Sanibel Island and Pine Island Sound offer wonderful year-round fishing. Yet like many North American destinations, different fish species "peak" at various times of the year. Since my plan was to visit this wonderful area in late summer, my research indicated that redfish would probably predominate over snook. When I spoke with Captain Mike Smith of Fort Myers to verify my conclusions, he indeed agreed during this period that "spottails" would be more likely catches than "linesiders" along the mangrove fringes. Another item he insisted on when setting a specific date was to fish during strong current times which occur during the new and full moon. The basis for this choice was that stronger currents dislodge more baitfish into gamefish feeding "stations".
I'd arranged accommodations at the Island Inn on Sanibel Island. The Inn is a full-bodied resort right on the famous shell-rich beach and had plenty of amenities plus the Traditions Restaurant which would create fine travel memories for my non-fishing companions. And the location of the Inn was only ten minutes from Punta Rassa boat ramp where Captains Mike Smith and Scott VerDow would be waiting for me the next morning.
The time to fish came soon enough. As I pulled into the ramp to park I could see Mike and Scott waiting for me. As I climbed aboard, I could see the livewell was already brimming with freshly-netted offerings. Scott told me that there were lots of small pinfish to supplement the scaled sardines (a.k.a. pilchards or whitebait.) Both captains felt that two different kinds of bait increased our chances for redfish action.
Mike cranked the engine and idled away from the boat ramp. At the proper distance and location he pushed the throttle down on his Lake & Bay skiff and off we flew into the reaches of Pine Island Sound. Since we would not be poling for sighted redfish but instead fishing likely areas, Mike said they would focus on fishing spots emphasizing structure like oyster bars, deadfall trees, and mangrove canopies. Mike said that redfish preferred these areas because they held food as well as shelter from predators like porpoises.
When we arrived at out first spot, Mike mentioned that when "blind" fishing, scent was more important for redfish than sight feeders like snook. This was obvious when he prepared two baits out of his livewell. He first cut a live pilchard in half and hooked it to one of his spinning outfits. He told me to cast it to next to a sunken tree. Mike then proceeded to net a live small pinfish and then score its' sides with a knife to exude some scent. He also added a small split shot a foot above the hook and told Scott to cast it to the edge of a nearby rock bar.
We both had strikes, but the fish turned out to be big mangrove snappers. The same scenario was repeated a half dozen times despite fan casting to slightly different spots in the same general area. The snapper action was too rabid for any redfish, so we made a move.
The next four spots had no snapper, but held consistent redfish action. We wound up releasing about a dozen nice redfish up to nine pounds in the next few hours. We caught about two-thirds of the redfish on the small pinfish, with the remaining third on cut pilchards. It was an immensely satisfying trip.
Anyone planning on fishing this wonderful habitat should definitely visit the web site www.FortMyersSanibel.com.