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On the Water: Beautiful weather on the water

December 20, 2017
By Capt. Bill Russell , Pine Island Eagle

Weather around Southwest Florida rebounded nicely after our first cold front of the season. Heading into the weekend, anglers found calm seas, blues skies and air temperatures climbing each day. That's the good; the bad was reports of red tide and fish kills in isolated areas inshore and offshore.

Inshore, many anglers experienced a relatively slow bite much of the week, especially in the southern half of Pine Island Sound. Hooking sea trout of any size was tough but decent sheepshead fishing helped bend the rods. The best action came around the barrier islands including Sanibel, Captiva and Cayo Costa, while targeting submerged structure with good water movement. Live shrimp on a knocker rig, jig/shrimp combos, and small crabs were top baits.

A mixed bag consisting of pompano, black drum, flounder, snook, snapper and small grouper were also hooked while targeting sheepshead. Snapper and sheepshead were also reported around the Shell Creek area at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River.

Article Photos

A lucky young angler with a nice haul.


Working along shorelines produced a few redfish to 24 inches in south Matlacha Pass near the power lines and north of the bridge pompano were caught along with jack crevalle and ladyfish just off the east side of the channel near marker 70. From the Matlacha Bridge, sheepshead, snapper and black drum were caught on live shrimp while fishing around the pilings. Sheepshead were also reported from the Bokeelia Pier.

After the seas calmed down by mid-week, the nearshore bite was pretty good for a variety of fish. Gag grouper up to 26 inches were boated west of Captiva in 30 to 40-foot depths along with a good number of short red grouper. The same depths also produced lane and mangrove snapper, plus porgy, grunts and sheepshead. Those looking for a tug-a-war found a few goliath grouper cooperative. The best baits were shrimp, squid and cut baits rigged on jig heads, knockers and chicken rigs.

Further offshore, red grouper to 12 pounds and some really nice mangrove snapper came from depths between 80-120 feet. A few big tripletail were sighted and caught around buoys while making the offshore run.

If you haven't noticed, there has been a lack of mullet around the inshore waters. This is the time when the large egg-laden females are gathering in big schools with the males for their upcoming spawn. Generally, until the first of the year its common to see large schools throughout the inshore waters, especially when cold fronts move in. I have heard a few reports of mullet kills a good distance in the gulf, presumably from red tide, but I can't confirm it. Hopefully they are just late to party this year and will show up soon. If you have reports of red tide, please let us know.

As we head into the final week before the Christmas holiday, the weather looks like its going to remain warm with highs in the 80s. That's great news for friends and family visiting from the north. It should be a great week to get on the water and show your guest a great time, Florida style.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, on the Web at or email Holiday Gift Certificates are available!

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.



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