SW Florida Fishing Charter

   

June 26th-September 6th 2004

Well how time flies!  Yes, a little late on the update but here is a quick synopsis of what it was and where fishing is today after Hurricane Charley.  July and August was decent fishing.  We had some superb redfishing for several weeks in both months with lots of fish on each charter.  Many were well into the low to mid 30 inch range and real drag burners.  On some trips we had slack tides and the reds were tough.  We made it up with Bluefish on the east side bars that ate fast moving lures and bait.  Jumbo Ladyfish that never stop jumping were also in the same areas.  Small Tarpon were caught on many trips primarily late in the day.  Ran 5-15 pounds and would only take live bait and were finicky at that.  Snook fishing made a rebound with many fish showing up eating lures and bait.  No real big boys but a few pushing 8 pounds.  Lots of jacks and super sized Mangrove Snapper were easy pickings.  Found a new shallow water wreck that is a hoot for catching football sized snapper in only 2.5 feet of water.  Jewfish and Grouper also live there.  I expect it to hold Snook later this month and so close to home!

Post Hurricane Charley left us locals feeling a little lonely.  My house got whomped since the eye of the hurricane touched down here first.  Got it back together and the big news is the Maverick went unscathed!  Yes, I do have my priorities.  Fishing was non-existent for the first week after Charley with everyone pretty much picking up the pieces.  Now the good news is that the fish are hungry and the reds are really schooling up.  Lots of nice reds and I expect fishing to be super hot for the rest of this month.  The harbor grasses are still intact and bait was easy primarily for Pinfish just about anywhere.  The whitebait is small and tough to locate but should become easier to find.  There is definitely more structure in the water from broken branches, etc. and I expect the Snook fishing should be great as the waters cool with the autumn weather. 

There are some new areas and features developed from the hurricane.  One of my favorite spots has a new sandbar added to it about 100 yards long which is adjacent to a 5 foot hole.  This should make this spot even better over time.

Trout fishing is slow but should pick up soon.  Really, reds are the big news and I expect they will be easy pickings over the next few weeks.

 

April 25th-June 25th 2004

Well what can I say.  I have been fishing an awful lot and haven't been able to get to the computer to put out a report.  I am going to sound like a broken record but I have just had 2 months of some of the absolute best fishing of my life!  I can not tell you how consistent the redfishing has been.  They have been so predictable on the higher tides on certain oyster bars that I have been fishing new waters just to keep it interesting and catching fish there.  The Pilchards are like candy to kids and the reds have been chomping them up recklessly once they get a wiff of some that you injure slighty.  The reds have been mostly oversize with 12 pounders common.  The Snook fishing has been good and many days with big numbers well in the 20-35 Snook range.  Not a lot of really big boys.

Tarpon fishing has been very good.  I have been doing an occasional trip with hook-ups most trips.  The pass fishing is very good if you like crowds......not me however, its just not my style.  Shark fishing has been a hoot.  Small Black Tips in the shallows on many trips.  Their first run will burn 10 pound mono like a banche', then a brief workout and you've got him if he doesn't bite you off.

Near offshore fishing has been just remarkable!  Ran 2 trips 10 miles offshore and we banged Kingfish (Smokers!), Grouper, Bonita, Shark, Jewfish, Barracuda and had shots at Permit.  Just remarkable fishing pretty much all to myself.

As I am writing this we have just come into a huge heat wave of over a week.  The shallows are in the 90's and the fishing has finally slowed up.  The fish are lethargic and the water is probably a bit oxygen depleted.  The Snook are near or on the beaches and eating when they are in the right mood.  Other times they stare at you as they are in the spawning mode.  Reds are challenging on most days lately but some small ones in the 20 inch class are chewing.  How about shallow water Bluefish!  Lots of them if you know where to find em' and they are a ball!  Trout are easy, huge Ladyfish have been burning drags and jumping like crazy.

 

April 9th- April 24th 2004

Big Redfish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The redfishing is hot and the big boys have moved in.  We have been having great numbers of fish in the 25-35 inch category.  The nice high tides driven by the west winds in the afternoon have the fish piled up in the mangroves.  Snook fishing is good but we're seeing and catching less fish as they have begun their move to the beaches to spawn.

