Snook and redfish remain on a catch-and-release basis in most Southwest Florida waters until their seasons reopen Sept. 1. But fun fishing for young tarpon, big ladyfish and brawling jacks is good, with chances for spotted seatrout dinners highly likely.
Offshore anglers originally were scheduled for the season on greater amberjack to open Aug. 1, but that has been pushed back one month due to conservation needs. But if AJ steaks are off the menu for a few more weeks, lane snapper suppers are close to a sure thing.
ESTERO BAY: The bay’s largest southern tributary, the Imperial River, has been good for snook for Char Mercer, who has been baiting with live finger mullet husband Rick corrals with a cast net.
Nick, Hillary, Kelly and Scarlett Madsen fished with live shrimp Tuesday in the bay’s southern back country, releasing a half-dozen mangrove snapper including some keepers, plus 18-inch snook and redfish, a sheepshead and a 20-inch barracuda on their inshore Fishbuster Charter.
Get Hooked Charters Capt. Matt DeAngelis reports a good early bite on the central bay’s flats for mostly subslot trout, with an occasional pompano also getting after shrimp drifted under a popping cork. “Juvenile tarpon are starting to show in good numbers around tide driven points and bars,” and live pinfish under a float have been gettin’ bit, but keeping the frantic high flyers on the hook has been devilishly difficult.
Karen Theis reports she was chillin’ on her Hurricane Bay dock after the first day back on the job for school teachers, when a sport model snook put a nice cap on the evening. It hit on a frozen thread herring.
PINE ISLAND: St. James City Capt. George Grosselfinger reports he’s been limiting himself to two-hour grocery runs for trout, which have been on virtually all grass flats within short runs from home. He simply drifts and casts topwater plugs, which attract the biggest specks, while also sorting through lots of ladyfish and crevalle jacks that have been running to eight pounds or so.
MATLACHA PASS: Although most traffic heads the other way at this time of year, Maine angler David Freelander came down to Pine Island for some prime fly fishing time with Wildfly Charters Capt. Gregg McKee. He was casting at juvenile tarpon rolling in Pine Island Creek when this slot-size red beat the poons to his white minnow pattern. Capt. McKee reports redfish have started schooling in good numbers all around Matlacha, and have been hitting well on soft plastic and Gulp! baits, which are soft something else. Water north and south of the Matlacha Pass Bridge has been looking good, and filled with forage including glass minnows and mullet.
CHARLOTTE HARBOR: The Parson party from West Virginia had a busy day Wednesday with King Fisher bay boat Capt. Brad Batz, out of Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. They fished down the harbor’s east side with shrimp and caught 30 trout, mostly undersize, plus a bunch of large ladyfish and two Spanish mackerel. King Fisher Capt. Ralph Allen also reports very good snook fishing down the harbor’s eastern shorelines, with expectations of 15 to 20 snook to the mid-20-inch range not unreasonable, with the right bait (live scaled sardines).
OFFSHORE: Following his Tuesday all-release bay fishing trip with his wife and daughters, Nick Madsen took his dad, Jim, for a morning of offshore fishing with Fishbuster Capt. Dave Hanson. That trip produced a dandy cooler including two keeper red grouper among two dozen shorts, 14 keeper lane snapper among 10 shorts, plus nine white grunts, “before calling it a day as the scalding afternoon temperatures set in.” The fished 23 miles west of New Pass with cut squid.
Sunday’s offshore King Fisher trip to depths around 65 feet out of Boca Grande Pass also was good for vittles, although no keeper size red grouper were decked among “about eight million undersize, give or take.” The main haul was several dozen lane snapper and “a smattering” of porgies and grunts.
LAKE TRAFFORD: Immokalee angler Charlie Byrd made good use of recent improvements to the lake bottom around the pier at Ann Olesky Park, using live worms to catch a fine mess of shellcrackers (redear sunfish). FWC biologists have barged in loads of gravel that provides a much more attractive substrate for foraging and bedding for the lake’s sunfishes, including bass and bluegill.
Lake Trafford Marina also reports lots of anglers buying domestic shiners ($13 per dozen) for peacock bass fishing in the canals along the Tamiami Trail near Ochopee, and the nearby 20-mile scenic loop along Turner River Road, Birdon Road and Wagonwheel Road. The Marina has been having phone problems, with only its 239-657-2214 number in service.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: : Roland Martin Marina and Resort Capt. Bo White reports the bass bite on live wild shiners and artificials remains good, but it’s early. “The water has cleaned up and looks good over much of the lake,” particularly in the area around Uncle Joe’s (Mayaca) Cut and Clewiston’s West Wall, where outside grass lines have been the hot spots. When casting artificials try a 6-inch black-and-blue Senko, or Z-Man’s Mud Minnow soft topwater Pop Shadz. The guide also predicts hot bluegill action as the moon comes full Aug. 11.
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Keeper red grouper like Jim Madsen’s are a bonus, but fried fish dinners are almost a given on summer offshore outings. The key is to use sonar to find the hard bottom gardens of sponges and soft corals that grow on limestone outcroppings. That’s home for delicious snappers including lanes and mangroves, porgies, grunts and maybe a big gray triggerfish. Start looking in depths outside of 50 feet for best results, and use a variety of baits including frozen shrimp, squid and herrings. And get out early, for the best bite and fewest t-storms.
No. 1: Charlotte Harbor’s east side for trout and snook.
No. 2: Matlacha Pass for redfish and juvie tarpon.
No. 3: Pine Island Sound flats for trout dinners and more.
No. 4: Estero Bay flats for trout, mangroves for snapper.
No. 5: Offshore for tasty bottom fish.
No. 6: Lake Trafford for shellcrackers.
No. 7: Big Cypress canals for peacock bass.
No. 1: Observation Island area for bass and bluegill.
No. 2: Bluegill in Uncle Joe’s Cut.
No. 3: West Wall for bass.