Snook Fishing

Boca Grande / Charlotte Harbor,  Florida

Snook Fishing

Thousands of snook call Charlotte Harbor home. They are aggressive feeders that hang on structure and in current waiting for feed to come their way. Typically snook are not boat shy; it's common to have vicious strikes right at boat side and on occasion even in the prop wash of a passing boat. We blind cast and sight fish areas where sand bars converge with grass flats. In the spring, we'll fish along the Gulf beaches where snook gather prior to and shortly after they spawn.

Charlotte Harbor, Boca Grande, Pine Island Sound May Fishing Forecast

Charlotte Harbor is Florida’s second largest estuary encompassing 270 square miles. Over 80% of its shoreline is preserved land. There are more than 15 boat ramps and many kayak access point on the Harbor providing easy access to great fishing.

 

May light tackle and fly action: May is all about tarpon. The spawning migration has started and there have a few tarpon being caught in the Sounds, Passes and along beaches the past two weeks. By mid-month the fishing will be in high gear. The back country waters are in the low to mid 80s so the best fishing will be early and late in the day. Mid-day will provide lots of lookers and refusals unless you’re pitching bait. The large snook are moving their way to the beaches and the sounds.

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Conditions: We are settling into our early summer weather patterns with offshore winds early switching to sea breezes in the afternoons. Water temps will be in the low to mid 80s. April was very dry so the salinity in the lower harbor and the sounds are average or slightly above. The upper harbor fishing has slowed somewhat do the warm weather and lack of rain. Greatly reduced Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee River has improved the water quality in lower Pine Island Sound.

Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass, upper Pine Island Sound, Gasparilla sound and on Bokeelia Shoals. There’s lots of threadfins and greeenbacks on the beaches.

May Fishing Tactics: The back country; with the warm and dry conditions fishing becomes an early morning game. Go early fish the moving water near the mangroves until the sun gets up. As soon as it gets bright shift you attention to deeper cuts between islands and keys and the depressions in the mangrove creek mouths. The deeper edges of grass flats will hold sea trout throughout May.

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My April Fly Fishing Tip: Many of my clients want to fly fishing for tarpon in May. I carry two set ups on the boat for them. A floating line with a suspending fly for the fish coming over the shallow bars and a sink tip line with a weighted fly for when the fish are laid up or doing daisy chains in deeper water. prespawn tarpon can be finicky, the fly placement is key. Many times they will only move a few inches to eat.

My April Light Tackle Tip: Don’t get in a rut using a particular tarpon bait. Crabs are wonderful bait but if you are getting refused show them something else. Pinfish, whitebait, cut ladyfish, sail cat tails, even shrimp can turn on the finickiest tarpon.

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Species to fish for this month: Tarpon, Snook Redfish, Spotted Seatrout.

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Matt Stelzer - Snook on Flyrod

Matt gets his first snook on fly rod in Pine Island Sound.

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report April 18, 2016

Last Week - Excellent fishing! We had tons of fly and light tackle fishing action last week. And, this coming week will be just as good! I posted some killer video from last week's action, you can check them out on my blog's Florida Fishing Video section. There's over 30 videos posted.

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This week's Forecast

Conditions: Excellent all this coming week - Mid day high tides will provide moving water. Morning low tides will congregate the fish along the oyster beds and grass banks.

Species to fish for this coming week: Snook, Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Jack Crevalle, Tarpon, Ladyfish, Spanish Mackerel, Cobia.

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Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish, Scaled Sardines, Threadfin Herring

Fishing Tactics: Start early and fish the edges of oysters and grass for trout, snook and reds. As the tide comes in move onto the flats fishing the sand holes for trout and reds.

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My fly fishing tip of the week: Lots of white bait (sardines and herring) around so olive and white deceivers are the choice.

My spin fishing tip of the week: MirroLure suspending twitch baits are the lure of choice. 2nd choice would be a bubble gum or new penny soft bait on a ¼ once jig head.

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7 day outlook: Fantastic weather with light winds from the E and NE will provide excellent fishing. The snook, redfish and jack crevalle action will be very good this week.