We landed our first TARPON last week.  About a 60 pounder....check out the photo section.  We had a big one on over 150 but it said seeyaaaaa after the 3rd jump.  Tarpon fishing should be hot over the next weeks as these fish should be piling in any day now.  Trout are plentiful, tons of ladyfish and the big jacks have been breaking our backs.  The fish are reel spoolers and pretty easy to catch.  Nothing beats live bait but the fish are aggressive and taking soft plastics rigged weedless and spoons fished fast.  Good topwater fishing very early with chugbugs but most don't want to start fishing that early.

March 21st- April 8th 2004

The fishing is absolutely incredible.  I have had many 50 Snook days.....and thats no fish story!  In fact, we have had 2 days where we caught 50 Snook in 2 hours with 3 people fishing.....and on those days we left the fish biting to try new spots.  The toughest thing here lately has been a lot of wind.  This has really made fishing a challenge on certain days but we still have had super good numbers.  The really nice redfish have moved in.  They are in the 5-12 pound category and will burn some serious drag on light tackle.  A lot of fish run into the mangroves and you just can't turn them.

Lots of trout around with plenty of respectable fish in the 15-20 inch size.  No whopper Snook this past couple of weeks......meaning in the mid 30 inch class.  Some slamming Jack Crevalles have been around and I have had to re-spool reels about every 3-4 days because they stretch the line out too much.  I won't complain about that.  A few Tarpon have shown up but with the wind they have been hard to sight fish.  

Some really nice Mangrove Snappers have been showing up with some pushing near 2 pounds and lots of nice 12 inch fish.  They are some serious good eating!  

March 1st-March 8th 2004

THE SNOOK FISHING IS HOT!  This is absolutely my favorite month for Snook.  The migratory baitfishes have poured into Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound and into the Boca Grande area.  The Snook fell right in line and we have been averaging over 30 Snook a trip.  We had a one hour stretch of fishing with a guy from Washington, DC the other day where we caught over 20 Redfish and 10 Snook.  The hour that followed was nearly as good.

The waters are clear and the fishing is just incredible.  The Snook are averaging a respectable 23-26 inches average and we're catching them in shallow water.  The deeper spots are 3 feet.  These fish are jumpers and drag burners.  There have been a surprising amount of redfish around.  Many are over the legal size pushing the 10-11 pound mark.  There are still plenty of smaller reds in the 18-20 inch class.  I have been starting the day with cast netting about 500 baitfish and then the catching is almost guaranteed.  The Trout fishing is off a bit but the trout are running 19-25 inches.  Many days we're catching 8-10 of these big boys or should I say girls, because they are definitely females.  

A few Tarpon have showed up...definitely a good sign.  I am hoping we have an early run of the Silver Kings.  The Spanish Mackeral are around and we have been burning spoons just off the bars to catch this scrappy fish.  I have to buy a dozen extra spoons every 3 days or so.  The big Jack Crevalles have shown up, not monsters but 6-12 pounds of muscle.  I am getting tired of re-spooling reels here lately.  These fish stretch the line so much that after a couple the line is twisting onto itself.

I haven't caught me first Cobia this year but they have appeared.  We have had a backcountry slam just about every charter.   I expect things will only get better over the upcoming weeks with larger Snook appearing (10-20 pounds).  What's not to like!  Oh, small Black tip Sharks have started wandering over the flats in Pine Island.  This is very cool fishing cause you stalk or chase the fish and cast a bait ahead of their travel path.  They are reckless as long as you don't splash the water too hard with your bait.  These little Sharks 2-4 feet are surface fighters, thrashing and burning drag in a foot of water....man, I could fish for them constantly except taking them off the hook ain't no picnic!

 

January  17th- January 31st 2004

REDFISH, REDFISH, REDFISH!!!!    What an incredible winter we're having.  If sight fishing for reds is your dream, well now is the time.  The waters are extremely clear, we are having very seasonably low tides and mainly bright sunny skies.  The flats really have a lot of big redfish with many pushing the 35 inch mark.  In fact, in the past week we have been fishing schools of reds that are so tight that they produce a wake as they move on the flats.  They're usually feeding when you see these pods of fish moving about.  The tricky part is to intercept the fish along their path which changes constantly.  It's exciting fishing and a well placed cast ends up in a long battle.  Small schools of reds are around in some deeper pockets and when the tide is right we're catching 20-30 of these 16-18 inch fish until we change plans for another species.  Lots of fun on light tackle.  By the way, the redfish bellies are packed with thumbnail size crabs.....nothing else.  They eat a live shrimp recklessly when fished Texas rigged and have started hitting spoons and crab flies.....very cool!

