2023 is off to a great start for the Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande area. January has produced a great number of fish. When the weather has allowed, the nearshore bite has been on fire. Sheepshead, snapper, triggerfish, and grouper have been the main targets. We’ve been seeing some tripletail along the buoys as well. Further out, the red grouper bite has been consistent.
Inshore, we’re seeing a lot of snook, redfish, and trout. For the snook and redfish, we’ve been soaking cut bait along the mangroves or in holes along the shorelines. Cut ladyfish has been producing better than cut pinfish. The white bait has been tough to find after the recent cold fronts, so we’ve been primarily using shrimp for bait. The inshore fish have been slurping them up. We’re seeing a lot of bait offshore so it’s only a matter of time before they head inshore and we’re consistently catching them. For the trout, we’ve been fishing in 3-4ft of water in what we call salt and pepper areas. These areas are comprised of a mix of sand holes (salt) and grass (pepper). A popper cork with either shrimp or white bait has been working great.
Tarpon and Goliath Grouper
In the coming weeks, we will begin targeting the ever sought after Boca Grande tarpon, aka silver king. The main season for Boca Grande tarpon fishing charters is May and June. We typically catch them throughout April as well when the waters are a lot less chaotic with a bunch of other boats. Another Boca Grande giant, the goliath grouper, has been making a comeback after the deadly red tide from 2018 that wiped out a significant number in our area. The cold front at the beginning of the year pushed some of the Boca Grande goliath grouper offshore but once the water continues to warm, they will be returning to fishable areas.
Jesse and I have recently acquired a new sponsor, Bajio. This newly formed company places an emphasis on preserving and improving the environment around coastal communities. They go above and beyond what many other mainstream companies are doing. Bajio is carbon neutral and uses sustainable sources for most of their products.
Well we’ve been waiting for it southwest Florida… Irma punched us straight in the teeth, punched us in the gut and while we were bent over kicked us right square in the butt. But we’re Floridians, and you know what we do after a hurricane right? We go fishing! We may have an addiction or are just absolutely nuts but we can’t live in the fishing capitol of the world and have something like wind keep us from our passion. And the bite in and around Boca Grande is hot. As everyone drags themselves back to their feet after a Mike Tyson one, two punch we can at least take a little comfort in knowing our communities are there for each other in this time of need.
Inshore Charlotte Harbor
We’re still seeing large schools of reds roaming around a good portion of Charlotte Harbor. This is the time of year when the big schools of reds are chewing their way through the bays and out on the flats and if you keep your eyes open while running you’ll be able to see them “pushing” big wakes as you pass by. We’ve been hauling in upper slot and over slot fish from these schools. Quick baits are the way to go. A Johnson silver minnow or jig head and soft plastic are almost guarantee hook ups. Chunked ladyfish or live pinfish are also great baits as well.
Offshore Boca Grande and Englewood
Nearshore, look for that definitive current line in the water, find the bait and work along the outside edges of those lines and if you don’t get bit there… fan cast around and try to note where hook ups happen. We’ve had a really good mix bag of upper size spanish mackerel and bonito from just outside of the passes and out to 1 ½ miles. Another good way to find fish right now is just look for the birds.
Offshore reports are still nothing less than excellent as always. Guys are tearing up the grouper and snapper on most of our known reefs and hard bottom. Gag and red grouper on the near shore reefs are still around but dirty water can hamper them. You might need to push out or look for cleaner water to hook up with keeper size fish. You may have to make a few moves to find the fish you want so drop it down and drift over the area you’ve marked as a potential hot spot. Something else you may want to look for on your machine is not only that “live bottom” but the bait and other smaller fish as well. Another thing I’ve had to do is alter the gain on my sounder. There have been so many jellyfish and thermocline layers around I’ve been picking them up as smaller bait schools. So turn that auto setting off and manually set it to filter out those jellies…. especially if you have an older machine. But, the bite is hot out there and if you’re thinking of splashing the dive gear…. 12-14 miles is where you’ll find the color change and cleaner water.
If you’re looking for some fast paced action… well you’re gonna enjoy the bite that’s happening right now. First, head out offshore a few miles and look for the schools of bait that are just outside and easily accessible. Don’t worry, you’ll know where they are because the birds are looking for them as well. I’ve been throwing small spoons, stick baits and silver minnow’s and just about anything that has a hook on it around those pods and all kinds of things are crushing in those schools…. bonito, spanish mackerel, kings, sharks everything. You can’t miss them…just look for the birds and all the fish crashing bait.
If you’ve got your eye on landing a few, give us a call and we’ll “hook you up”. If you’re ready to get out and see how Kelly and I do it, give us a jingle at 941- 698- 0323. You may also find us on Facebook, Instagram or our web page www.floridainshorextream.com. So for now tight lines and y’all stay safe!!
Boca Grande, Englewood, Charlotte Harbor August fishing report
Boy it’s hot out there this time of year! For the most part of this year we’ve been dealing with week after week of battling high winds and water clouded with runoff from the daily bombardment of precipitation. Normally we have clearer waters on which to fish but as of late we’ve had to settle for stained, grass filled flats.