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Matlacha Snook,Sea Trout, Mangrove Snapper, Redfish and Jack Crevalle On Fly with Stefan Piccone

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Stefan Piccone had a great couple days of back country fly fishing with me in Matlacha Pass this week. 

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Stefan is a true magician when it comes to wiggling the fly out mangroves branches and is very good at reading the waters of Charlotte Harbor. Even with a southwest of wind and cloudy water we had two very productive and fun days together. by the way, catching 6-8 pound jack cravalle in 2' of water on a Helios 2 8wt. fly rod is FUN!

Safe travels home Stefan, I hope to see you again the next time you are in SW Florida. 

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Stefan Piccone Fly Fishing Matlacha Pass

Stefan Piccone fished Matlacha Pass with me today. He caught snook, mangrove snapper,sea trout and jack crevalle all on his 8wt Orvis Helios 2 fly rod. Great job Stefan! 

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SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report April 11, 2016

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Conditions: Great weather this week will provide awesome fishing. We’ll have smaller incoming tides so the fish in the back country will be scattered. There will be moving water near all the passes which will help congregate fish making those areas better choices. Good water quality and salinity throughout most of Charlotte Harbor. Lower Pine Island Sound and Punta Rassa water conditions continue to improve.

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Spanish Mackerel. There’s a few tarpon and cobia around mid-Harbor structure and the deep holes.

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Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass, Gasparilla sound, Upper Pine Island sound and on Bokeelia Shoals.

Fishing Tactics: Early morning low tides will expose the oyster beds and leave little water on the grass flats. Work the edges of both. Spotted sea trout and reds will be cruising there waiting for the tide to come in.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Look for moving water and bait. That’s where the fish will be this week due to lack of tide and current in their normal ambush spots. White bait and shrimp patterns are working best. Keep that 12Wt. rigged and ready for Mr. Tarpon - there here.

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My spin fishing tip of the week: The suspending twitch baits are still the hot lure. Keep some bite wire handy – the jacks and Spanish mackerel will cut you off. Have a heavy rod rigged with 60# leader and a DOA Baitbuster for that tarpon that just might roll next to the boat, it’s that time of year.

7 day outlook: Seasonal temps, light winds and sunny most of the week, there’s a chance of showers on Friday. Small incoming tides all week won’t provide much moving water in the back country.

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Matlacha Pass Jack Crevalle on fly rod with John Kern

Great light tackle and fly fishing for jack crevalle today with John Kern. We had schools of them busting bait in 2 feet of water along back country mangroves of Matlacha Pass. Sure did put John's new 8wt. fly rod to the test. John, we'll get you one of those big snook next time.

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SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report April 4, 2016

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Conditions: Early morning low tides will provide great fishing along oyster beds, the edges of the grass flats and the deeper mangrove points. Water clarity and salinity continues to improve in lower Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. The rest of the Harbor has very good conditions and excellent fishing. Fishing pressure should be lower this week now that spring break is behind us.

 

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Sea Trout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Spanish mackerel.

Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass, Gasparilla sound, Upper Pine Island sound and on Bokeelia Shoals.

Fishing Tactics: Look for moving water near structure. Snook, redfish and jacks lay in wait at these ambush points. As the tide reaches flood move to the edges of grass flats and fish the potholes for staged up reds and trout. At high tide snook and redfish will cruise the mangrove shadows looking for an afternoon snack.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Keep an 8 or 9 Wt. rod rigged with a wire bite tippet. There’s been several schools of jack crevalle and spanish mackerel throughout the Harbor. Also, it’s time to keep that rigged 11 or 12 Wt. tarpon rod with you. I’ve been seeing a few rollers in the deeper sections of the lower Harbor and upper Pine Island Sound.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Keep a rod rigged with a short wire leader for the spanish and jacks. Best offerings for these toothy critters are hard plastic swimming plugs, poppers and metal lures. The flashier the better.
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7 day outlook: Cooler temps and off-shore breezes until mid week. The wind will shift to on-shore Wednesday. A slight chance of showers on Wednesday evening and Thursday. Winds should be light to moderate all week. We’ll have morning incoming tides this week providing lots of moving water.

