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On the Water: Start of the spring fishing season under way

By Staff | Mar 12, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED The snook bite is heating up with the warmer temperatures. Gary Strandt of Chicago caught and released this 30-inch snook while vacationing in Matlacha. Gary was fishing in Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.

Good things happen this month on the waters around Southwest Florida. The kick-off to the spring fishing season is in full effect as we transition out of winter to warmer days.

For the next couple months or until the daily afternoon rains begin, we may experience the clearest water of the year.

It’s a great time to ex-plore the in-shore and nearshore waters, learn new areas and look for fish or locate and mark structure that looks fishy. It’s also a great time to check out our awesome wildlife. Manatees, dolphin and about every kind of bird you can think of while enjoying the change of seasons. If you are an outdoor or nature photographer, this is the time to grab the camera and hit the water or beaches.

Over the winter it felt like we had endless low tides and very little water to navigate. That will change and make it possible to fish areas that were not accessible over the winter. Our first spring tides will arrive with higher water during the daytime hours. Yes, we will still have low water but not all day every day. Combine the incoming tides with the previously mentioned clean water and you will find some great days to explore.

As the water warms you could easily argue this may be the best month of the year to catch snook. They are on the move and hungry as their diet is primarily oily baitfish that are moving back into the warmer waters. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission initiated an emergency moratorium or closure on snook and redfish due to the devastation from last summer’s red tide outbreaks. An unknown number of fish perished and they will re-evaluate the stocks in the upcoming months. In the meantime, both species are catch and release only.

That does not mean you cannot fish for snook. Most anglers agree snook are far more valuable in the water than on the table. I must agree, they are far and away my favorite fish to catch. February closed out with warm days and snook fishing around the islands was very good, I expect more good fishing in the upcoming months.

Year in and year out we catch our largest spotted seatrout this month. Nicknamed “gators” or “gator trout,” it’s possible to hook into some pushing 30 inches. These larger fish are generally egg laden and our breeding stock. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently instated a new regulation that all seatrout measuring over 20 inches must be released. This new rule was put into place due to the unknown amount of trout that perished from last summer’s red tide event. The size limit on seatrout is 15 to 20 inches, with a four-fish possession. Spawning fish, often in schools, can be targeted over grass flats through our inshore waters and many of the largest trout will be caught while snook fishing along shorelines and oyster bars.

In the Gulf of Mexico, fish are on the move as they follow the rising water temperature north. King and Spanish mackerel should be a short distance off our coast throughout the month. Cobia, a local favorite, that is often mistaken for a shark may show up at any time around your boat while fishing offshore or inshore. They can get big, this is the time to keep a few heavy rods rigged and ready, you never know what may show up.

Winter months produced a lot of tripletail off the beaches in nearshore waters, I expect this to continue. Most are sighted hanging under floating debris, buoys and structure. Tarpon will start showing off the coast, beginning to the south and moving north. Just how early in the month this happens is based on the weather and water temperature.

March is our busiest tourist month in Southwest Florida. Roads, restaurants and about everything on land is just crowded and congested. I will be on the water every day away from the crowds, enjoying the outdoors, and hopefully catching a few fish. I hope you make time to get on the water too!

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, Capt. 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.