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On the Water: Tarpon season is in full swing

By Staff | May 20, 2015

Frank Rudy (pictured) and his fishing buddies Peter Wright and Bruce Romanczuk all from Estero, teamed up to land this hard fighting blacktip shark. It took a live bait off the beach of Cayo Costa State Park on a fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Wow! What a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend in Southwest Florida. With calm seas, blue skies and low humidity, I hope every got a chance to get on the water and enjoy it.

Tarpon season is in full swing, with many anglers devoting their time to chase the silver king. Tarpon schools were reported off the Sanibel beaches between Knapp’s Point and Fort Myers Beach, and near the Sanibel Causeway, large live Atlantic thread herring and pilchards were the baits of choice for most. Watch for rolling or free-jumping fish, position your boat up wind or up tide, shut down the motor and make a quiet drift through the area with free-lined baits for the best chance of hooking up.

Big sharks were a common nuisance off the beaches – if you have a tarpon hooked up, tighten the drag, apply a lot of pressure to shorten the fight, have a spotter on the look-out when the tarpon is close to the boat, touch the leader and release it as quick as possible. These measures will increase the chances of survival. If a shark gets after the tarpon during the fight, its best to lock the drag, break the line and give the tarpon a fighting chance. Also, pay attention and beware if you are handling a fish at boat side, keep a spotter on the look-out.

Tarpon were also hooked while fishing cut bait on bottom or live bait under a float inside Captiva Pass near the channel, and outside “Ding” Darling, south of the power lines. Sharks, including blacktip, spinners, sand and lemons, were a common nuisance for tarpon anglers in Pine Island Sound. Most of the sharks in the Sound weren’t large enough to go after a tarpon, but rather baits intended for them.

Mornings with light winds and clear water allowed fly angler’s good opportunities for sight fishing tarpon along the sand bars in Charlotte Harbor and off the beaches of Captiva and Cayo Costa.

Its “silly season” in Boca Grande Pass where a hundred boats or more chasing tarpon schools is the norm. Look for schools up on the hill in the harbor following an incoming tide and moving back into and west of the pass on the falling tides. Hook-ups were reported on lots of different baits including thread herring, pilchards, pinfish, squirrelfish and small crabs, with crabs probably producing the most hook-ups. Remember, only three lines in the water in Boca Grande Pass during tarpon season, this also applies if you are not tarpon fishing.

Mangrove snapper to 16 inches and lots of small grouper were caught bottom fishing while drifting the pass in depths averaging 34 to 40 feet.

With tarpon the main target for many, it’s a good time for hunting redfish without much competition. Low morning tides and afternoon highs held good opportunities for redfish, sight fishing on the lows and fishing under the bushes on the highs. The keys on the far east side of Pine Island Sound held fairly clear water and was a good choice for targeting fish on the low water. On the upper stage of the incoming tide, cut pinfish, either on a -ounce jig head or a circle hook connected with reds up to 29 inches. The key was looking for mangrove shorelines with mullet activity and casting the bait up under the shadow of the trees. Also, catch-and-release snook fishing is a good option. Fish to 36 inches were released along the Sanibel beach south of Blind Pass, inside Captiva Pas, and good action with smaller fish was reported in Charlotte Harbor near Burnt Store Marina.

Offshore, schools of Spanish mackerel were found around bait schools and over structure several miles off the beaches. Watch for birds and fish rocketing from the water. Most were caught on live bait and spoons, either trolling or making long cast. A few king mackerel were also reported. Further out in depths from 70 to 100 feet, red grouper up to 12 pounds were caught over reefs and coral bottom, along with catch-and-release gag grouper. Mangrove and lane snapper, plus grunts and porgies, were also mixed over the same bottom. Permit were also caught over structure, with small live crabs the best bait.

In my opinion blacktop sharks are one of our most underrated fish. These guys fight with all the tenacity of a tarpon, can put on a great aerial show, are lightning fast and just will not give up. Right now, there are plenty of big ones roaming our waters, if you want to tangle with something that pound for pound will give a tarpon a run for its money, then this is your fish.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960 on the web at www.fishpineisland.com or email gcl2-fish@live.com

Have a safe week and good fishin’.