The fishing will be good on Charlotte Harbor this month despite all the news and social media hype about water releases from Lake Okeechobee. The water in and around Pine, Sanibel and Captiva Islands is brown (turbid) and has an elevated nutrient level but is not toxic.
Turbid water along the Lee County coastline is being caused by freshwater released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. Such releases have taken place for years during the rainy season but they rarely happen this time of year. The releases are due to recent record rainfall and are necessary to keep homes, businesses and agriculture around the lake from being flooded and destroyed. Currently 4 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water a day is going into the Caloosahatchee. There’s 2 billion gallons per day going into the St. Lucie River and another 2 million gallons per day going into the Everglades through Shark River Slough. This will continue for several more weeks. No one disputes that something has to be done to stop the releases into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The water must be allowed to flow into the everglade as it once did. Unfortunately it will take 5-10 years to accomplish this.
This chart shows Charlotte Harbor. It encompasses 270 square miles. There are over 15 launch ramps on the Harbor providing access to great fishing. The shaded area is where the turbid water from Lake Okeechobee is. Fishing in this area will not be all that good in March. The rest of the Harbor will have great fishing for redfish, seatrout, sheephead, cobia, jacks, snook and more.
If you are fishing the lower east side of the Harbor in March you will find the best action will be during the dropping tide. If you are fishing the lower west side of the Harbor the incoming tide will provide the better action. The upper Harbor will have good fishing conditions on all tides. Fish the deep holes around the mangrove islands for trout and redfish early and move to the grass flats as the water warms. The Snook will be around or on the sand flats and will eat when the water temps warm above 70*.
My fly fishing tip of the month: Fish with bulky and brightly colored flies in the Upper Harbor and smaller, more lifelike flies in the lower Harbor. Slow down your presentations when the water is cold.
My spin fishing tip of the month: Downsize your lures, especially if your fishing jigs with soft plastic tails. We’ve been getting a lot of bumps and short strikes on the larger baits.