On the Water: Temporary closure for snook and redfish
September 12, 2018


Reports were improved over the past week as steady easterly breezes appear to be pushing red tide toxins into the Gulf and away from our islands. Many areas that showed high levels a week ago showed considerably lower levels over recent days.

Due to the recent outbreaks and fish kills, the Florida Wildlife Commission closed snook season in Southwest Florida that was scheduled to open on Sept. 1, and also closed the harvest of redfish or red drum.

Here is the official release from FWC: "The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conser-vation Commission (FWC) has temporarily made snook and redfish catch-and-release only from the northernmost point of Anna Maria Island in Manatee County to Gordon Pass in Collier County. This was done through an Executive Order in response to the naturally-occurring red tide bloom in southwest Florida and is in effect until the next FWC Commission meeting, which starts Sept. 26."

Most anglers agree that the closure is good and needed. Many felt that due to declining populations, that redfish should have been shut down to harvest before the recent fish kills. This closure should allow a more accurate account of where the fish stocks are once the water returns to normal and the remaining snook and reds spread out to affected areas. In the meantime, if you catch a snook or redfish, make sure to handle them as little as possible and release them quickly. If you are fishing live or natural bait, circle hooks are the way to go to prevent deep or gut hooked fish.

Areas that produced decent fishing the past couple weeks continue to give anglers good opportunities. Grass bottom in 5 to 8-foot depths off Bokeelia held steady action with sea trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and small blacktip sharks. The best bite was over the incoming tide, a few anglers also hooked into some good pompano while drifting shrimp in the same area. If you see a pod of dolphin in the area you are fishing, it's probably the place to be, they generally aren't far from their next meal. Also, at the north end of Pine Island, the Bokeelia Fishing Pier continues to be a good bet to hook into mangrove snapper and pompano. Snook, sharks and stingrays were also reported from the pier.

In Matlacha, anglers fishing the drawbridge caught snapper, pompano, small sharks, ladyfish and some large jack crevalle. Most fish were caught on live shrimp. Redfish over 30 inches were hooked under the shade of island points in south Matlacha Pass near Master Landing on the higher tides while soaking cut bait. In the northern Pass, a few redfish and sea trout were reported between Smokehouse Bay and the east mouth of Jug Creek at Bokeelia. A few boats found decent action with catch-and-release snook plus mangrove snapper along the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor, while tossing live pilchards.

At the southern end of Pine Island Sound, a couple anglers report snook biting near Buck Key inside Captiva on the higher tide. Across to the east, similar action was reported near Chino and Galt islands with a few redfish and snapper also in the mix. Also, at the Sanibel Fishing Pier, a few anglers returned to wet a line and found Spanish mackerel and pompano cooperative.

Boats running 30 to 35 miles offshore found rod-bending action while drifting artificial reefs and wrecks. Hard-pulling amberjack, barracuda, sharks and big king mackerel were caught while drifting a variety of live bait fish.

It has been a long time since I have seen so few boats on the water. It's actually been difficult to get fishing reports due to the lack of fishermen. As most anglers on the water noted, there are good fishy areas, you just may need to move around a little to find them. Despite all the negative news recently, a day on the water is time well spent. Do a little homework before you head out, check the latest red tide forecast, ask around, find good water and you will have an enjoyable day.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at: Gulf Coast Guide Service, 239-283-7960 or visit or email

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.


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