ON THE WATER: Migration in motion
With a noticeable change in weather and the Gulf waters cooling down, fish of all shapes and sizes are migrating down the coast of Florida on the way to their winter homes. It’s the time of year with endless fishing opportunities and lots of hard fighting fish.
West of Boca Grande, well off the coast, from 120 to 160 depths a few boats are finding areas of blue water and trolling for surprising results. Trolling naked ballyhoo and Cedar Plugs has worked for sailfish and blackfin tuna. The sails were taken on the ballyhoo, several sails were often sighted free jumping, and the tuna — up to 18 pounds –were caught on the Cedar Plugs. Often the tuna were caught by bottom fishing anglers as they trolled from one set of numbers to the next. American Red Snapper up to 18 pounds and grouper were caught on live bait around the 160 foot mark.
Trolling also worked a little closer to shore in depths from 30 to 60 feet for a combination of gag grouper and king mackerel. Working deep diving lures like the Bomber CD25 and CD30 just off the bottom over ledges and reefs resulted in tasty keeper size gag grouper and a few kings up to 20 pounds in the fish box. This style of fishing should only get better over the next few weeks as grouper move to shallower water and kings head down the coast.
Just like last week, the place to find fast rod bending action was not much more than a stone’s throw off the beaches and near the Passes. A host of aggressive hard fighting fish was found daily working large bait pods from Stump Pass south to Fort Myers Beach. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, bonito (little tunny), jack crevalle, sharks of all sizes and a few king mackerel could be seen aggressively beating up the baitfish on the surface. The bonito and mackerel were often airborne in pursuit of their prey. Using small shiny spoons (Clark Spoons is a time proven favorite) is the easiest way to make a long cast and get in on the action. Often the retrieve needs to be really fast to get the strike. If you think your retrieve is too fast, reel a little faster. Don’t worry, you can’t retrieve a spoon to fast for these speedsters. Make sure your reel has plenty of line, when you hook a decent size bonito or kingfish they can take a lot of line in a hurry. Remember, often the smallest lure works best. These fish often get feeding on small glass minnows and you really need to match the hatch to get strikes with consistency.
Tarpon were also sighted around the bait pods off the beaches and a couple were hooked around Boca Grande Pass on large live thread herring. Small pods of tarpon were also sighted around the Matlacha Draw Bridge at sunrise on calm mornings. Look for them on the south side near the Bridgewater Inn.
Several cobia were reported over the week in Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. They were sight fished along the big sandbars in areas with activity from mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish feeding on pilchards. Keep an eye out for cobia in the upcoming weeks as they are another migratory fish moving down our coast.
Right now is just a fun time to fish — the water is alive and on most days the fish are active. The key to a fun day of fishing is keep an open mind and don’t get too keyed in on any one species. Keep your eyes open and look for opportunities, and take advantage of them when they arise. If you can’t catch a redfish, don’t worry about it, I guarantee if you get into non-stop action on bonito or mackerel, or if you hook into a big cobia, you will forget all about those redfish. This time of year fishing is about opportunities — take advantage of it!
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’.