Strong full moon tides brought plenty of fishing opportunities over the week and normal summer weather patterns — with clear skies in the morning and afternoon thunderstorms — allowed anglers to take advantage both inshore and off.
Predictable weather made long runs in the Gulf possible for grouper and snapper diggers. Red snapper and red grouper, with a few of the grouper scaling over 20 pounds , were taken in depths from 125- to 170-foot depths. When the bite was on live bait (pinfish and large herring), cut bait (bonito chunks), and artificials (6 oz. bucktail jigs and butterfly jigs) all worked equally well.
The full moon also brought out good night time mangrove snapper action on offshore reefs, Fish up to 21 inches were caught in depths from 40 to 80 feet. Many anglers found sharks a nuisance with sharks up to six feet intercepting baits before they could reach bottom and also harassing hooked fish before they reached the surface.
Snook fishing has been consistent on Sanibel Beach for shore bound anglers. Linesides up to 30 inches were sight fished in the surf just a few feet from shore with flies and small lures that imitated small pilchards working best. Large trout up to 23 inches were also caught off the beach as were several pompano.
Inshore, the best fishing was over the strong morning incoming tides for a variety of fish. For action, the best bet was to look for bait schools. Schools of small pilchards and thread herring are thick and were pretty easy to locate over grass flats by watching for birds and surface commotion on the water. Sea trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and small sharks could be found around the bait activity from north of Bokeelia in Charlotte Harbor down through the Sound and into the Gulf near the Sanibel Causeway. Live pilchards, shrimp, small bucktail jigs and silver spoons were all productive baits.
Redfish were caught early in the morning on the shallow flats then moved under the mangroves on the big full moon high water. Captain Joe Harley of Matlacha found redfish patrolling the flats in Matlacha Pass at first light where his clients had several hook-ups on both fly and top water lures. He also found several tarpon to 30 pounds willing to take a fly during the early morning hours and trout up to 22 inches.
Very high tides pushed redfish way back into the mangroves; many anglers found the bite was best about midway through the incoming before the higher water put them out of reach. Chunks of ladyfish and sardines oozed out scent that pulled reds from 17 to 30 inches from the mangrove roots in south Matlacha Pass near McCardles Island and Master's Landing.
In the Sound, reds were reported at Forty Acre Bay south of Demere Key, on the east side of north Captiva Island and near Cabbage Key. Cut bait, live pinfish with the tail cut off and gold weedless spoons rigged with a Gulp tail accounted for redfish hook-ups in the Sound. Mangrove snapper up to 14 inches were also caught under the mangroves.
Late day falling tides and fewer thunderstorms made up the perfect combination for afternoon shark fishing. Blacktips, bulls and lemons were caught during this time in Charlotte Harbor west of Bokeelia, near the fish shacks in the Sound and in the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Fresh baits including mullet, ladyfish, catfish tails and large pinfish worked best in areas with a good but not overbearing tide flow.
It's been hot for sure, but if you plan the day right, there is good fishing while avoiding the heat. Hit the water early in the morning or late afternoon — or both — and you will find the fish most active and it sure is cooler and more enjoyable. If you are planning a day offshore, you really don't have a choice... you are in it for the day. This is when a little shade on a boat is priceless, inshore or offshore, just a place to get out of the blaring sun from time to time can make all the difference. You might laugh when you see a big umbrella stuck in the middle of a flats boat, but if you're the one out there all day in the full sun, the last laugh is on you.
If you have a fishing story or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960 or www.fishpineisland.com. Have a safe week and good fishin'.
While visiting on summer break from San Antonio, Texas, Amanda Wilson, 16, wanted to catch a big fish... and she did! She boated this six foot-plus lemon shark at the north end of Matlacha Pass while fishing with Captain Bill Russell.