Fort Myers, Florida is on the west coast of the state and is located close to the backwaters where trout, redfish, and pompano live, yet a reasonable distance from the Gulf of Mexico where anglers may find grouper, blues, snapper, and other deep-water fish.
The west coast has seen some nasty red tides over the past few years and was experiencing one when I was there a few years ago. Fortunately for me, the worst of the algae bloom was further up the coast near Venice, so I was able to take full advantage of all the great fishing the Fort Myers area had to offer.
My first day of fishing began back in the mangroves where my guide instructed me to cast the jig under the branches where he was sure some snook and trout were living. Unfortunately, we will never know if that is true because my casts either fell short of or into the mangrove branches. My poor guide raised quite a ruckus trying to shake his lure out of the shrubbery, or in final frustration, running his boat up to the branch and extracting his jig.
It didn’t take long before this got very old and he decided to head for open water where I could fish without getting into too much trouble.
There is some interesting bottom structure right where the bridge to Sanibel Island leaves the mainland. A series of sandbars create perfect feeding locations for pompano, trout, and dolphin (mammal).
The hot lure there is a small jig with a short yellow paddle tail tipped with a small piece of shrimp. You cast the lure out and walk it across the bottom where pompano and trout find it. There is a hit on almost every cast, and those pompano really put up a tussle. All but a few of the trout were too small to keep, but the aforementioned dolphin found them perfect as a late-morning snack.
There were two dolphins working between three boats on the same location. As soon as they heard you reeling in a fish the larger one would start swimming towards your boat with the smaller one close behind. They were very disappointed if the fish was a keeper, but scarfed it down as soon as a shot hit the water. My guess is they were mother and calf with mom teaching the kid how to get an easy meal.
The next day we headed back to the mangroves, but this time we were after snook. My guide had seen a pair of them hanging out at a spot where two channels came together, so that was where we headed.
On his first cast the guide hooked up a fine snook that put on an aerial display across the calm water before coming to the net. Naturally, I had to take photos so the captain had to get the boat just right so the sun would light up the fish and the guide, and all of this takes time.
When I finished with the photo shoot, the captain told me to cast the same jig on his rod into the same spot where he had caught his snook. I thought he was kidding. That spot had to be cleaned out after all the noise we had made catching his fish, taking photos, and moving the boat around all in three feet of water. Never argue with the captain is rule number one, so I made the cast and was instantly hooked up with a decent snook. This one jumped so high he got his gill cover snagged on a mangrove branch for a few seconds and then commenced to jump all over the place until he was in the net. Since my fish measured just under keeper size, we let him go and fortunately the dolphin was still working outside the mangrove area.
Later in the week I went out into the Gulf on a head boat out of Sarasota. I caught bluefish, buoy jacks, and short grouper. We rode out for two hours, fished for four hours, then rode back for two hours. The bite was constant the whole time we fished. Most folks used bait, but once I saw the main catch were blues, I switched to Stingsilvers and had a great time.
There are so many charter boats running out of Fort Myers that I can’t list them all. Go to Google and write Fort Myers Charter Boats. The same for lodging and restaurants. Also check out Lee County Chamber of Commerce.
By Eric Burnley