Suspended. Well it really matters where and when; ask Tom Brady. My lil' buddies, the MirroMinidine and the like, function very well hanging around suspended just over the turtle grass and potholes in Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, and Estero Bay. These 2 & 1/4- to 2 & 5/8-nch minnow imitations can be trained, in the right hands, to traverse the water column at speed or at rest, eliciting strikes from spotted sea trout, redfish, and snook.
Snook bites across the board or region, in our parlance, is in full tilt and has been. With an eye to the pass bridges and docks with your shimmy shad-style softplastics, you're in the game. Although live shiners and threads maybe more attractive, that's a personal choice. You can avoid the hassle of bait acquisition, handling, and rebaiting with just about equally good results using the single hook-style softies. According to the reports and pictures and my own similar experiences, favored colors are greenbacks with white bellies in about 3–4"ÂÂ sizes. Larger sizes to 5–6ÂÂ" work well on bug bridge monster liners. These offerings are available weighted and hooked in three packets by companies like Storm Lures and others; very convenient and quick to change after you get terribly mauled by that bucket-list mega-liner. Half-ounce is the generally preferred weight for 3–5 inchers, but you can fish "loose pack"ÂÂ DOA, Gulp and other softies fished on a variety of jig heads. If you choose the loose bag lures, bring along some super glue; just a dab near the jighead will secure the softie for multiple casts and missed strikes.
Get out and bob around off the beaches, but bring plenty of sunscreen and Gatorade. Crews reported hot actionat the 25-plus mile marks outta Boca, 35-plus miles outta Ft. Myers. Grouper action is strong with mixed bag limits the norm; plenty of snappers in the 4-5 lb. range. Don't forget that extra block of ice, it's hot as Hades by noon! Top baits are pins, live threads and Spanish sardines; cast netting is easy on the flats near the passes. Chum and run, guys.
Fishing for tilapia has always been tough. They are wary and have good eyesight so it’s best to use very light tackle. Here is a recipe for a home made bait that works
Good results 20-45 miles out, weather permitting. Lousy rain cycle made for rough sledding but soon crews braved the monsoon and reported good grouper, cobia kings and snapper action outa Boca. Live bait was the easy way to go, as usual, the pins, blue runners, threads, and the like. Trollers found active kings and big bonito around the masses of bait running the reefs. Short fishing week with poor weather but the more typical weather patterns are forecast to return, let’s hope so!
Add-ons are always fun. Some are more fun than others. Squid whole, in section or strips are and have been a go-to fish bait add-on. Group anglers have always carried squid in their arsenal of easy-boy live or, at least, frozen baits. For big fish, a whole squid jugged in deep water for grouper sand goliaths is a standby offering. Squid are inexpensive, easy to work with, and have a juice scent and attractive texture. When bottom-bounced or suspended on a circle hook and egg sinker rig, they offer an enticing natural-looking target for ground fish as well as reef-oriented critters like cobia. Calamari, as the Italians refer to them, are sweet and rubbery when fresh; they also exude a tasty scent trail. Often smaller bait fish will surround a squid bait and, in turn, stimulate a predatory game fish to come snooping around and thus inhale both squid bait and unwary lesser fish.
Offshore: Waters clear up! Good action on the Marks at 30–60 plus ft. Snapper are on a wild chew with some big doggies to 4-1/2 lbs. Grouper are eating as well; look to deeper cooler water at 50 plus ft. The close marks had nice mixed bag action with plenty of legal snapper, Spanish, whiting, white grunts, and, best of all, cobia. Cobs ate pinfish, threads, and big shrimp or crab hunks, good oh! Kings are thrashing the bait pods, eating freeline threads, pins; the bigger kings are eating Spanish and blue runners. Kings to 40-plus lbs. reported up outa Boca shipping channel.
The much maligned invasive South American and African species, cichlids, are becoming a very popular roadside attraction for resident and visiting anglers. Never look a gift fish in the mouth; long-time farm pond and lazy small creek fisherman, especially kids, love panfish fishing; that’s where it usually begins if you’re lucky. Kids and anglers of all ages love a hard bite, strong fight, and bent rod battle. Nothing else can compare to ditch fishing in swamp areas and pothole ponds in southwest Florida.
Snook addicts certainly get their fill fishing on the moving water phases at Blind Pass between Sanibel Island and Captiva. This area has always been a snook and redfish hotspot with plenty of moving water from the Gulf rich in vast amounts of whitebait.
If you're up for it, the tarpon bite is hot. Crews fished at first light and came up with bruiser poons to 180lbs. The bite started at with rolling mobs of 100-pounder-plus silver kings at 1–3 miles in 20 ft. of water off at the twin Towers at Ft. Myers beach and extended to Knapp's Point and beyond. Fish were reports as close in as 16 ft. water off Sanibel Light and the bite extended to the 30 ft. marks, easy running. "Old Timie" dead stick and soaked baits with chum worked, as long as you stayed away from the "Young Turks" chasing the rollers. Threads, pins, and, cut bait all worked. Plenty of bait off Ft. Myers Beach and the Mays Reef, bring your Sabikki to make quick work of baiting. Cut bait included ladyfish, mullet, and shad—crabs were useful as well. Live ladyfish were a top producer.