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On the Water: Snook season ends as tarpon season begins

By Staff | May 10, 2017

Brothers Jim and Tom Portz of Sebring, Fla., closed out snook season with a pair of nice fish. They were fishing near Bokeelia with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

As we kick off the month of May, it brings an end to snook season and the beginning of tarpon season. Although there really is no official season for tarpon fishing, most agree that the height of great tarpon fishing begins in May.

As snook season came to a close, many fishermen are reporting good numbers of undersized fish, some oversized, and a few in the legal slot. Many anglers catching slot or keeper fish report they are safely releasing them to help the snook population rebound rather than take them home for dinner. Snook season will reopen Sept. 1.

For much of the week, winds – often strong, played a factor on how and where anglers fished. It was a pretty tough time for offshore fishing; a few reports around artificial reefs off Sanibel and Captiva yielded large Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper and plenty of sharks.

With the winds often came dirty water inshore. The best areas to target trout were to locate water with decent visibility. This was generally accomplished by fishing off the leeward side of islands and spending a little time to find decent water. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and a few flounder were also hooked from these areas.

Redfish catches were spotty; a few were taken on gold spoons in south Matlacha Pass near the power lines on the west side of the Pass. Mid to upper-slot fish were caught on live pilchards and pinfish near Pirates Harbor on the Harbor’s eastern shore, and across the Harbor around Turtle Bay. Also, redfish to 24 inches were reported on the eastern side of Cayo Costa State Park south of Cabbage Key.

For tarpon, live baiting with Atlantic thread herring and small crabs, or casting artificials, including flies, were good options early in the week until the winds disrupted things. Over the windy times, the better bet to hook a tarpon was to anchor up in known tarpon areas and fish cut bait on bottom. Areas where tarpon were reported included off the west side of Bokeelia in Charlotte Harbor, in the Sound from Tarpon Bay on Sanibel all the way north to Fosters Point on Captiva, in depths from 6 to 15 feet, and south of Rocky Channel between Pineland and Captiva Pass. For cut bait, fresh mullet, ladyfish and catfish tails are great choices.

As usual, when cut bait tarpon fishing, plenty of sharks and large stingray hook-ups were noted. Sharks included blacktip, spinner, lemon and nurse.

It’s time to dust off the gear and go chase some poons. The best part of tarpon fishing is the hunt, hook-up and the adrenaline rush that first jumps brings. After that, it’s just a hard battle with a really strong, determined fish. Many seasoned anglers just as soon part ways with a big tarpon after the first couple jumps and try to do it again, rather than engage in a long battle. If you hook into a big tarpon, and he parts ways after a few magnificent leaps, don’t be discouraged, be thrilled for the opportunity and go back on the hunt.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, on the Web at www.fishpineisland.com or email gcl2fish@live.com

Have a safe week and good fishin’.

As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.