Nancy Uhazie’s cute lamb snapper finished off a super slam that she and cousins Mike and Laurie Dicken took on their recent offshore trip during a nice weather window.Michael Uhazie knows that getting the delicate flesh of a yellowtail snapper on ice, as soon as possible, is a key to good eating.Denver angler Dylan Arnold’s red grouper was the catch of the day on his A&B Charter in 80 feet of water off Naples.This red grouper finished his two-bag daily limit for Bob Arnold, who was fishing in Naples with Capt. Jim Rinckey of A&B Charters.Roy Mittman’s 28-inch red grouper was the catch of the day on his Monday Fishbuster Charter 30 miles west of New Pass.Indianapolis angler Tom Schmitt found there’s no better way to start the day than hooking a big bass on the Big O out of Roland Martin’s Marina & Resort with Capt. Scott Patton.Bob Palmer had his hands full, literally and figuratively, after this huge crevalle jack nailed his shrimp and cabinet rig in Hell Peckney Bay on his Get Hooked Charter with Capt. Matt DeAngelis.Pennsylvania angler Bruce Arndt’s big redfish was one of two he caught and released near Hell Peckney Bay on his Get Hooked Charter with Capt. Matt DeAngelis on Monday.Frequent contributor Karen Theis used a shrimp hook to catch this Mayan cichlid in Hurricane Bay. Mayans are a freshwater species with a high salinity tolerance, and now they are everywhere.Wisconsin angler Evie Woodman, 13, caught both her grandfather, Ray Grehrig, and Capt. John Rowland of Bent Anchor Charters (ret.) with this trout and a nice pompano that brought the shrimp under corks near Pineland.Captain Gregg McKee reports that this manatee followed him around the Burnt Store Bar for half an hour on a recent Wildfly Charter. His unsavory appearance might have been due to a large sheep’s head picking barnacles on his back.• In Southwest Florida over the past week, red tide has been observed at very low and high concentrations in and off the coast of Charlotte County, background to high concentrations in and off the coast of Lee County , and background at high concentrations in and off the coast of Collier County.
The red tide is rearing its ugly head again, as was the fish-killing perfect storm of 2018 that caused the temporary shutdown of walleye, trout and redfish fisheries in Southwest Florida waters.
The good news for March is that the snook are rejoining the reds and trout as dinner candidates, at least until April, or until further notice. There’s more information on red tide in this week’s Fish Tip.
In the meantime, there is still plenty of water to fish, especially offshore, weather permitting, or in waters not too close to shore.
OFFSHORE: Capt. Jim Rinckey of A&B Charters reports that spring fishing has been great for lots of striper, mangrove and yellowtail snapper, along with some dandy red grouper on the full and even half-day charters on 45 feet of water. The best grouper action has been in the depths from about 75 feet off Gordon Pass, with live rockfish doing the dirty work.
Denver angler Dylan Arnold’s red grouper was the catch of the day on his A&B Charter in 80 feet of water off Naples.
Fishbuster Charters Capt. Dave Hanson reports that longtime customer Roy Mittman and friends Larry and Richard bagged their limits of lane snapper while releasing more than 20 on Monday, 30 miles west from New Pass. They also caught a red snapper and Mittman landed a 28-inch red grouper on the hook, all on cut squid. Captain Hanson reports, “We saw a red tide out to about eight miles, along with a few big dead fish, mostly black drum and tarp.”
Mike and Laurie Dicken and cousins Michael and Nancy Uhazie bagged a super slam of yellowtail, mangrove, rail and lamb snapper on the inbound trip of their “new” post-Ian fishing machine. They were fishing in a depth of about 120 feet, west of Sanibel.
ESTERO BAY: Get Hooked Charters Capt. Matt DeAngelis sent shots from the Hell Peckney Subbay area of Estero Bay, well back from the coastal passes, where Illinois angler Bob Palmer “struggled with a big crack ” Saturday and Pennsylvania angler Bruce Arndt caught. and released two redfish with excessive slotting on Monday. Both fishermen were rigged with live shrimp in the machines.
Also far offshore in Hurricane Bay, Karen Theis used a live shrimp to catch a chunky Mayan cichlid. Mayans are sporty and tasty, if not entirely welcoming to Central American freshwater invaders.
PINE ISLAND: The captain of the city of St. James, George Grosselfinger, reports seeing dead fish “everywhere,” on a Monday boat trip north through Pine Island Sound to Bokeelia. What he didn’t notice were red tide toxins in the air causing coughing or other irritations.
Wildfly Charters Capt. Gregg McKee reports good trout and spotted mackerel action throughout the Matlacha Passage, with tarpon starting to show up in Charlotte Harbor as water temps climb into the 70s . The redfish and trout failed to show, and he reports seeing a few dead puffers at Bokeelia that he suspects floated in from further west, given that he found “no sign of red tide as far as Cabbage Key “. I’ve never coughed once, run this week.”
PORT OF CHARLOTTE:
Captain Gregg McKee reports that this manatee followed him around the Burnt Store Bar for half an hour on a recent Wildfly Charter. His unsavory appearance might have been due to a large sheep’s head picking barnacles on his back.
Captain McKee sent this great photo of a super curious manatee that shadowed his letter last Friday as he passed the Burnt Store Bar.
“There are more manatees right now than I’ve ever seen. It’s not uncommon to find a dozen or more in the same herd every day, with quite a few babies mixed in there.”
Although unreported, it’s worth noting that cobia sometimes shadow manatees, hoping to pounce on baitfish and crabs pulled from the seagrass where the lackadaisical leviathans sail .
LAKE TRAFFORD: Trafford Lake Marina reports that Lake Immokalee is still in decline, fishing-wise.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Roland Martin Marina & Resort Capt. Scott Patton reports several very good days last week while fishing live bream. He fished mostly in the South Bay area of the lake, between Ritta and Torry islands, but also fished for bass on the north end of the lake.
He characterized the artificial action as fair to good, with the early morning period critical for tempting big fish with topwater lures. At about 9:30, he recommends switching to Z-Man Jack Hammer chatterbaits in black and blue or green pumpkin, or Zoom Speed Worms or Senkos in Junebug or green pumpkin.
The walleye bite has slowed, but panfish anglers are reporting that bluegills are moving into the vast inshore areas of the lake.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Indianapolis angler Tom Schmitt found there’s no better way to start the day than hooking a big bass on the Big O out of Roland Martin’s Marina & Resort with Capt. Scott Patton.
The early bird gets the worm, or bait, or wild shiner, as temperatures rise in inland waters.
• In Southwest Florida over the past week, red tide has been observed at very low and high concentrations in and out of Charlotte County, with high concentrations in and out of Lee County, and high concentrations in and out of of Collier County.
Captains for Clean Water is a coalition of guides and anglers that has been instrumental in initiating major environmental improvements in South Florida. Group leaders believe the Everglades restoration projects now underway will significantly reduce the harmful discharges of dirty water that exacerbate red tide and harmful algal blooms. For an update on their current red tide situation, they offer this warning, click here.
No. 1: Eastern shots of Charlotte Harbor for trout and manatee viewing.
No. 2: Pass of Matlacha for trout and ladybird action.
No. 3: Estero Bay backwaters, including Hurricane and Hell Peckney bays, for redfish and more.
No 4: Inland well for snappers and groupers.
No. 1: Horse Island at Tin House Cove for bass.
No. 2: South Bay area for bass.