like Gulp also work well. More important than what to use for bait is where to put it, these fish are feeding way up under the trees, if you want to catch them, your bait has to be under the trees also.
While mangrove snapper will be caught targeting redfish under the mangroves, anglers targeting the tasty fish will look to areas with structure. Inshore this includes the gulf passes; Redfish, Captiva and Boca Grande all have rocks and ledges that attract snapper and other fish. Also, docks, piers, jetties, artificial reefs and any other submerged debris piles are sure to be likely snapper hotspots. In the gulf, most of the near shore artificial reefs and underwater structure also will hold mangrove snapper and some big ones.
Small baits are best for catching snapper. These guys have great eyesight; it really helps to scale down the tackle including the hook and leader size. For me, I prefer small pilchards and pinfish with enough weight using a knocker rig to keep it near bottom. A knocker rig is nothing more than an egg sinker that is allowed to freely slide on the leader down to the hooks eye. Shrimp also work great, and many anglers catch plenty on buck tail jigs tipped with a piece of fish or shrimp or just using a jig head with a live shrimp, pinfish or pilchard.
There is a lot of confusion on what types of hooks are legal for use in the gulf waters for snapper and if the passes are included areas. I recommend visiting www.myfwc.com for information or visit a local tackle shop to get up to speed on current regulations.
Mangrove snapper and redfish are both great targets over the hot summer months and both can be invited home for supper. Load up the family and go catch some — it's hard to beat a mess of fresh fried snapper and an ice cold beer in the summer!
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'.
Shelby Russell, 15, of Matlacha is one happy girl after landing this big tarpon. She was fishing in Charlotte Harbor with her brother Jake, cousin Amanda and dad, Captain Bill Russell.