Tarpon will be rolling and gulping air early. By mid-morning they will be running and daisy chaining below the surface.05-02-17 Fishing Report
Jerry Jamison from Bath, Maine hooks and brings this nice tarpon boat-side using spin fishing gear and a live crab. Great Job Jerry!
The tarpon have returned to the beaches of Boca Grande, Captiva and Sanibel Islands after last week's back to back cold fonts pushed them offshore.
Lots of Media hype - But, there's plenty of good fishing to be had. (See my 02-15-16 Fishing Report)
Brown water along Florida’s 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 there is 4 billion gallons of water a day draining from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. There’s also 2 billion gallons per day going into the St. Lucie River which flows to Florida’s east coast. The releases will continue for several weeks - until the lake level drops 4 feet. This must be done so the lake can hold rains that will come in June, July and August.
Is the water in and around Pine, Sanibel and Captiva Islands safe? Yes, it’s not polluted nor is it toxic, just brown. It’s much like what takes place on the Kennebec River in Maine after every big rainfall.
WINK News CBS affiliate Ft. Myers photo
Do these releases hurt fish and the ecosystem? Temporary releases like these do not cause long term damage.
Is the fishing productive in the brown water? No. Just like the Kennebec, the reduced salinity and lack of clarity makes for tuff fishing.
Will the good fishing return? Absolutely, soon after the water clears and the salinity increases the bait and the sport fish will return.
A bit of perspective:
This chart shows Charlotte Harbor. It’s the 2nd largest estuary in Florida encompassing 270 square miles. The oval shows the area that I fish. The shaded area is where the brown water is. There’s miles and miles clean and productive water to fish. Gasparilla Sound, Turtle and Bull Bays, Cape Haze and the West Wall all have great fishing for redfish, seatrout, jacks and snook. With over 12 launching ramps on the Harbor it’s easy to get to the fish.
In a few weeks the discharges will be reduced. Pine Island Sound and its barrier Islands will once again provide great fishing. But for now, know that there’s lots of great fishing to experience on Charlotte Harbor and lots of great swimming and sunbathing too.
Let’s go fishing!
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.
Conditions: We will have extremely low morning tides this week. Water temps will be cool in the mornings but warm up in the afternoon. Pine Island Sound, Ding Darling, and areas around Sanibel and Captiva will have poor water quality due to the record level of discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. Even Matlacha Pass will see some water issues this week. The upper Harbor, East and West walls will provide better fishing opportunities.
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: Typical winter tactics include taking advantage of extremely low water levels by fishing edges and structure. Cool water requires fishing slow and deep. As the water warms on the mud and grass you can speed your retrieves back up.
My fly fishing tip of the week: Slow presentations along the edges of oyster bards and banks with crab or shrimp patterns should produce this week. Use weighted flies or sinking intermediate lines to get down to the fish.
My spin fishing tip of the week: Jig heads with soft plastic tail fished slow along edges and bars should work. Take advantage of this week’s super low tides by fishing structure and contours.
7 day outlook: This week will be mostly dry with morning lows in the 50 warming into the 60s mid day. West – northwest winds will drop on Wednesday. There will be very large tide swings this week. Water temps will cool due to the nighttime lows.
Conditions: Hot- Backcountry water temps from Matlacha to Gasparilla are now in the high 80s. The beaches from Boca Grande to Sanibel are in the mid 80s. Thunderstorms are common as the sea breeze builds in the afternoons. Higher water levels are putting the snook and redfish up under the mangroves for most of the day. The Tarpon are rolling early but are running deep as soon as the sun gets bright.
Bait: threadfin herring, Green back Herring, pinfish, shrimp, crab
Species to target this week: Tarpon, Snook, Redfish
Fishing Tactics: Mid day fishing now is very slow due to the heat. So, it’s time to trade sight fishing for early and late day blind casting. Watch for nervous bait, muds and pushes along the mangroves. Tarpon will be moving through the passes early and late. Watch for cruising beach tarpon before and after slack tide.
My Fly Fishing Tip of the Week: If the tarpon fishing is slow, spend some time fishing the troughs along the surf line for BIG snook. Small to medium sized whitebait patterns seem to be getting the attracting the most action.