Trout fishing is excellent with lots of nice fish in the 15-20 inch class with an occasional 25 incher.  Trout are legal this time of year and delicious!  Nothing beats a jig tipped with a shrimp but soft plastics and spoons catch lots of fish.  I have been fishing a few deeper holes for big Sheepshead.  These fish really fight hard.  Lots of sheepies in the 1-2 pound range and often we're seeing some pushing over 4 pounds.  

Snook are very quiet but we pick one up here and there.  No monsters but some fish in the low 20 inch glass have been scrappy.  Look for incredible Snook action to start in about 4-5 weeks as the water will warm and the Snook will be super hungry.  

December 7th-December 31st 2003

The fishing has been remarkable for this time of year.  December is a transition month where the fishing patterns change as the waters cool into the low 70's.  For sure fishing has changed but not the bite.  In fact, I have had higher numbers of fish boated in December than during the rest of the year.  The good news is the Redfish are everywhere and they are hungry.  They are hitting jigs tipped with shrimp and you fish them somewhat like a Texas rigged plastic worm.  We have had many trips with over 100 fish with most being reds.  There are big tailing fish on the lowest of tides on sunny afternoons.  Its a game of pursuit to try to intercept small groups of reds as they roam the flats.

Trout fishing is ridiculosly good!  They are hitting lures and shrimp.  No fish will eat white bait right now even though it has moved back onto the outsides of bars.  My biggest trout last week was 24 inches.  We can catch trout until your arms fall off.  Lots of Sheepshead in the area and the big boys over 5 pounds are found in the deep potholes on flats.  Their hard to get to because of the lower winter tides but once you get in, they are piled up.  Snook fishing is slow except for small fish under 18 inches which can be found on the edge of Mangroves where lots of current is present with a sunny afternoon.  We did have one giant Snook last week....try 25-30 pounds.  Yes, what a huge fish and congrats are in order for the Yates party with over 100 fish caught and a Snook of a lifetime.  See photo page.  Other than that, we are catching 7-10 species per day including Flounder, Black Drum, Blowfish, Ladyfish, Grouper, Jewfish, Catfish and a few others.  Fishing is just flat out good and we have been nailing them every trip.

November 1st-November 21st 2003

What a 3 weeks of fishing this has been!  There have been just weeks of excellent Snook fishing with lots of fish still on the beaches and on the backside of Gasparilla Island.  The backcountry has a lot of fish but their roving around so you have to move to different spots throughout the day to stay on them.  The waters are very clear and the fish are easy to see on bright sunny days.  The redfishing has changed for sure.  There are occasional bruisers that push 30 inches but most of the big boys have headed out to the ocean.  Still there are decent fish being caught most trips in the 5 pound class.  The appearance of the small reds in the 1-2 pound class is a clear sign of cooling waters.  Nice Sheepshead are easy to catch in the deeper basins.  Nothing beats a jig tipped with a half of shrimp.  As for the Snook and Reds, there is still plenty of whitebait however it is becoming more scattered.  The good news is that the fish are hitting lures better and better each day as the bait slowly moves off-shore.  

Lots of sharks appearing on the flats when the tide is very low.  What a hoot they are on light tackle and you pursue them just like bonefish.  Most run 8-15 pounds and are a ball on light tackle.  Even on the slowest of days you can still expect to catch all the trout you can handle, big Mini-Tarpon (Ladyfish), Jacks and Sheepshead.  The past 3 days has moved HUGE SNOOK into the area.  I mean the 25 pound class monsters.  Mostly they are tough to get to bite but some days they eat.  Smaller Snook in the 30 inch class can really light up the water and we have had several this past week.  More fish have moved into the canals seeking the warmer waters there.  The Tarpon have joined them and we had shots at 40-50 pounders.  There's no better place to be than on Charlotte Harbor!

