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On the Water: Late season front shuts down tarpon bite

By Staff | May 18, 2016

Hayden Friel came to Florida from Maine to visit his grandfather, Bill Valpie, for spring break and really wanted to catch a shark. Hayden was in luck as he caught and released this big blacktip in north Pine Island Sound on a fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

A late-season cold front dropped the humidity and temperature and made for pleasant days as long as you weren’t tarpon fishing. While strong winds hampered the tarpon, good new moon tides kept other inshore species on the bite.

Tarpon season was just kicking off with good reports, and then the wind arrived and stayed with us all week. Before the wind, tarpon were making a good showing in all their usual haunts. Off the beaches, concentrations of fish were located between The Sundial and Knapp’s Point off Sanibel, just to the north of Blind Pass and off the southern end of Cayo Costa. Most hook-ups were reported on live thread herring, small crabs and various flies.

Inshore, tarpon were located between Picnic Island and Sanibel’s C-span, around the clam leases in Pine Island Sound, and in Charlotte Harbor between Bokeelia and Cayo Costa State Park.

As the wind picked up, many anglers opted to anchor and fish dead bait on bottom. Along with tarpon, a variety of sharks, including hammerhead, blacktip and bulls, plus large stingrays were also hooked. The best baits included cut mullet and ladyfish.

While the wind often made it very difficult for tarpon anglers, coupled with a strong new moon incoming tide, it was often a benefit for anglers fishing for redfish and snook. Both species were reported from anglers targeting oyster bars, island points and sand holes with a good wind/tide flow moving the same direction. This was particularly true as the front’s arrival brought northwest winds. A few notable areas included bars, holes and points near Regla Island and McKeever Keys in the lower Sound and Wood Keys to the north; the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor between Burnt Store Marina and Pirates Harbor; and northern Matlacha Pass. Remember, snook season is closed, as with all fish to be released, please handle them gently and return them to the water as quickly as possible.

Trout fishing for legal or keeper-size fish was often good despite the weather much of the week. The better size trout appear to be on the move almost daily – I have found myself constantly moving or relocating to find the bigger fish. If you are only catching sub-legal fish, give it a few minutes and make a move and keep at it until you locate the bigger fish. Trout to 21 inches were found on the flats off the north end of Roosevelt Channel on Captiva, north of Hemp Key in the mid-Sound and between Part Island and Bokeelia at the north end. Mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks and small sharks were also common catches from these areas. Some really large trout, with a few over 24 inches, were caught in Matlacha Pass and along the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor.

The wind had the water stirred up and dirty in places, try to find the cleanest water possible.

When the weather interferes with your fishing plans, keep an open mind and it can save the day. Tarpon are great fun when the seas are calm and you can actively see the fish, but can become a real challenge, or for me, very boring when the bite is slow, the seas are rough and the fish aren’t showing. These same conditions that make tarpon chasing often impossible are often the perfect conditions for fishing the flats for snook, redfish and trout. Be willing to adapt and make the best of the conditions and it can save the day and lead you to some great, unexpected fishing.

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’.