 

 

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Dobbs Family Fishing for Trout in Matlacha Pass

When it too cloudy and breezy to sight fish and the snook are sulking you go catch seatrout and ladyfish. The Dobbs family from Ontario caught plenty of them on this trip to Matlacha Pass.

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report March 21, 2016

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Keven Stevens and Jason Webber with a nice Matlacha Redfish. Check out the video

Spring is here and the fishing is excellent. Water temps in the high 70s with good water clarity. Snook Reds and trout all eating flies and lures.

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Tarpon

Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass and on Bokeelia Shoals.

With the clearer and warmer water tactics change to fishing moving water along the grass flats and sight fishing for reds and snook on the sandbars and oyster beds. The fish will be more aggressive but also a bit spookier. Stay back and make long casts, if you can see the fish – they can see you too.

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My fly fishing tip of the week: I get asked about bite tippet a lot – Use a minimum of 20# for smaller fish. 25#-30# for baby tarpon and snook. Always use fluorocarbon. Check the tippet after EVERY catch. Not just by sight, do a pull test.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Same holds true for spinning gear: 20# for the little guys and 25#-30# for biguns. Check the tippet after EVERY catch.

We'll see a cold front pass through the first of the week. Winds should settle down and the fishing will be good through the weekend.

 

There's been some 10-12 pound jack crevalle cruising the flats - keep a 10 wt rigged with a white bait fly!

Check out the latest videos posts!

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Great Back Country Fishing in Matlacha Pass with Keven and Jason

Keven Stevens and Jason Webber had a great day of back country fishing with me in Matlacha Pass Wildlife Refuge on the southern reaches of Charlotte Harbor. We were fishing with fly rods and light tackle spinning gear. Check out the nice redfish hooked in 14" of water on a MirroLure Twitchbait then watch a school of 10-12 pound jack cravale smashing bait in 2 feet of water on a grass flat. We also caught sea trout, ladyfish and snook. NICE!

Keven and Jason, it was great getting to know you, safe travels home and hope to fish with you again! Capt. Dave

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Light Tackle Redfish Fishing in Charlotte Harbor's Bull Bay


Curt hooks into a nice redfish in 12" of water along the edge of a oyster bed in Bull Bay. Two laps around the boat later we get a couple good "grip and grin" photos and release Mrs. Red. Curt did a great job! Caught it on a 1/4 oz. jig tipped with a live shrimp using 12 pound spinning gear. Finished up the 4 hour trip with redfish, trout and snook.

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report March 15, 2016

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The fishing is excellent on Charlotte Harbor right now! Water temps have climbed into the high 70s and the redfish, snook and sea trout are all loving it. This 29" redfish was caught sight fishing in 15" of water on an oyster bed in Turtle Bay. Dick and Curt who are staying on Boca Grande also caught trout and snook on jigs and twitch baits. Even with the 10-15 knot winds its easy to find good light tackle and fly fishing in the backcountry. the last two weeks in March are going to provide some great fishing for sure! 

 

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Bruce and Geraldine Yaw Fly Fishing in Matlacha

Bruce and Geraldine Yaw from New York State joined me for a morning of backcountry fly fishing in Matlacha Wildlife Refuge in Charlotte Harbor. We were joined by porpoise, manatee, eagle osprey, egrets, heron and ibis. A neap tide and cool water temps made fishing a challenge but we persevered and caught sea trout, lady fish and snook all on flies. Some folks poo poo ladyfish - but on a 6 or 8wt rod they are a hoot. 

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Help Loading the Boat

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It's always nice having help loading up after a charter. These pictures were taken at the Placida Park boat ramp near the Boca Grande Causeway.

A snowy egret on the poling platform ans a great egret standing by on the dock made sure all those pesky shrimp were gone from the livewell.

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Spring fishing has arrived in Charlotte Harbor. The snook are moving on the sand flats, spotted sea trout are on the grass beds. The water temps are rising. The water clarity has improved greatly.  

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Charlotte Harbor Pine Island Sound March Fishing Forecast

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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.

