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On the Water: April is a great month for fishing in Southwest Florida

By Staff | Apr 11, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED While fishing on a very windy day last week Jonathan Haug, 14, of Chicago caught his very first snook, and it measured 30 inches. Jonathan, along with his father and grandfather, were fishing Pine Island Sound with Capt. Bill Russell.

If I had to choose one month of the year to fish, it would be hard to pass on the month of April. Spring is here and that means warmer days and more and more fish moving into our waters. Large schools of bait are already arriving, and hungry fish of all sizes are right behind. Weather is generally great for the month – March was cold and windy, this month should bring light winds, with sunny mild days, plus the waters are the clearest we will see all year.

This is the best time to catch our largest sea trout of the year with many going well over 20 inches and a few pushing 30. Many of the largest trout are caught while targeting snook. Spanish mackerel schools are running throughout our inshore waters, off the beaches and not too far offshore. Inshore, expect to catch a mix of bluefish, ladyfish and small sharks mixed with the mackerel. If you want to tug on something larger, it’s a good idea to toss out a heavier rig with a chunk of ladyfish or mullet or a big live bait such as a pinfish suspended under a float. If you’re lucky a tarpon, shark or cobia may come to play.

Large sharks are making their way into our waters; it’s possible to hook up with big bulls and lemons inshore, some pushing 10 feet. Also, look for blacktips and spinners inshore and off the beaches. They may range from 3 to 6 feet and are some of the hardest fighting fish in the water, plus they often give an impressive high-speed aerial show when hooked.

The tarpon invasion begins this month throughout Southwest Florida. It’s possible to hook into a big silver king if you are fishing for them or not. They are just as likely to gulp down a live shrimp or small lure as anything. Large schools of tarpon will appear a short distance off the beach; early morning is the best time to toss a small live crab or Atlantic thread herring ahead of a moving school. The best fishing is often to the south early in the month then moving north from Fort Myers Beach to Sanibel and up to Cayo Costa State Park and Boca Grande. Tarpon numbers will increase inshore in San Carlos Bay, Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor as the month progresses.

April brings our first good high (spring) tides of the year. This is the time to target redfish under the bushes or mangroves as they are foraging for tasty morsels. Fishing a stretch of shoreline over the last couple hours of the rising and first of the falling on the big tide days gives you the best shot at boating redfish. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the month will hold a few mornings with ultra-low tides, just the ticket for sight-fishing reds over the shallow flats.

Capt. Bill Russell

Snook season is open through the end of the month. Target snook along most shorelines, oyster bar, and submerged structure with good moving water. If your fishing from land, Blind Pass, the Sanibel and Bokeelia piers, and the Matlacha drawbridge are worth a look. Snook have a slot-size (28-33 inches) that only allows for a 5-inch range, so most fish hooked fall below or above the range. For all fish to be released, it’s important to quickly get them unhooked, back in the water and safely released. Use circle hooks to prevent deep damaging hook sets. Along with a saltwater fishing license, you also need a snook stamp to have a snook in your possession.

Offshore, Pelagics are moving up the coast, you may hook both large “smoker” king mackerel and smaller schoolie kings, plus plenty of big Spanish mackerel. Cobia, amberjack, barracuda and permit can be located hanging over structure and target grouper combined with other bottom dwellers on offshore ledges, reefs and other bottom structure.

There’s a multitude of different fishing opportunities this month, we only touched on a few, but you get the idea. If there is one month that just don’t have enough days to take advantage of all the great fishing and boating available in our waters, April is it.

The past week leading up to Easter was one of the busiest weeks on the water I can remember. Even during mid-week with all that wind there were boats everywhere. Between the amount of traffic and discourteous captains, it was hard to fish with a smile on your face. Hopefully that was the grand finale for many, as Easter generally signals the end to our busy season. With boat traffic dropping off and the water warming up, this should give us great fishing opportunities throughout the month.

If you have a fishing report of for charter information, please contact us at: Gulf Coast Guide Service, phone: 239-283-7960, Website: 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.