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On the Water: A cold and warm week of fishing

By Staff | Mar 19, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Jim Shaffer visiting from Philadelphia, Pa., took advantage of a beautiful day to fish nearshore Gulf waters where he caught a mix of fish including some big sheepshead. Jim was fishing near Helen's Reef with Capt. Bill Russell.

A cold front blew through early last week dropping the thermometer along with gusty north winds, However, in typical Florida fashion, a couple days later we rebounded nicely with temperature climbing back into the eighties.

As usual when the mercury drops, the sheepshead bite heats up. Fish up to 20 inches were reported around north Captiva, Cayo Costa and Gasparilla islands, plus around oyster bars in south Matlacha Pass, and from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier. After the winds settled, sheepshead were also caught in Gulf waters between 25 and 45 feet of water around patch and artificial reefs.

A mix of mangrove snapper, grunts, Spanish mackerel and undersized grouper were also caught offshore over the same bottom as sheepshead. Further offshore, several reports came in over the week of good catches of red grouper beginning in depths around 90 feet. Drifting over hard bottom with squid or strip bait on heavy jig heads and butterfly rigs worked for grouper up to 30 inches. Lane and mangrove snapper, along with porgies were also boated.

In depths from 70 to 90 feet, a good mix of snapper, including mangrove, lane, vermilion and yellowtail, were enticed to feed while anchoring up current of ledges or structure and chumming heavy. Gulf waters are really getting clear with good visibility, so it was often necessary to fish with a long, light fluorocarbon leader with small hooks and weights to fool the larger snapper. Sharks, blue runners, bonito and king mackerel were also hooked in the chum lines.

Inshore, the snook bite picked back up as soon as the water temperature climbed into the 70s. Fish to 33 inches were caught in southern Pine Island Sound near St. James City on artificial lures. Several fish over 30 inches were caught and released in southern Matlacha Pass on DOA paddle tails and on live bait fish. Good numbers of fish averaging 20 to 26 inches were hooked in northern Pine Island Sound and along the east and west walls of Charlotte Harbor. Artificials worked well early and late in the day with live baits best during mid-day. Snook sightings were also reported along Sanibel and Captiva beaches.

Capt. Bill Russell

Anglers targeting sheepshead with live shrimp around the barrier islands also hooked into a good number of redfish averaging in size from 16 to 20 inches, plus a few black drum and pompano. Redfish up to 26 inches were caught and released along shorelines in north Matlacha Pass and in Pine Island Sound south of Pineland along with sea trout up to 23 inches.

Schools of Spanish mackerel are moving up the coast and were located offshore, west of Sanibel’s Knapp’s Point and around Helen’s Reef west of Cayo Costa State Park. Mackerel were hooked on silver spoons outside Captiva and Boca Grande passes, and in Charlotte Harbor. Bluefish, ladyfish and small sharks were often mixed with the mackerel around inshore waters.

As our waters warm, fish are on the move as well as bait fish. Resident fish such as snook are moving to areas less protected from winter cold fronts and mackerel are moving into our waters. Bait fish are becoming more plentiful both inshore on the grass flats and nearshore Gulf waters. Plus, the water may have the best visibility we will see all year, it’s a great time to explore. Get on the water and enjoy it!

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at: Gulf Coast Guide Service, 239-283-7960 or visit “http://www.fishpineisland.com”>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.