 

October 26th-November 1st 2003

Fishing continues to be very good.  We had a lot of high winds out of the east and north east this week.  As a result there were a lot of extremely low tides.  Certainly a more challenging week but we still caught a lot of fish.  The key was to fish deeper basins and move a lot.  The winds and extreme tides had the fish moving around a lot.  Despite the high winds I was still able to locate large amounts of good bait.  This week we caught lots of Snook many 22"-24" with a few kickers, smaller reds generally speaking however plenty of oversize fish.  Lots of big Jacks and the Speckled Trout have been BIG.  Plenty of fish up to 22 inches and very stocky.  Of course, the season just went out on Trout and now the biggies have moved in.  There was never a trip where we caught less than 4 species and some had 7 species.  Sheepshead have made a showing and we had 1 Cobia.  

October 19th- 26th 2003

I fished 5 out of 7 days this week.  Charlotte Harbor is RED HOT.  Angler Larry T. had a remarkable trip on the 23rd.  The wind blew all of the water out early and the east side was slow.  Moved to Bull Bay and after changing locations we found a school of big Reds and Snook.  For about 2 hours it was nearly non-stop.  Larry had so many big fish break him off running into the mangroves.  30# test leader just couldn't hold these fish back.  That spot suddenly died with a slack tide and we moved to the inside of Boca where the waters were as clear as Islamorada in the keys.  We moved into a shallow flat and easily spotted medium size Snook in the 25 inch class patrolling the potholes.  First 2 casts produced fish that could not be turned....these were no 25 inchers!  For the next hour it was non-stop action on Snook with a few suspected bull reds that weren't coming in.  What a day.  

Two other trips rivaled this one.  High outgoing tides brought a wave of fish to an oyster bar on the east side.  All I can say is that after 2 hours of non-stop Snook and Reds on each trip these anglers were worn out.  I retied so many leaders.  A school of large Trout to 23 inches would roll in and out.  How much better can it get, I don't know!

Fished Marvin D. from N.J. for a 1/2 day and he had the best trip of his life.  Large Trout every cast and then Snook before the tide died late in the day.

One fly rod trip with and expert Dave J. from Maine.  Found a huge school of reds in front of Bulls Bay.  They ate everything but flies!  Reckless on bait, swatted at poppers but only 2 that ate flies and were lost.  Too much baitfish for competition, I guess because Dave was an incredible caster.

Chuck, did fish alone one evening and my shoulder is still sore from reckless redfish that ate until my arms wore out.  These fish ran 28 inches and up.  This week is off to the same start.  Report to come at weeks end.  Capt Chuck

October 12th-October 18th 2003  

 

Fishing this week has been as good as it gets.  Huge schools of redfish like you can't imagine.  Anywhere from 20 to hundreds of fish in a school.  The fishing is simple once you find em'.  These fish are traveling on shallow flats and push a wake that rises nearly a foot of above the water.  They travel fast and the trick is to line up on a path their headed.  Then your drag is screamining!  Huge fish with many pushing 15 pounds.  Some fish are breaking 30# test.

Snook fishing has really picked up with big fish piling into the harbor.  We had one day with 5 fish over the 30" mark with 20 other Snook that were in the low to mid 20 inch range.  Trout fishing is remarkable.  What else can I say?  How can it get any better than this!  

 

September 15- September 21

Redfishing was really hot this week.  We found many different flats holding large schools of big Reds.  If you could get your cast to them once they were spotted, they weren’t bashfull!  Typically we would start the day with topwaters such as Chugbugs and Zara Spooks.  The Reds were so aggressive that a few actually ate the plugs and had them down deep.  Fortunately, all but one fish was released alive and it was great when I did the Cajun’ Blackened thing to him in the skillet!  Fishing with live bait was really too easy but it sure provided lots of action for my people.  

Snook fishing is really good.  There are a lot of 23-25 inch fish around.  Clearly, a lot of fish have moved back from the beaches.  I had a father and son team (Adam and Peter Bartollota) plus their good friend Jim aboard for a half day trip.  The first part of the trip was a little slow as I jumped from spot to spot to find fish.  Eventually, I located a pod of Reds on a Mangrove outflow.  Everyone caught Reds that were about 9 pounds each.  Then a school of nice Jacks rolled in and it looked like a kindergarten fire drill.  Rods and lines going everywhere, tackle rolling around the boat and fish coming aboard faster then the ol’ captain could handle.  Boy, did we have fun.  Topped the day off with some fast Snook fishing around some docks and rip-rap.  These fish were nice size but this conservation minded party, decided to let them go!   Angler Jim unfortuneatly had a couple of Jacks that pulled his shoulder out and he eventually had to stop fishing.  I really felt bad for him.  He was so happy with that bent rod but the fish got the upper hand.  I sure hope Jim’s shoulder has recovered!  