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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*.

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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.

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report February 22, 2016

Charlotte Harbor is a 270 square miles of estuary with 15 boat ramps. There’s tons of productive water to fish. Yes, there’s lots of dirty water in Pine Island Sound but the rest of the Harbor and Gasparilla Sound has good clarity. Red tide has been moving in and out of the passes but with all the fresh water around it has not been an issue in the Harbor. The best fishing this week will be along the East and West Walls and in Bull and Turtle Bays.

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Bait the fish are feeding on: pinfish, ladyfish, shrimp, crabs

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook

2016-02-22TannerTrout4Fishing Tactics: Sight fishing is limited to araes near the Sound do to lots of fresh water in the Bay. There's plenty of good blind casting action though. Fish the deep holes around the mangrove islands for trout and redfish. The Snook will be around or on the sand flats.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Murky water is a way of life on the Harbor after heavy rains. Embrace it, the fish are there and they will eat. Fish with bulky and brightly colored flies.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Downsize your lures, especially if your fishing jigs with soft plastic tails. We’ve been getting a lot of bumps and short strikes on larger baits.

7 day outlook: Seasonal temps early in the week. We’ll have some showers Tuesday and Wednesday. A cold front will move through late in the week. Most of the action will be Redfish and Trout with few snook mixed in. 

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Dick Perry Enjoys some Turtle Bay Trout and Ladyfish Action

02-16-16Perry1Dick Perry From Troy Michigan joined me for a 4 hour back country fishing trip in Bull and Turtle Bay on Tuesday. It had rained over an inch before sunrise and we had a neap tide. Not exactly perfect fishing conditions. Gasparilla Sound was muddy as we left the Placida boat ramp. Thankfully the conditions in Turtle Bay were better. It was a little iced tea colored which typical when it rains but definable fishable. After spending an hour or so trying for some snook we changed gears and worked some deep grassy spots. We were fishing 3/8oz jigs with soft plastic tails and kept getting short strikes. We went to shorter tails and had better luck but still were missing most of strikes - even the ladyfish strikes... It was a morning of typical non aggressive fish due to the neap tide.02-16-16Perry-trout3 
So what do you do in a situation like this? Take the soft plastic tail off the jig and replace it with a live shrimp tail. Wallah, no more short strikes.
Morel of the story: Never leave the dock without live bait on the days the tide isn't moving.

 

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SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report February 15, 2016

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Conditions: Water temps are in the mid to high 60s and will warm as the week progresses. Lots of fresh water runoff in the lower Harbor and Pine Island Sound right now. Better conditions exist in the upper Charlotte Harbor, the West wall and over toward Placida.

Bait the fish are feeding on: Some whitebait in the upper harbor, pinfish, ladyfish, shrimp, crabs

Species to fish for this week: Snook, Redfish, Seatrout, Jacks, Ladyfish

Fishing Tactics: Mobility is the key right now. There’s lots of good fishing where you find clear water. You may have to run a bit to get away from the stained fresh water but when you do the fish will waiting for you.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Use bright colored bulky flies in stained water and natural colored smaller flies in the clear water. Strip slowly in the mornings, speed up as the water warms up.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Been having good luck with suspended twitch baits in soft rubber and hard plastic. Most of the hits have been during pauses in the retrieve. 

7 day outlook: Seasonal temperatures, with light to moderate winds. Chance of showers Monday night into Tuesday. Morning below average low tides will provide good bar and bank fishing. 

 

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My version of the Schminnow

 

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The original Schminnow was created by Norn Zeigler a journalist and fly shop owner on Sanibel Island in 1995. It is a widely used fly throughout Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and most of Southwest Florida.

 

My version has a small Estaz body and tail of both bucktail and synthetics. I tie these flies with mono, bead chain or dumbbells eyes to allow them to be fished at varying depth. Hook size ranges from #2 to 1/0. The fly is easy to cast and fishes well at all retrieve rates. Though the Schminnow was designed to catch snook, it will catch seatrout, redfish, jacks, tarpon and even flounder. By the way, Maine striped bass and bluefish eat them too.  

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