With a stretch of warm weather, fishing was heating up and the bite was getting good, and then the winds came. Strong winds yielding small craft warnings through the weekend but ahead of the blow, anglers experienced a good start to spring fishing.
Large trout reports were on the rise with fish to 23 inches caught from Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and Matlacha Pass. In the Sound, the larger fish were targeted over sandy areas near oyster bars and in sand potholes along shoreline; in Matlacha Pass, along the perimeter of oyster bars south of the bridge near the power lines, and in the Harbor along the long bars that parallel the east and west walls.
Anglers also hooked slot-size trout (15-20 inches) throughout Pine Island Sound and around the Sanibel Causeway Islands. Drifting depths from 3 to 6 feet with a grass or grass/sand mix bottom turned up good action with both undersized and slot fish. For baits, live shrimp under a popping cork, 1/8-ounce Tsunami Jigs in chartreuse or white under a popping cork, and new penny-colored Gulp Shrimp worked for trout plus a few pompano, Spanish mackerel and lady fish.
Low morning tides gave sight fishing anglers good opportunities to hunt tailing redfish. Many found the fish really spooky, with a stealthy approach a must. Often leaving the boat behind and quietly stalking them on foot is the best bet. Small schools of fish were reported off the east wall in mid-Pine Island Sound and throughout the shallow flats of Matlacha Pass.
The snook bite was gaining steam as water temps continued to rise. The front over the weekend brought lots of wind yet not a big drop in temperature, so it shouldn't affect the snook bite for very long. Snook to 35 inches were reported in Matlacha Pass with the bigger fish taking live pinfish or cut ladyfish. Snook were also hooked in the Pass on various top-water lures and live pilchards or shrimp. Potholes and island points from "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge to Blind Pass gave up a few snook as did various keys and islands throughout the eastern side of Pine Island Sound.
Sharks to 5 feet were caught and released in mid-Pine Island Sound in 5 to 8-foot depths east of the Intracoastal Waterway. Mullet or ladyfish fished on bottom or under a float with a foot or two of wire leader was the rig of choice. Also, a few early season tarpon were hooked in the gulf between Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach and also in northern Pine Island Sound. Also, a few boats hunting tarpon across Charlotte Harbor found large schools of big black drum lazily swimming just under the surface.
Spanish mackerel made their presence inshore over the week, with fish reported in Charlotte Harbor just north of Bokeelia, inside Captiva Pass and around the Sanibel Causeway. Look for the macks to be mixed with ladyfish and bluefish and be ready for a possible encounter with a cobia or shark at any time.
Offshore, a few boats found cobia schooling over structure and boated fish to 40 pounds, plus a few king mackerel. Red grouper to 12 pounds were brought in from 70 to 100-foot depths, plus a various mix of bottom fish. Boats targeting nearshore reefs found a steady bite with a mix of bottom dwellers including sheepshead, snapper, grunts, porgy, plus a few hogfish and keeper-size red grouper.
For a good portion of the week (ahead of wind), it looked and felt like spring. With the water temperature on the rise fishing should get better each day. We are getting to that time when everything's on the move and fish are migrating north - you never know what may bite next, but it could be big!
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.