The offshore grouper bite has been awesome for reds, as well as gags. You may have to push out a bit further to find some cleaner water and bigger fish, but it’s well worth the extra fuel you might burn. On the other hand, mangrove snapper and lane snapper remain on the prowl and are very abundant on most of our locally published reefs and hard bottom. Snapper have very keen eyesight so if you are after these tasty adversaries you’ll need to downsize not only hook size but your line as well. Which, sadly to say…has a very small margin for error. It’s a balance between getting bit or getting broke. I run an 8 foot Penn 6500 Spinfisher V for my spinning outfit spooled with 15-40 lb braid and for my conventional set I use a Penn Fathom 40 spooled with 50 lb mono. For the snapper, I use a light wire 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook and a minimum 3 ft of 20-25 lb fluorocarbon leader. Now here’s where a lot of tactics will differ with bottom rigs and I could go on for a while with them. But I think for all around simplicity the old school bottom style rig is the best all-around rig. But they basically all have the same common denominator…to keep the bait a good distance from the weight and more importantly… the ability of the bait to move freely. Snapper are a bit cunning and will rob you blind if you’re not playing an active role. Because of their keen eyesight, the best times to catch these guys are to be anchored on your favorite reef or “secret spot” using several bags of chum to get them fired up and then free line a 1-2 inch chunk of cigar minnow or threadfin down in that chum slick. There are lots of factors involved with getting this technique dialed in but once you do… its money!
The beaches are still loaded with tons of fish…not only snook, but lots of fun fish like jacks, ladyfish, spanish and king mackerel. Also the pods of bait are just above small fry baits… so like I always say match that hatch and down size your bait choice to something close to what they’re eating. Watch for glass minnow schools because the jacks, lady fish and trout are gonna be close by. Try using lures with some weight to get more range… range translates into more time with baits in the water, which in turn… will get you more action.
Well folks, you know the deal…gotta get on out and get my FIX on! So … tight lines and y’all stay safe!!
Capt. Jesse McDowall
Florida Inshore Xtream Charter services
941-698- 0323 www.floridainshorextream.com
Hot and humid. That’s something you’ll be hearing over the next few months. So I’d recommend fishing the offshore waters and escape the inshore heat. I’ve been seeing the water temps in the low 90’s. Offshore fishing is really heating up as the heat index is reaching 100 degrees. Remember to bring plenty of water with you as you’ll sweat… a lot. Look for birds diving on bait pods. There are lots of Spanish mackerel and bonito crashing bait. Getting small jigs like pompano jigs, spoons or soft plastics in the action is a good way to get some fast action… and that’s how you’ve got to retrieve it as well, fast! Barracuda tube lures are a blast if you’ve lost a few fish or lures to the “blade of the deep”. Be very cautious with these power hitters as I’ve seen them launch 10ft out of the water!
The snapper and grouper bite has been pretty good. For best luck, go to your “secret” numbers…those that everybody and their brother doesn’t know about. If you don’t have any of these, visit the artificial reefs out past 10 miles and toss in a chum bag. The snapper have been responding well and we’ve been catching them by freelining a piece of cut bait on a 3/0 circle hook with 30lb flourcarbon leader. For keeper size grouper, we’ve been dropping live squirrelfish and pinfish on a traditional bottom rig.
The goliath grouper bite around Boca Grande has been hot. As of July 29, we have caught and released 186 goliath grouper. We just recently teamed up with FWC biologists and began collecting fin clips from each goliath grouper we catch. This data, along with other acoustic data, will allow researchers to compile a large genetic base and eventually be able to determine clans, movements patterns, and much more.
We have swayed away from fishing inshore this summer because of the heat and the better fishing available in our nearshore waters. However, the inshore fishing has still been pretty good during the few trips we fished around Bull and Turtle bays. There are a lot of snook to catch. Look around the areas with significant water flow. We have a lot of little bait in the area and it is being funneled in and out of these areas holding snook. Easy catch! Freeline a white bait or threadie on a circle hook with the current and let the bait swim as naturally as possible. The redfish fishing has been less than in years past but they are still there to catch. There are some good numbers of reds in Bull Bay. We have been having the best luck with cut pinfish and ladyfish. The “fun fish” bite has been great. The flats around Devilfish have a lot of spanish mackerel, bluefish, trout, and jacks when the current is flowing right. A poppercork or jig with a soft plastic is the best bet.
If you’d like to get out on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande, give us a call and we can set you up for a fun filled day of fishing.
Fishing this summer has been hot, hot, hot! We’ve been doing a lot of nearshore and goliath grouper fishing. Published reefs, as well as hard bottom and ledges, have been producing a lot of decent snapper and grouper. Don’t forget chum…after establishing your drift and anchoring, begin chumming to get those fish fired up. In no time, you should have snapper swimming under your boat. In this case, free line a 4/0 circle hook with a well hidden shrimp or piece of cigar minnow and allow to sink down to snapper. For bottom fish, use a standard bottom rig with a live bait. Pinfish, squirrelfish, and threadfins have been working quite well. Keep an eye out for those large bait schools because it could also point you in the direction of pelagics such as jacks, tuna, or kingfish. If you aren’t able to sabiki up any live bait, frozen cigar minnows and sardines have also been successful. Driving out 20 miles isn’t necessary if you are just looking for a little family fun and fish for dinner. We’ve been fishing within 9 miles and our customers have been enjoying delicious meals of mangrove snapper and gag grouper.
If you are looking to hook into a large and powerful fish…goliath grouper is the way to go. We have been catching several goliaths on each trip. Nearshore reefs and wrecks are loaded with these giant beasts. If you have the appropriate gear, toss on a live jack…or for that matter…just about anything, to hook into the largest grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. If you don’t have the right equipment but still want to catch a goliath, give us a call and we can make that happen. Reeling in one of these fish is a memory of a lifetime. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a shout and we’ll give you the best advice possible.