On The Water: Big tides brings not bad fishing
Big new moon tides and fairly stable weather gave both inshore and offshore anglers a chance to target their favorite catches. Also, with the mini lobster season to our south in the Florida Keys, our waters were left pretty vacant of boats and anglers.
Offshore, there were reports of grouper, snapper and amberjacks in depth s from 45 to 165 foot. Mangrove snapper from 12 to 20 inches were taken over patch reefs west of Boca Grande Pass in depths from 45 to 50 feet. Heavy chumming to pull the fish from the bottom, then fishing pilchards, shrimp and cut sardines worked best. With the clear water, using a 20- to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader helped improve the bite.
Bottom dropping in 50 to 75 foot depths southwest off the point of Sanibel Island turned up catches of red grouper up to 12 pounds. The grouper were caught on 4 to 6 inch live pinfish or jig/squid combo rigs. A variety of lane snapper, grunts and porgies were also caught over the same live coral or swiss cheese bottom as the grouper.
Further west, anglers looking for something with a little more power found amberjacks over structure in depths from 125 to 165 feet. Live pinfish, thread herring and Williamson Jigs were the baits of choice. After a two month closure, the season for greater amberjacks reopened on Aug. 1. Go to www.myfwc.com to get the latest updates; from reports, there are some big AJ’s waiting to do battle.
Inshore, the new moon brought us some big high tides through the week and continued through the weekend. These tides are great for working the mangroves for redfish. The red bite has improved over the last few weeks with most fish reported averaging 19 to 22 inches, a few in the upper slot and the largest reported at 32 inches.
I have been working mangrove shorelines in Matlacha Pass and looking for areas where the wind (even if it’s just a hint of a breeze) and the tide are pushing water into the shoreline. The last three hours of the incoming tide have been best. For bait, we are tail hooking a live shiner or small pinfish on a 1/0 circle hook with a split-shot sinker and fishing the bait about a foot and a half under a popping cork. Cast as close to the mangroves as you can and allow the bobber to drift down the shore with the current while keeping it tight to the trees.
Other anglers also reported doing well with redfish over the same tide stage while pitching large shrimp cut in half and allowing them to soak on bottom under the mangroves. Redfish were also reported from Bull Bay across the Harbor on cut ladyfish and in Pine Island Sound around north Captiva on live pinfish, cut ballyhoo and weedless gold spoons.
The trout bite is hit or miss. It’s no problem catching plenty of little guys, but getting any number of fish in the legal slot is more of a challenge. What has worked best on my boat is once the tide starts flowing out, we’ve been working deeper grass flats along sand bars near Bokeelia and catching some really big summer trout along with Spanish mackerel and small sharks. The strong current is bunching up the bait pods in these areas and plenty of game fish are on the feed. We caught trout up to 24 inches, which is really big for the end of July.
Also, don’t be surprised if a tarpon shows up. Again this week, we hooked tarpon on light tackle right in the middle of a good trout bite. Our best action came with free lined shiners, they easily out-fished artificials and baits under popping corks. Look for the rain of the bait fish on the surface and birds working the water to locate the fish. Also, locate the clearest water possible. Trout up to 22 inches were caught off Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel and also at Blind Pass – look for the fish feeding on bait schools near the surf or around submerged structure.
Summer is flying by fast. Only one week until the kids are back in the classroom – let’s get them out there on the water!
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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’.