As Hurricane Matthew ripped up the east coast of Florida, we were lucky on our side of the state. With the exception of a couple breezy days, we were pretty much unaffected. Of course, those windy days made it difficult for the offshore guys, however inshore waters remained fishable.
Red grouper with a few weighing over 20 pounds were boated in depths from 90 to 150 feet in gulf waters, plus gag grouper to 12 pounds. Also in the same depths, mangrove snapper to 6 pounds and yellowtail snapper to 4 pounds responded to chum and live free-lined pilchards and small pinfish. While fishing over wrecks in the same depths, anglers often found it difficult getting hooked fish past bull sharks, barracuda and goliath grouper without getting broken off. Amberjack and king mackerel were also hooded over the wrecks.
Closer to land, a few gag grouper to 28 inches plus mangrove snapper to 3 pounds were caught over structure in depths from 30 to 50 feet. Trolling deep diving lures is a good way to hook both gag grouper and king mackerel while covering ground and scouting new area. Lane snapper, grunts, porgy and undersized grouper were hooked over hard coral bottom southwest of Sanibel.
Look for redfish throughout our inshore waters. Bill Valpie of South Fort Myers invited this 26-inch red home for dinner. He was fishing in north Pine Island Sound with Capt. Bill Russell.
During stages of the falling tide, snook and redfish were gathered around the Gulf passes. Drifting live pinfish, pigfish, slippery dicks and large pilchards inside the passes yielded redfish averaging in size from 25 to 30 inches and snook up to 36 inches. Also inside the passes, area grass flats held a mix of sea trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano and little sharks. Best baits included live shrimp and DOA shrimp drifted under popping corks.
Similar type action was also reported over grass flats around the Sanibel Causeway.
Lots of inshore anglers are targeting redfish schools. Some days they are easy to locate and on other days it's a lot like hunting - you can put in a lot of time without any reward. It's common for a half dozen or more boats to fish a school in some of the more popular areas. If you see a bunch of boats bunched up catching fish, please don't go charging up to them with the motor running. Shut down well away and watch what's going on. If you have a trolling motor or push pole, this is a good time to use it. All fishermen are different, some will wave you in to enjoy the action while others will go ballistic if you get anywhere near their fish.
Redfish were also caught from the Bokeelia Fishing Pier and in south Matlacha Pass along oyster bars near McCardle Island. Sea trout to 17 inches, plus Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and small jack crevalle took both live bait and soft plastic baits in Pine Island Sound from Captiva Rocks north to Useppa Island in the sound and west of Bokeelia along Bokeelia Shoals.
As I write this, we are getting our first taste of slightly cooler weather with lower humidity. It's been really hot on the water unless there was a breeze. Maybe now it will finally begin to feel like fall fishing.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.
As a native of Pine Island, 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.