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On the Water: Blue skies finally return

By Staff | Sep 12, 2017

What a difference a week makes as the rain stopped and blue skies returned. Fishermen returned to the water under plenty of sunshine and many found success with hungry fish while others struggled to find a bite.

For inshore anglers the hunt was primarily for redfish, mangrove snapper and, of course, snook as season recently reopened on Sept. 1. Inshore due to all the rain, the water is very dark with low salinity in many areas. However, the areas I fished the water clarity was good despite being dark, bait was good and lively and fishing was pretty good. The water temperature also dropped about 10 degrees over the rainy days.

Redfish were located feeding in schools along sand bars off the perimeter of Charlotte Harbor and also in the Pine Island Sound. The best bet was any bait that would make a long cast ahead of the moving fish, including heavier top-water lures, gold weedless spoons and fresh cut bait, including ladyfish steaks and pinfish. Most school reds average 27 to 30 inches. The best time to sight the schools was on the end of the falling tide and beginning of the incoming. On the higher water the traditional method of fishing under the shade of the mangroves worked for fish from 18 to27 inches. In the Sound, most of the keys and islands that dot the eastern side are each holding at least a few fish, as well as the islands off Matlacha Pass. Live or cut pinfish or pilchards, plus Berkley Gulp Shad, were the favored baits.

Although there are still plenty of snook on the beaches, many are transitioning to inshore waters. Snook averaging 22 to 26 inches, with an occasional fish over 28 inches, were reported in good numbers along shorelines and potholes on either the eastern or western side of Pine Island Sound. Anglers fishing north Matlacha Pass and the islands around Charlotte Harbor also found a few hungry snook. Live pilchards, shrimp, pinfish and grunts or pigfish were the baits of choice. For land-based anglers, the Bokeelia Pier is a great place to wet a line during the day, as well as the Matlacha Bridge and Sanibel Pier day or night, plus the area around the Blind Pass Bridge connecting Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

Mangrove snapper continue to bite in large numbers inshore. They appear to be on the move as a location that was good recently may be dead now, but with a little searching you should be able to put together a nice mess of snapper. Target them in the Gulf passes on the slower and slack tides, around any type structure inside the passes and throughout the inshore waters. A small live pilchard or pinfish is deadly when rigged with a small hook (1/0 or smaller) attached to 20 lb or lighter fluorocarbon leader. Shrimp/jig combinations also worked great.

Trout and mackerel reports varied, but were slower after the recent rains. Some of the best areas included Charlotte Harbor west of Bokeelia, and across to the north around Bull Bay, west of the fish shacks in the Sound, and also grass flats inside Redfish and Captiva passes. Most of the trout are running an inch or so under size with larger fish mixed in and the mackerel are averaging 14 to 20 inches.

Offshore, red grouper plus mangrove and lane snapper was boated in depths from 75 to 100 feet. Live or dead pinfish, frozen sardines or thread herring, plus squid on a large jig head, were top baits. Closer to shore over the reefs made from the old Sanibel Causeway between Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel, anglers found action with mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, small sharks, a few nice trout and small grouper. Shrimp, pilchards, pinfish and shrimp tipped buck tail jigs were favored baits. The preferred method was to locate the highest relief on a depth sounder, anchor up current and deploy a chum bag to the bottom and slowly raise it every few minutes. On a day with light winds, this is a good way for anglers with smaller boats to get on some good action and still be relatively close to land.

Slowly but surely you can fell the season’s changing. Days are getting shorter and you can feel a difference first thing in the mornings. Of course, by 9 a.m. its hot, but cooler days are ahead. We are getting into, in my opinion, some of the best fishing of the year. Take advantage of it before the northern crowds arrive.

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.