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On the Water: May is best month for chasing big fish

By Staff | May 9, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED Tarpon are here and hungry! Daniel Simon of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., won the battle then jumped in the water for a quick picture before the tarpon was released. Daniel was fishing Pine Island Sound with Capt. Jason Ramer.

May is a month that ranks high on the list for best months for fishing the waters of Southwest Florida. One could argue, it’s the best month for chasing big fish.

Tarpon season is at its peak – if you want to hook into a big tarpon, this is the time to do it. Large schools will gather off the beaches, as well as in Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay and other inshore waters. Tarpon, aka the “Silver King,” will also be hanging around the Sanibel Causeway and the Gulf passes, with Boca Grande getting the most attention. It’s not uncommon to see a hundred boats or better on any given day tarpon fishing Boca Grande Pass – if you are going to fish there do your homework first.

Sharks of all sizes invade our waters from the shallow inshore flats to offshore. Many of the larger females, including bull, lemon and blacktop, move into our inshore waters to give birth to their babies. Sharks are a very underrated game fish. When caught on moderate tackle, they are an absolute blast, especially high-flying blacktips and spinners. Be very careful when handling them, or better yet leave them in the water at boat side, if you cannot easily remove the hook, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible.

It’s time for big snook to head for the Gulf passes and nearby areas for their upcoming summer spawning session. Snook season is closed through the summer, if you catch one, please handle it with extra care for a safe release. Never hang a large fish from its lips or mouth; this has proven to do irreversible damage to the heavier fish, likely leading to its death, plus its illegal.

If you are going to hold one for a photograph, support the body with both hands, holding the fish horizontal and wet your hands before handling. It’s best to not remove a big fish from the water at all, not just snook, but any big fish to be released.

Capt. Bill Russell

Hooking a redfish should get more consistent heading into the month. Calm mornings give sight fishermen on the skinny flats some great opportunities at stalking tailing fish. Look for good fishing under the shade of the mangroves on the mid-day high tides. Redfish may run from sub-legal of less than 18 inches up to 30 inches or better.

Of all fish, mangrove snapper is my favorite on the table. They aren’t the biggest fish around, but they fight incredibly hard for their size and offer excellent table fare. As we move closer to summer, expect good numbers of snapper throughout the inshore waters, the gulf passes and nearshore reefs.

This is a month to be prepared for anything; you never know what you might run into. I like to always keep a large rig handy, just in case. If you are targeting tarpon or sharks, you will already have the heavy arsenal out, but if you are just having fun on the flats with trout, you never know when that once-in-a-lifetime cobia or school of tarpon might show up. Preparation and awareness is the key, have a rod that will handle the job rigged and ready and pay attention or that trophy fish might just swim right by without you even knowing it. Weather should be good and fishing even better. Get out there and take advantage of it!

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