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On the Water: Fishing improves with great weather and good tides

By Staff | Jun 11, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Capt. Jeff Bankowski and angler Rich Morris with one of several tarpon they released while fishing the annual Useppa Island Club Tarpon Tournament over the weekend.

After a few weeks of windier than normal weather for this time of year, anglers smiled as near perfect weather greeted them for the weekend. Good weather gave anglers the chance to target pretty much any species they desired inshore or offshore.

Tarpon were reported in good numbers in and around Boca Grande Pass, off the beaches of Cayo Costa, Captiva and Sanibel. Pine Island Sound from Cabbage Key south to the powerlines and Charlotte Harbor near Bull Bay were notable for tarpon. Chances at hooking a tarpon were best from first light to late morning and again in the late afternoon. In Boca Grande Pass, the tarpon bite was red hot over multiple days on the afternoon falling or hill tides. Crabs were very abundant and easily scooped with a long-handled net then put to good use on hungry tarpon.

Sharks made their presence felt as some big ones were sighted or hooked around schooling tarpon around the Gulf passes and off the beaches. The largest included hammerhead and bulls. Blacktip and spinner sharks are around the passes and beach and several to 6 feet were hooked while fishing around mackerel schools in Charlotte Harbor and off the beaches. Small blacktips 2 foot or less were reported over grass flats throughout Pine Island Sound and San Carlos Bay. At times these little guys were a nuisance for tarpon anglers as they are aggressive and going after baits intended for tarpon.

Good numbers of mangrove snapper were caught inshore and in the Gulf passes. Fish up to 16 inches were hooked along mangrove shorelines, docks, bridges and over hard bottom in the passes. By far the best bait day in and day out was live shrimp rigged with a 1/0 or smaller hook with 20 lb or less fluorocarbon leader. From land, the Bokeelia Fishing Pier gave up some nice snapper plus a variety of other fish.

A few anglers found decent action with catch-and-release trout with most averaging from 14 to 18 inches. Targeting sand holes surrounded by turtle grass and bar drop-offs off the west side of Bokeelia with live bait and artificials yielded trout, mackerel, and ladyfish.

Spanish Mackerel were caught in southern Charlotte Harbor between Bokeelia and Matlacha Pass, and Pine Island Sound near the Gulf passes. Look for them cruising deeper grass/sand bottom mix from 5 to 10-foot depths and/or around bait schools. Large schools of mackerel were also reported just off the beaches from Blind Pass north to Boca Grande.

Anglers report scattered action on redfish both in Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. Fish up to 26 inches were caught on dead shrimp fished near or under the mangroves near Smokehouse Bay in Matlacha Pass and fish to 27 inches went for fresh cut thread herring along Island Points on the south end of Matlacha Pass. Reds from 18 to 26 inches were caught and released in Pine Island Sound south of Pineland.

Offshore, the best fishing began at around 80 feet with a mix of red grouper, mangrove, lane and vermilion snapper. Gag grouper opened over the weekend with a few good reports from depths between 100 and 120 feet. Hard fighting amberjack, barracuda, sharks and goliath grouper were hooked over wrecks in the same depths.

With tarpon season in full swing, many guides and anglers are devoting all their time chasing the silver king. If battling a tarpon isn’t your thing, this is a great time to target other species, as they are getting nowhere near the fishing pressure as any previous months. With a lot less pressure, it’s possible to get on a good bite without another boat in sight.

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.