The mention of Pine Island Sound conjures up visions of big bull redfish and gator trout being caught on light tackle over beautiful grass flats and sandy potholes. So, when Steve Miller (SMiller) invited me to go fishing with him at one of his favorite areas, I jumped at the chance. Steve works for JetBlue and he is very active on several kayak fishing forums. He began fishing from a kayak in February, but spent a lot of time before that combing through online sources and forums gleaning as much information as he could. He is already on his second kayak, a Hobie Pro Angler 12, and has become very successful and finding and catching big fish.
Pine Island Sound was designated as an Aquatic Preserve in 1970. At 54,000 acres, it’s the second largest preserve in the area. The sound stretches from Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass to the north approximately 20 miles south to the Sanibel Causeway. Vast amounts of water move through the many passes along Sanibel, Captive and Cayo Costa islands. The area we visited is made up of vast grassy flats with deep sandy potholes and lots of mangrove shoreline. There are many small mangrove islands, as well as small oyster bars creating an excellent habitat for redfish, trout, snook, tarpon and sharks.
Steve and I met early at a local bait and tackle shop. I am already familiar with the Pine Island area, but Steve was taking me someplace new. I followed him to a commercial dock that ferries the various service industries to Useppa Island. We launched into slick calm waters and a beautiful morning. The large flats area we were fishing began just off the docks. After about 100 yards of paddling, we began casting top water baits. I was using a bone colored Zara Spook, and Steve was using a mullet colored Top Dog. We immediately began hooking up with trout. A few were small, but the majority were over 15”. We made our way out to Cork Key and eventually to Thirty Acre Bay.
In the calm water it was easy to spot tailing redfish. Steve hooked up first with a nice redfish on topwater. I had a couple of fish crash my Spook and I switched to a DOA Glowsrimp. That did the trick for me and a landed a smaller redfish. We continued on chasing the fish until they led us out onto the deeper flats. All around us there were big trout crashing into the baitfish. We were giggling like a couple of school girls as our baits were slammed on every cast! The majority were 18-19”, but there were a few larger trout mixed in. This went on for a couple of hours until we started heading back in.
Close to the launch we noticed a couple of shark following us. I tossed out a Gulp shrimp and hooked up on a small bonnet head shark that I was able to land despite having a mono leader. I tried for the other, much larger shark, but he quickly severed the leader and swam off. It was a fun way to end the day.
Our launch site was the former Lee County Fisherman’s Cooperative on Maria Dr. It’s now the Pine Island Commercial Marina. Monday thru Friday the activity at PICM is limited to commercial use only. Recreational anglers can use the ramp on Saturdays, Sundays and Lee County recognized holidays. The gate opens at 6:30AM and closes at 8:30PM. Parking and launch fees are $10 and its well worth the price to be able to cross the fabled Pine Island Sound off your bucket list!