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ON THE WATER: Look for game fish around the bait schools

By Staff | Sep 23, 2010

Jack Metz with one of many redfish caught between Matlacha and Bokeelia. He was fishing last Friday with Capt. Bill Russell.

If you spent any time on the water recently, you had to marvel at the mass amounts of baitfish. From small inch-long glass minnows to large mullet, bait is everywhere. On the calm days, it looked like rain on the water — except the skies are clear. Often the best fishing was found near the bait schools inshore, offshore and on the beaches.

Fishing over ledges offshore has produced good catches of gag grouper and mangrove snapper in depths from 40 to 60 feet. The best bet was dropping large live pinfish for the grouper that measured up to 28 inches or dropping live pilchards for snapper up to 20 inches. A few king mackerel up to 20 pounds were also reported from these areas.  

Red grouper, lane snapper and grunts were caught southwest of Sanibel in depths from 50 to 65 feet over hard coral bottom. Again, live pinfish worked best for the groupers and cut squid, sardines or shrimp for the others.

Off the beaches, large schools of small baitfish attracted lots of attention from Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and sharks. Captain Gary Clarks reports activity from redfish Pass south to Bowman¹s Beach on Sanibel. Look for the birds and feeding activity and drift through the activity while casting small silver or gold spoons.

Captain Clark also reports tarpon in the same area as they were often sighted rolling just off the beach, about the same distance offshore as the idle buoys.

Trout and whiting were also caught on the beach near Blind Pass and the Sanibel Rocks on live shrimp or quarter ounce chartreuse jig heads with a new penny color Berkley Gulp shrimp tail bounced on bottom.

Inshore, anglers are catching some really big trout for this time of year and most were found around mullet schools. Trout up to 25 inches were caught in Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound, on live bait the action was best on the higher stages of the tide while early morning and late afternoon turned up a few large fish on mullet imitating top water lures.  

We actually had a couple days fishing around oyster bars in Matlacha Pass where we had a difficult time catching fish under 20 inches, not a bad problem to have. Most of the trout were 22 to 24 inches and were caught on live pilchards around schooling mullet.  We also caught redfish up to 28 inches with most in the lower slot around 21 to 23 inches, some really large bluefish for our standards and a few flounder, snapper and snook.

Captain Shawn McQuade reports good fishing for redfish on the eastern side of Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. Schools of 50 to 70 fish were found working along drop-offs on the late afternoon falling tides. Almost all the fish were over the slot, with the largest measuring near 40 inches. They were caught on both live bait and artificials.

I’ve been fishing these waters for a long time and I cannot remember a time when there was so much bait and such a variety. Everywhere you look, the water is literally alive with some type baitfish. Every day when we catch fish, I wonder why a fish would even eat bait with a hook stuck in it when there is so much food available, but I am sure glad they do. I’ve got to think with all the food in the water, our game fish are eating well, growing fast and reproducing often. That should make for even better fishing in the near future.

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’.