My Spin Fishing Tip of the Week: Sluggos and Hogys rigged weedless are the hot setup for the mangroves right now for snook and redfish. Live crabs are working best on the beach for tarpon.
7 day outlook: Moderate easterly and northeasterly winds giving way to the sea breeze will build afternoon thunderstorms. There will be good water flow on the beaches and in the mangroves all week. The redfish and smaller snook will be active early and late in the day. Tarpon are in good numbers both on the beaches and in Pine Island Sound but will be running deep mid day.
Sometimes Mother Nature throws you a big fat hanging curve. Sometimes she jambs you on the knuckles with a smoking fastball… John and Bill from CT got jammed on Monday. 20-25mph east winds with gusts over 35 at times. Our hopes of beach tarpon off Captiva and Sanibel Islands dashed, we headed for Pine Island and fished the back country of the Matlacha pass national wildlife refuge with John’s first saltwater fly fishing catch as a goal. Mission accomplished, John landed some snook on a whitebait pattern using an Orvis Helios2 9wt rod. 60' casts in 20+mph winds? - piece of cake. 5 hours of poling an 18' skiff in 20+ mph winds? not a piece of cake - thank you hot shower and Advil.
Chris from Arcadia, FL and his buddy Mike from LeBelle, FL had a fun morning tarpon fishing on the beaches off Charlotte Harbor / Pine Island Sound. Flat calm conditions, only three other skiffs in sight and happy tarpon for two hours made for trip to remember for a long time. The spawning migration has started and the next 6 weeks will provide world-class fishing here in Southwest Florida.
Chris From the Razzor Ranch in Zolfo Springs and his long time friend Mike had a great day of light tackle tarpon fishing off Captiva and Sanibel Islands. Perfect conditions and only three other skiffs in sight. We fished on pods of happy tarpon for two hours. By the way, the Razzor Ranch puts on a great hog hunt, I went there a couple weeks ago with my buddy Greg Straut and had an excellent time.
Tarpon Prime Time is here, I have openings in May, airfair and rooms are now at off season rates! FMI go to the rates and resevation page
Conditions: Water temps are between 81* and 85*. Moderate winds should allow for good sight fishing this week. There is a good chance of showers so keep an eye to the sky.
Bait: threadfin herring, Green back Herring, pinfish, shrimp, crab
Species to target this week: Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, Seatrout, Jack Crevalle, Ladyfish.
Fishing Tactics: Time to hunt for tarpon. They are starting to show in Pine Island Sound and on the beaches. Look for rolling fish early and then for sub surface pods as soon as the light gets good.
My Fly Fishing Tip of the Week: Tarpon time – rig your 11 or 12wt with a sink tip or use weighted flies if the tarpon are moving fast or deep.
My Spin Fishing Tip of the Week: With backwater temps in the mid eighties, your casts need to be at the drip line or up under the mangroves as the tide rises.
7 day outlook: Moderate winds and 20-50% chance of showers this week. Good morning tides will produce moving water for first part of the week. Neap tides late week morning tides will provide little or no moving water.
I have a full compliment of Orvis H2 rods on my boat. If you haven't experienced the Helios 2, you are truly missing something. Book you trip today, cath a fish of a lifetime on the worlds best casting fly rod!
We have four back to back charters this weekend. Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest tarpon fishing times here in Charlotte Harbor / Boca Grande. The boat ramps are full by 7am and the prime fishing spots fill up shortly thereafter. The good news is the tarpon have returned to the beaches and we’re getting fly fishing and light tackle shots at several fish each trip out. We’ll be working the tarpon from Captiva to Gasparilla each day. Reports and photos to follow.
Fellow Registered Maine Guides; Carroll and Lila Ware from Fins and Furs Adventures in Skowhegan, Maine fished with me for 3 1/2 days last week. We spent three days tarpon fishing in Pine Island Sound and along the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. We spent their last morning here doing some inshore sight fishing for snook and redfish in the Matlacha National wildlife Refuge. We were off the water in just enough time for their flight. Great seeing you both again Lila and Carroll, wishing you safe travels home.