Consistently inconsistent I guess would be the proper way to describe fishing over the last full week of winter. A cold front blew through with many days of very strong winds and water temperatures dropping double digits. That's a sure recipe to either keep anglers off the water or very challenging conditions for those who gave fishing a try.
Offshore, the bite was decent when conditions allowed, which was seldom over the past week. Red grouper, mangrove and lane snapper, plus amberjacks were hooked in depths from 75 to 110 feet. Also, from 30 to 50 feet, a mix of snapper, sheepshead, grunts and porgies were caught over hard bottom, ledges and structure on light tackle with shrimp for bait. Several boats found consistent fishing over the Edison Reef catching Spanish mackerel, snapper, sheepshead, plus a couple keeper size cobia were also landed.
Over the few days with lighter winds, Spanish mackerel were caught a short distance off the beaches, just outside the passes, around the Sanibel Causeway, in Charlotte Harbor at Alligator Reef and from Cape Haze to Boca Grande Pass.
Despite strong winds, Jim and Gisele Manelli, vacationing from Chicago, had a good day of fishing including this 32-inch redfish that was caught and released while fishing Pine Island Sound with Capt. Bill Russell.
Those with visitors from the north who were just looking for action, fished the open water deeper grass bottom for a mix of bluefish, jack crevalle, ladyfish and mackerel. Areas that produced included 3 to 6-foot depths from Tarpon Bay to the power lines on the back side of Sanibel, the drop-offs around Red Light Shoals, west of Demere Key and off Bokeelia Shoals. In Matlacha Pass, anglers hooked the same mix of species north of the bridge along the channel edges. Again, the lighter wind days produced best.
The snook bite is ready to turn on, but these weekly cool fronts are holding them back. Once the water temperature stabilizes at 72 degrees and higher, the bite should become much more consistent. Ahead of the cool front, the bite was turning on with snook to 33 inches reported from islands Pine Island Sound and the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. After the front, I noted water temperatures inshore as low as 59 degrees, with a week of sunny warm days the water temperature and snook bite should rebound.
Much of the past week non favorable weather conditions made boating tough and often fishing pretty much stunk. But all in all there were a few days for the anglers that put in the time and effort that turned up some respectable catches. We leave winter behind with the beginning of spring this week and hopefully our last front from the north, fishing is only going to get better!
It's time for the annual Bobby Holloway Jr Memorial Fishing Tournament this Saturday, March 25. Over the years this tournament has grown into a great Island event and one of the oldest and largest tournaments in Southwest Florida.
There is far more than just fishing - great Pine Island food, silent auctions and raffles make this a great and fun event for anyone looking to get a feel for the Island life and some great food and atmosphere.
Plus, all profits stay right here on the Island and help our youth. Mark the day on your calendar for a fun time and helping our local children while honoring the memory of a great young man.
The event takes place at Pineland Marina, at 13921 Waterfront Dr, Bokeelia, FL 33922. The marina's phone number is 239-283-3593.
For more information about the Bobby Holloway Fund or the annual fishing tournament, go to: www.hollowaytourney.org/
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.