Fishing Best Bets: Red tide impacts fishing

Byron Stout

Weekend fishing efforts appear to have suffered from spreading red tide. Reports were of few dead fish, but very little enthusiasm among the living.

Sean O'Malley's 22-inch black drum was another of the eight blacks he and his group caught on shrimp last Wednesday on their Fishbuster Charter.

The best prospects for a lack of red tide influence appear to be southward from Fort Myers Beach, from Matanzas Pass and Estero Bay into Collier County, according to state sampling results.

Snook anglers have only a week to go before the long winter's nap, also known as the December through February winter closed season.

Freshwater fishing has been pretty good, particularly relating to the average size of crappie in lakes Okeechobee and Trafford.

SNOOK: Norm Zeigler's Fly, Bait & Tackle customers report snook in winter staging mode, cruising in good numbers and all sizes along Sanibel's San Carlos Bay shorelines, from the Sanibel Light to Dixie Beach. Many snook already have arrived in the back country of the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and a few remain along the island's Gulf beaches.

St. James City Capt. George Grosselfinger reports very little snook action last weekend in lower to mid Pine Island Sound, where red tide appears to be the negative influence.

Cape Tool & Tackle  got a report from an angler who caught snook, redfish and ladyfish Saturday night while casting below the weirs along Burnt Store Road in north Cape Coral.

King Fisher bay boats fishing out of Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda report good snook action along Charlotte Harbor's eastern shore, south to Pirate Harbor, where two keepers among good numbers of sublegal linesides were brought in over the weekend. Capt. Ralph Allen reported hearing of slow fishing as far up the harbor as Burnt Store Marina, and state reports are of high concentrations of red tide at the harbor entrance, Boca Grande Pass.


Andrea Tinucci's 27-inch black drum was one of eight drum she and her group caught last Wednesday on shrimp in southern Estero Bay, on their inshore Fishbuster Charter.

Andrea Tinucci's big black drum was one of eight caught last Wednesday on a Fishbuster Charter with friends in south Estero Bay.

DRUM: Christina and Andrea Tinnuci and Sean O'Malley caught eight black drum from 15 to 27 inches and one 26-inch red drum, plus five undersize sheepshead while baiting with live shrimp last Wednesday morning in southern Estero Bay on their Fishbuster Charter with Bonita Beach Capt. Dave Hanson.

Brian Cruz of Cape Tool caught one keeper and one undersize red, two short snook and several ladyfish while casting Z-Man Jigs last Thursday in the Matlacha area of Cape Coral's spreader canal system.

King Fisher bay boats have been bringing in keeper redfish as often as not on trips to Charlotte Harbor's eastern and western shorelines, where they've been casting live sardines under the mangroves.

TROUT: Zeigler's reports spotty speckled trout action, along with a few jacks biting for surf fishers along Sanibel's beaches, including the Lighthouse Beach, West Gulf Drive access points, the west end of Bowman's Beach and Blind Pass.

Capt. Grosselfinger reports a really great topwater plug bite on trout to 27 inches that were ganged up inside Blind Pass and Captiva Pass completely dried up by last weekend.

King Fisher bay boats report good trout action on live herrings on Charlotte Harbor's upper east side flats, although keepers once again got hard to come by over the past week.


Minnesotan Tim Carlson's snook slurped a finger mullet pitched to the mangroves of Mullock Creek last Wednesday, on his Snook Stamp Charter with Capt. Greg Stamper.

Tim Carlson's snook fought the good fight and lived to grow to keeper size on his Snook Stamp Charter in Mullock Creek with Capt. Greg Stamper. For anglers hoping to catch a keeper before the season closes for three months, beginning next Thursday, Dec. 1, the back country of Estero Bay and points south, the upper reaches of Charlotte Harbor, and the Caloosahatchee River are areas that should be least influenced by the negative effects of red tide. As noted by veteran King Fisher Capt. Ralph Allen, " When there's just a sniff of that stuff, fish will shut down, even though they're not going to die." Properly licensed anglers on Florida's Gulf Coast can keep one snook from 28 to 33 inches. For more information go to My

MIXED BAGS: Lehr's Economy Tackle forwarded a picture of Stephanie Brennan with a whopper crevalle jack, the largest of several she and husband Mark caught while casting Zara Spook topwater plugs from shore, Saturday afternoon at Lover's Key State Park.

Lehr's also noted seeing pictures of two gag grouper, one just under the 24-inch minimum and one very nice keeper, caught by an angler baiting with mullet along Wildlife Drive (closed Fridays) in Ding Darling.

Zeigler's noted a few sheepshead have begun biting under Sanibel's docks and piers, including Blind Pass structures, and juvenile tarpon continue to bite in the Ding Darling back country.

OFFSHORE: Debbie Ledley caught a 21-inch red grouper and helped friends Bill Conklin, Mike and Bill catch 15 keeper lane snapper and a dozen grunts on squid. The group also battled an estimated 200-pound goliath grouper that took a pinfish last Thursday morning on their offshore Fishbuster Charter to 20 miles west of New Pass.

Cape Coral Capt. Roy Bennett and four other friends with Tom Fowler caught their two-fish limits of red grouper to 25 inches last Thursday in depths from 60 to 93 feet off Sanibel Island, where Alan Ringsmuth also landed a smooth puffer, known in Florida as a rabbitfish, on a long day in seas estimated at four to five feet.

Pat Cochran caught one 29-inch keeper among several undersize gags he caught trolling deep-diving lures on what he reported to Cape Tool was a very slow day over the nearshore ledges off Captiva Pass.

Last Wednesday's King Fisher offshore charter to depths around 65 feet off Boca Grande Pass produced bottom fish including porgies, lane snapper and grunts, the carcasses of which filled two 5-gallon buckets.


LAKE TRAFFORD: Anglers fishing midlake waters used minnows, mostly, plus jigs to catch fair numbers of crappie that averaged a very nice size over the weekend, according to Lake Trafford Marina in Immokalee.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Crappie fishermen drifting open waters off Taylor Creek and Bird Island have been catching crappie that have been mostly over the Big O's 10-inch minimum keeper size, according to Okeechobee Capt. Eddie Perry.

Prespawn bass fishing has been good for anglers deploying wild shiners, with catches of 25 to 30 fish made on both morning and afternoon trips of late. Fishing with artificial baits has been notably tougher in the better areas -- reed patches around Grassy Island, Tin House Cove and King's Bar. Hydrilla edges also have been good on the west side of King's Bar and off the Harney Pond Canal.

To submit a photo or fishing report, email it to Byron Stout: Be sure to put “fishing report” in the subject line.