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On the Water: Tarpon are out there and seatrout closure is set to begin

By Staff | May 14, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Visiting from Seattle, Washington, Alyssa Hanke hooked and landed her first snook and a good one. She caught and released the snook in north Pine Island Sound while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell

A week of warm weather kicked off tarpon season as increasing numbers of fish moved into Southwest Florida waters. A few of the hot spots included Pine Island Sound just off the intracoastal channel, a short distance off the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva, and Cayo Costa Islands, and in Captiva and Boca Grande Pass over the late afternoon and early evening tides. Tarpon were hooked on various baits including fly, Hogy lures, pinfish, thread herring, live crabs and cut mullet. Although a lot of fish were sighted, as usual they were often difficult to entice to eat.

If you have been on the water, you have probably noticed pelicans diving and other bird activity or observed bait fish raining on the water surface. There are a lot of bait fish in our area and these areas are a great place to bend a rod. A mix of fish including Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, seatrout and others, were hooked while fishing near bait pods in Charlotte Harbor, the north ends of Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound, plus off the beach of Cayo Costa State Park. Silver spoons and small shiny lures along with live bait fish worked best.

Catch-and-release snook fishing was decent over the morning incoming tides while targeting areas along the Gulf beaches, the eastern and west walls of Charlotte Harbor, and island points and depressions along eastern Pine Island Sound. White deceiver flies and jigs worked along the beaches while live baits including pilchards, pinfish and thread herring worked best inshore. Several redfish up to 28 inches were also caught and released mixed with the snook in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

The best reports of spotted seatrout came from areas of northern Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia. Most were caught while casting around schooling bait fish in 4 to 7-foot depths with a grass and sand bottom mix.

As we move closer to summer, mangrove snapper are becoming more abundant around our inshore waters. Snapper up to 13 inches were caught along mangrove shorelines, submerged structure and oyster bars, plus around docks and bridges. The best action came with good water movement while fishing live shrimp on a small hook and light leader.

Capt. Bill Russell

Offshore, boats boxed their limits of red grouper fishing hard bottom in depths from 80 to 120 feet. A snapper mix including mangrove, yellowtail, lane and vermilion were also hooked from the same depths.

A few large porgy and African pompano were also boated. Hard fighting bruisers including bull sharks, goliath grouper, amberjack and barracuda were reported in good numbers over wrecks in waters 80 feet and deeper.

Beginning May 11, seatrout will be closed for harvest in Southwest Florida. Along with the closure of snook and redfish, including trout, means our three most popular inshore fish will be catch-and-release only. This closure is needed after stocks plummeted from our recent red tide and water quality issues. I have witnessed these fish get hit hard many times over my life from red tide and they rebound quickly if given the chance. Let’s just hope we can get ahold of our water quality issues and we do not see a repeat of last summer. In the meantime, in just a few days, seatrout will join redfish and snook as catch-and-release only.

This is from the FWC website: The extension for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout will go into effect May 11 and will apply from the Pasco-Hernando county line south (including all waters of Tampa Bay) through Gordon Pass in Collier County. Previously approved catch-and-release measures, including no harvest of spotted seatrout over 20 inches, remain in effect through May 10.

Changes effective May 11:

Snook and red drum will remain catch-and-release only for an additional year through May 31, 2020.

Spotted seatrout will be catch-and-release only, including no commercial harvest through May 31, 2020.

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.