Fort Myers and Sanibel Waters have an abundance of artificial wrecks and reefs offering world class fishing various times of the year. Common catches include the usual cast of characters of Mangrove Snapper, Gag Grouper, King Mackerel, Bonita, a variety of species, Lane snapper, Spanish Mackerel, Barracuda and Sharks are plentiful and the ever present Goliath Grouper.
Seasonally, you can also find Cobia, Permit, Flounder and an assortment of interesting species that show up from time to time, like African Pompano, Pork fish, and Yellowtail Snapper. In the summer time you can find large Snook and Redfish congregating on the near shore structure.
My approach to fishing these locations is to keep it really simple.
We use heavy spinning gear Diawa Saltists 6500 spooled with 50 lb Power Pro line. I’ll double 3-4 feet of the line then tie to the doubled Power Pro Triple Surgeon’s knot secures the doubled length of line. A 5-6 ft length of 50 lb test Flourocarbon leader attached to a # 5/0 to 7/0 Owner Circle Hook. This Rig is also used for Tarpon Fishing, though sometimes will go to 60 lb leader with 9/0 hooks depending on how fussy the fish are and water clarity, and bait size. Remember to cover the water column with free-lined (called Flylining in Calif) middle of the water column lightly weighted lines and the bottom. Switch all rigs to whatever is working though I almost always leave free-lined bait behind the boat. If you see birds hovering over your bait, its usually because the current is too swift. pinch a split shot or two on to get at least 3-4 ft below the surface. Sometime the bait itself could become double hooked causing it to rise verses swimming naturally. Most common on on Threadfin.
I like to put a couple out of free-lined baits with a pinfish or pigfish and one with a threadfin herring if available over the structure or just in front of the up current side. To complement this, I’ll put a 1/2 oz to 3/4 oz sliding egg sinker, some times pegged, sometimes just as a knocker rig free to slide to the hook. There are advantages to both. At certain times of the year I will go to heavier Revolving spool rigs to turn big Gag Grouper that show up. (Winter and Spring)
For Snapper and Permit, I’ll use smaller Shimano Stradic 4000’s spooled with 6 lb dia. 20 lb test Power Pro Braid. I’ve tried most of the rest of the braids and always come back to Power Pro even when Im offered the other brands free. The characteristics of the power pro including castability, durability and strength in my opinion is unmatched.
A length of Flourocarbon Leader 5-8 feet a maximum of 30 lb test for Mangrove Snapper and Permit. Attached to that will be either 1/4″ slipper type Jig tipped with a shrimp or small pinfish. Sometimes I will use Cut Blue runner strips or tomtates that cover the reefs. If you want to know what’s biting on a structure. A shrimp will tell the tale. Whitebaits and Threadfin are also go to baits to if you have them. At times one will out produce the other. It’s also fun to probe around the structure with Soft Plastics that turn up a little of everything. Hogy type plastics emulate eels and most reef type fish will key on that, the strikes can be vicious. Other very successful lures are Z-Man Plastics. The action and colors are very enticing and can even be rested on the bottom with the current causing tail action that fish eventually succumb to.
On trick I like to employ is also Trolling the structure. Pulling shallow or deep diving plugs can produce some outsized catches on Groupers, Cobia, Jacks, Kings and Bonita. I try to keep 1 or 2 rods ready for trolling should anything present. Trolling on arrival to your spots before setting up can offer some fun surprises!
Book your Wreck or Reef Fishing trip on Sanibel Captiva with Capt Paul Primeaux Charters.
Whitneys Bait and Tackle can fix you up with what you need. If your ever in N. Fort Myers be sure to stop by Lehrs Economy Tackle open for 40-50 years. High signal no noise for both.
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