Skip to main content

Fishing after the storm with Capt. Sandy Melvin

October 13, 2022
By Guest Columnist


Typically September and October are our rainy months around the Island. 

The rainwater enters the Peace and Myakka River water basins and comes down into Charlotte Harbor before making its way out the passes into the Gulf. That rainwater turns our local waters dark brown from the natural tanic acids found in the freshwater. This happens every fall.

The huge amount of rainfall that accompanied hurricane Ian currently has our water as dark as ever. Don’t be discouraged when you see it and think of Boca Grande’s crystal clear waters that we see in the spring and summer. Darker water is normal for this time of year.

On a recent scouting trip into the backcountry waters to survey the damage less than two weeks after hurricane Ian, it was good to see that despite the heavy winds, damage to the mangroves in the Bull Bay and Turtle Bay area seemed to be less than we saw in hurricane Charlie in 2004. There is still serious damage and, like Charlie, it will probably take about three to five years for the mangroves to fully recover.

Also nice to note is that all the old shacks in the bays seemed to have weathered the storm OK. They were all completely destroyed in Charlie. A couple had some roof and dock damage, but all in all, they looked good.

The best news was we saw lots of wildlife activity in the backcountry. 

Large schools of mullet were everywhere, and it was easy to spot the bull sharks that were stalking them in the shallows. There was a group of manatees in the Whidden’s creek area, and a pod of Dolphin in the clam lease near Sandfly Key.

Bird life seems normal after Ian too. There were plenty of yellow footed egrets, great blue herons, terns, osprey and cormorants around, even a pair of bald eagles were spotted resting in a beat up Australian pine on Three Sisters Island.

As expected there were some broken limbs scattered about and visible in the skinny water to be aware of as a boating hazard, so be careful running the flats.

There’s also a lot of dock damage in the canals, and some missing channel markers, so beware of debris pretty much anywhere you travel on the water’s these days.

Brent Chapman, a friend and professional bass angler from Kansas was down helping out family and community at Coral Creek Landings just off the Island last week. One morning before grabbing his chainsaw, he sent us a picture of a really nice snook he caught and released in the creek. 

Our great fishing should rebound quickly from Ian’s wrath as we move into fall. 

We’ll expect to see more snook, along with redfish and speckled trout caught in the backcountry soon.

The offshore fishing won’t take long to recover either. Grouper and snapper might move around some, but when you find them, they’ll bite.

It may be a lean year for the local guide community. Not because the fishing won’t be great, but because accommodations for clients are likely to be very limited.

If you are here this season and get a chance to take a fishing break, or just want to entertain guests, consider giving your favorite guide a call and enjoy a day on our beautiful waters.

Capt. Sandy Melvin is a charter guide and owner of Gasparilla Outfitters on Park Avenue in Boca Grande.