homepage logo

On the Water: Bait invasion in area waters

By Staff | Aug 20, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Michael Ferretta and family boxed their limit of mangrove snapper, plus released snook and redfish. They were fishing Charlotte Harbor with Capt. Bill Russell.

Once again over the past week you had to dance around rainstorms to complete a day of fishing, but most anglers found it was worth the effort. Overcast skies that dropped water temperatures a few degrees along with good tides made for comfortable fishing and often had fish on a good bite.

Inshore, schooling baitfish are everywhere, more than I have witnessed in years. On calm mornings with slicked out water they are often dimpling the surface as far as the eye can see. Fishing around these schools has resulted in hook-ups with everything from snapper to tarpon.

Redfish hook-ups are on the rise over the past few weeks, with fish from 17 to 30 inches hooked throughout Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and Matlacha Pass. Over the hot sunny days, soaking a chunk of cut pinfish or ladyfish under the shade of a mangrove shoreline was the better option. On the cooler days, live baits, including pilchards, pinfish and shrimp, worked well as did the previously mentioned cut bait. The best bite occurred over the last couple hours of the incoming and first of the falling tides.

As with the baitfish, anglers are noting more sharks this summer than in recent memory. A variety of species from 2 to 8 feet in length were hooked throughout the inshore and nearshore waters. In Pine Island Sound, blacktip, bulls and lemons were hooked on cut mullet and ladyfish south of the fish shacks near Rocky Channel and Captiva Rocks. In Matlacha Pass, bulls, sharp nose and bonnet heads took a variety of baits north of the bridge along the channel. Spinners and blacktips were reported just outside Redfish and Captiva passes. Many of the sharks reported were hooked in areas where baitfish schools were present.

Hard fighting jack crevalle are becoming more numerous throughout the inshore waters with schools reported in Matlacha Pass, and north Pine Island Sound. A few schools holding 500 or more fish running 8 pounds or better were found working bar edges and shorelines over the falling tides. Jack crevasse are one of the hardest fighting fish you will encounter, and if hungry, will inhale anything. If you have three or four anglers on the boat and everyone gets a line in their path, hang on, everyone will be hooked up. While they have no food value, they are a blast.

Capt. Bill Russell

Good numbers of tarpon are still being reported in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. In the sound most fish were hooked on live pinfish or pigfish under a float or cut mullet soaked on bottom. Also, several went for flies early in the mornings. In the harbor, fish were jumped on large live thread herring, small ladyfish and DOA Bait Busters.

The inshore mangrove snapper bite might be getting better each week. It’s been good all summer, but they are still very plentiful, and the average size has improved. Limits of fish from 11 to 15 inches were taken throughout the inshore waters with a few areas mentioned including shorelines and docks around Sanibel’s Tarpon Bay, keys and islands throughout Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass, ledges and structure around the gulf passes and from land the Matlacha Drawbridge, plus the Sanibel and Bokeelia fishing piers. With the recent rains, the water is tea colored in many areas, but still very clear. With mangrove snappers’ keen eyesight, it’s best to rig with a light fluorocarbon leader to fool the bigger fish. I generally rig with 3 to 4 feet of 12 to 20-pound with a number 1 or 1/0 circle hook.

Offshore, anglers are boxing limits of red grouper and it appears they are slowly moving to shallower water. Grouper up to 28 inches were hauled from 65 to 80-foot depths. Top baits included sardines, pinfish, bonito strips and squid. Mangrove and lane snapper were also found over the same bottom.

For the heat of summer, our local waters are alive and teaming with bait and predator fish. After the devastation of last summer, this is so good to see. With the kids back in school and part-time residents and tourist up north, the next couple months will give us some of our best fishing with very little pressure or competition. It’s a great time to get on the water in Southwest Florida!

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.