Only fished a little for Speckled Trout.  Lots of small fish but it was nice to round a few charters with a “Backcountry Slam” which includes a Snook, Red and Trout.  Finally, there are still Tarpon around.  These guys are so much fun and run about 10-20 pounds.  They were caught using small Pinfish cast directly ahead of a rolling fish.  Most jumped off after a burning drag with 10 pound test.  What’s not to like!

August 19th- August 26th 2002

 

Fishing has been nothing short of incredible this week!  Despite the hot sunny afternoons and late day storms that have been very unpredictable, the fish have been biting.

Monday’s charter starting off with slow bait catching in the morning.  This actually worked in our favor because we opted to fish lures for the first 2 hours of daylight and we’re rewarded with Redfish.  I located a pod of reds that we’re roving over a shallow flat in about 1 foot of water.  The first cast with a topwater Chug Bug resulted in an aggressive strike, a screaming drag and a limp line.  The fish pulled free.  My angler made 2 more casts and was rewarded with another slam, and I do mean slam!  The fight was on…a big red in the 10 pound class until the line went limp again.  As he reeled the lure back in another red slammed and missed.  This went on until 10:00 am .  We totaled 14 hooked reds with 6 boated with each fish between 8 and 11 pounds!  When the sunlight got higher we went to Texas rigged Phantom colored Bass Assassins which the reds ate very aggressive.  The afternoon consisted of good Speckled Trout action on whitebaits.  A very good day indeed.

 

Tuesday’s charter requested to fish for Tarpon.  Unfortunately the wind made locating the fish in Charlotte Harbor very difficult.  These nice folks were down from Ohio and have never caught the Silver King.  The Tarpon were there but if you can’t see to fish em’, then you might as well move on, as we did.  We fished Pine Island Mangroves with slow action for Trout and Jacks.  Headed over to Haze Point and banged lots of nice Trout, Jacks and had shots at some bull reds in the 12 pound class.  We finished up in a canal with a Snook that measured 30 inches which about wore out Ms. Bobbie’s arm.  Her husband Butch had a large Snook on, only to lose at the boat.  Seven more Snook were boated and 3 Jacks that burnt some serious drag before heading in from the heat at around 4:00 p.m.

 

I took my wife fishing on Wednesday for a few hours.  We managed several Snook on lures and a few that we couldn’t turn before cutting us off on Barnacles. 

 

Thursday’s charter was with another Ohio couple, Jim and Sis.  I pursued Tarpon again early because there were many Tarpon seen rolling in the harbor the day before.  We found a few and set up.  I had gotten up at 5:00 a.m. and rode over 1 hour total to catch bait and be ready for these early feeders.  Setting up around 7:00 a.m. we cast into the area, about which time the tide went nearly slack and so went the fishing.  So much for the morning darkness ride to catch bait… oh well, I guess I was too prepared because I had a live-well full of great bait.  This was ok, because we ended up catching 2 reds, several Trout, Jack Crevalle and about 12 Snook were hooked…several were boated up to 25 inches.  This was the day of the full moon and apparently every Sailcat found its way into the Harbor because they were feeding on top and it was hard to keep them off of your line.

 

Friday was a great day for Redfishing.  The reds are really schooled up right now and we fished a very low tide on the east wall to fish that were “pushing” water.  Quietly positioning ourselves to intercept their path was exciting.  Most of these fish were over the slot limit.  This action kept us busy all day.

 

Fished canals on Saturday with a buddy.  Also, the Myakka River bridge.  The Snook have begun returning from the beaches.

 

Sunday my anglers fished the beaches near Gasparilla.  It would be an understatement to say how good this fishing was.  The Snook are everywhere and hungry after completing their mating migration.  We had over 50 Snook with the largest pushing 35 inches.  Can fishing get any better than this!

 

 

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