Over the past week, anglers experienced pretty good weather for the most part and despite several days with tides less than desirable, fishing wasn't too bad. Inshore, reports were decent for redfish, large trout, sheepshead and, at times, the snook bite was heating up. Offshore, anglers scored with a good mix of tasty bottom fish plus amberjacks and cobia.
Redfish reports came from both Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Fish from 22-29 inches were caught in sand potholes or waking across the turtle grass on the lower water, and along the mangrove shorelines on the afternoon high water. Fly anglers scored with a few on the morning lows, however most fish were taken on cut or live bait including ladyfish, pinfish, pilchards and shrimp over the incoming water. A few large red were also landed while casting Redfish Magic baits in a pearl white color near Cabbage Key.
As spring nears, we are continuing to hear reports of more large sea trout. Fish over 20 inches are becoming common and there were several reports of "gators," trout hitting 24 inches or more. Trout were caught throughout the Sound in 3 to 6-foot depths, with sand potholes adjacent to shorelines or oyster bars producing the biggest fish. Several fish over 20 inches were also reported from Matlacha Pass.
While catching sheepshead, Tony Malcoun of Bonita Springs hooked into this hard-fighting black drum. The drum was caught and released after taking a live shrimp fishing near Captiva Pass with Capt. Bill Russell
Once the water temperature hit 70 degrees after the slight cool down, snook became active. Sunny afternoons with a rising tide resulted in hungry snook in northern Pine Island Sound, the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor and southern Matlacha Pass near St. James City. A few were hooked on lures but most of the action came on live shrimp, shiners and pinfish. Snook season will reopen on March 1, it is catch-and-release only until then.
The better sheepshead reports came from the barrier islands and nearshore. From boats, fish to 5 pounds were caught from docks at Blind and Redfish passes on Captiva, and the old phosphate dock pilings on the north side of Boca Grande Pass. From shore, fish were hooked from the Bokeelia or Sanibel piers and the Gulf-side rock jetties at Blind Pass. Several black drum and pompano were also caught while targeting sheepshead.
Grassy bottom in 5 to 8-foot depths around Bokeelia and inside Captiva Pass held a mix of fish including sea trout, ladyfish, bluefish, small sharks and a few keeper-size cobias. The best bite was over the afternoon incoming tide.
Offshore, reports were good for a mix of bottom fish while drifting over hard bottom from 45 to 70-foot depths. Shrimp, squid and cut baitfish yielded a mix of mangrove and lane snapper, sheepshead, porgies, Key West grunts, lots of undersized red grouper and a few keepers over 20 inches. Fishing wrecks offshore was good for amberjack, barracuda and a few cobia.
With the warming trend, our waters are beginning to come alive. Bait fish are moving in and game fish are getting hungry. The bite wasn't always good, there were times over the week with really poor tide movement. But, when everything was right, we got our first taste of great spring fishing, and it should only get better as we (hopefully) leave the cold months behind.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.
As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.