Although its summer and hot in Southwest Florida, after looking at the national weather and heat wave — or "heat dome" — to our north, I guess we shouldn't really complain. Fishing slowed as the week progressed due to weaker and less favorable tides, but there were still fish to be caught.
Offshore reports showed mangrove snapper and some big ones five pounds or better over structure from 70 to 90 foot depth. Fish were caught both day and night, but the best bet was anchoring up with a chum line after sunset. Yellowtail snapper and red grouper were also caught on the same bottom. One boat reported a school of small (peanut) dolphin in about 90 feet of water, with about one in five fish of legal size.
Shore-bound anglers have found success with a mix of fish from the beach and piers around the Islands. Off the beach at Sanibel rocks, wade fishermen hooked up with sea trout to 18 inches, Spanish mackerel to 22 inches and snook of all sizes. A little farther north, fishermen scored with mangrove snapper, redfish and snook at Blind Pass. While snook are out of season and the redfish were running a tad below the 18-inch minimum, the snapper were of good size for those looking for a tasty dinner.
Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper were the main catches from the Sanibel and Bokeelia Piers. Live shrimp and small pilchards worked best, but small white jigs and silver spoons also caught fish.
Early in the week with good high tides, on my boat we found redfish and snook on oyster bars in Charlotte Harbor at the top of the tide. Fishing with live shiners, the bite was steady over several days — not great, but steady. The good news was the majority of our reds were in the slot, only one or two out of a dozen or so was under 18 inches. Also we caught some really nice, fat mangrove snappers up to 14 inches on the oyster bars. A 1/0 circle hook (Owner) is the perfect size for snapper, look for inshore snapper fishing to get better each day.
For a fun time, especially with youngsters, look for action with a variety of fish on the deeper grass flats feeding on large schools of tiny baitfish. With the calm summer mornings, look for the bait raining on the surface or birds... they are pretty easy to find. Spanish mackerel, trout, bluefish and ladyfish are the most common catches. While the mackerel are running good size, many of the trout are below keeper size, but some nice ones are mixed in.
There are a lot of small blacktip sharks from north Matlacha Pass to Bokeelia and in the northern Sound on the grass flats in three to six foot depths. Most of the sharks are running two to three feet. To catch the sharks, it's hard to beat a pinfish under a popping cork — give it a couple pops and hold on. This is great family fishing, especially for the little ones. Watch those teeth... they might be small, but they are razor sharp!
There are still some big tarpon around: we hooked a couple this week in the 80- to 100-pound range while fishing live shiners around the bait schools mentioned above. Each hook-up was on light tackle, I think the best we got from one fish was six impressive jumps before the 15-pound line parted. Get around the bait schools and feeding activity and there's no telling what you might hook. The best bite is from early morning until about noon before the hottest part of day. With the midday low tides, the bite completely shut down for most anglers during the heat of the day.
July is closing fast. Let's get those kids on the water before school starts!
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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'.
John Koslosky and his three sons left the heat wave up north and came from Denver, Colo. to visit the cool weather around Pine Island last week and get in some fishing. Over two days, they boated snook, trout, sharks, mackerel, snapper and redfish. Pictured is John with a 21-inch red that went home for dinner. They were fishing in Charlotte Harbor with Captain Bill Russell and Captain Gary Clark.