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NAPLES — If you are an inshore fisherman looking to catch a bunch of snook, be sure to hit the beaches, especially if you have a fairly sunny day.
Snook are cruising right in the trough, with some of them close enough to the beach that they need a towel and umbrella. Toss a bait out in front of them, and the odds are that a hook-up is in your immediate future. On Monday, we were tossing pinfish to them, and with nowhere to hide, the pins were easy pickings for the linesiders.
Should your inshore interests lean more to reds, then try either some cut bait or a live shrimp on the bottom around the mangroves.
Reds are coming in all sizes now, with a new year class of 10- to 12-inch little guys showing up on a regular basis. Last year's small reds have now matured into lower- and mid-slot fish, and can be found around points, oyster bars, and yes, in the mangroves. Smaller pilchards seem to work well too.
If you have an unlimited supply of shrimp, you might want to try some inshore snapper fishing. While most of the fish are a tad on the small size, the action is great. And you never know which spot will hold a dozen or so of the larger, dinner-sized fish.
Offshore, it seems as though there are some larger fish moving in closer. Reports of keeper grouper being caught in the 7- to 14-mile range are increasing. Of course, for now all the keepers have to be red grouper, but opening day for gags is getting closer.
Live pins or cut bait continue to do the trick. Some better snapper and the ever-popular goliath grouper are being reported on a regular basis. Schools of bait are becoming more prevalent, and with the bait come the Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish and other predators. Water quality offshore remains very good, too.
Ten Thousand Islands: Gene Starr, grandson Max, and his friend Jason fished out of Goodland on Sunday with Capt. Rob Walczak. They had one of the better snook catches reported recently, with about 30 boated.
The catch of the day was a 32-incher caught by Max. The group also managed seven reds in the 15- to 23-inch range, a couple of jacks, and 15 keeper snapper for dinner. Live pilchards were used for bait.
Capt. Shane Miller says fishing is pretty good down in the Islands. The live bait situation has improved recently, and he is using the pilchards to hammer the reds. Shane is fishing as far south as Pavilion Key and north to Caxambas Pass, and the reds are everywhere. He has also been jumping some small tarpon on plugs around the creeks in the mornings. Some decent-sized trout are being caught on the outside, and this action should get better as the bait run improves.
Naples/Estero: Capt. Steve Nagy has been fishing Estero this past week with some decent results. Lots of reds are being caught using cut bait or shrimp.
On a recent trip with Susannah and Nigel Bogaerts, it was Susannah who stole the day, with a snook of 33 inches and a red of 24. Steve also reports that trout are showing up on the deeper grass flats, and he has been using a small jig with a Glow Hybrid Flurry suspended under a Cajun Thunder float with good success. Snook have been all over the beaches, and will take a live bait or shrimp.
Lots of small snook and reds have been the order of business for Capt. Steve Sabara. Using shrimp, he has been finding reds as small as 12 inches, and all the way up to 30-inch over-sized critters. Snapper have been all over the place, too. The only problem is feeding the tiny ones while looking for the keepers.
Once you find a pod of good-sized fish, you can easily limit out. Steve reports that the water is fairly clean at the top of the tide, but dirty close to the bottom of outgoing.
Offshore: Sometime-contributor Charles Haskell recently came by a couple of new numbers, and decided to make a run on Tuesday.
Along with fishing buddy Alex, they headed out into the Gulf, and made it to the first of two spots. Using live and cut bait, they ended up with six keeper reds landed (and most released). The keepers ranged from 21 inches, to three at 24 inches. Other small grouper were also caught and released.
Capt. Mike Avinon, onboard his brand new boat "Findictive," ran his first trip on Monday.
Running out to about 14 miles from the beach, they caught about 40 grouper with six of them being keepers. Battle of the day went to the angler who conquered a 250-pound goliath grouper. Mike says that the water offshore is absolutely beautiful. He is seeing some bait activity on top, and some feeding Spanish mackerel.