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NAPLES — According to the weather forecast, this current pattern of mostly showers should move out by the weekend and give all the soggy anglers out there a break.
Tides, at least for Thursday through Friday, are halfway decent, and with the winds being light and out of the east, fishing should be good. Inshore, that means that the reds and snook catches will continue strong, and that getting beach baits will be a tad easier.
Redfish are being reported all over the place. And remember some months ago when I said that the 17- to 18-inch fish we were catching should all be in the slot come the fall? Well, it seems as though the fish are a little ahead of schedule, and numerous fish in the 22-to 25-inch range are being caught from the Ten Thousand Islands up to Estero Bay.
A lot of these fish are being taken on shrimp, either under a cork or on a jig. Live bait and Gulp baits are also accounting for their share of hooked fish. Another interesting thing about the reds is that we are seeing signs of a second-year class of small fish right behind last year's. Talking to a lot of fishermen that have been around for a long time, the consensus of opinion is that we haven't seen this many reds in a long time. Great!
Let's not forget snook and the other inshore guys. Snook are very much around and willing to eat. Many of the fish seem to be running smaller, but that may be due to anglers using the small baits that are prevalent right now.
Big baits for big fish is more than just words on paper, it does work. Lots of snook are on the beaches up and down the coast. They can be seen trailing the dark pods of bait that are right off the sand. They can show up in ones and twos, or you could see a dozen or more in a group.
Inshore, don't forget the snapper. There are a lot of them, and they can provide a lot of action and maybe some dinner. As the bait situation improves, we will also start seeing a lot more Spanish mackerel.
Offshore, the snapper are gathering in schools around the ledges and reefs. Drop a light line down with a shrimp or small live pilchard and it won't take long for the rod to bend. Red grouper are still the premier offshore target, but don't forget that we have a two-month gag grouper season starting Sept. 16 through Nov. 15. We will see what next year brings as far as a gag season, but as of now we will have a July 1 through Oct. 31 recreational season in 2012.
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Neil Eisner fished Estero Bay in high winds this weekend and reported great fishing. Looking for points where the water and the wind were moving in the same direction was the key.
Once a spot was selected, his anglers were throwing small jigs tipped with shrimp up to the bushes, and the reds were all over them. In four hours of fishing, his group landed 30 reds in the 20- to 24-inch range, and numerous snapper. A couple of snook also fell for the jigs, as well as a few bonnet head sharks.
Fishing with Joe Ball and Mark Outterbrigte, Capt. Chick Burke went out for a few hours the other day, and did well on a variety of species. Five slot-sized reds were caught using a shrimp under a popping cork around the bushes. Numerous snapper and five trout also made it to the boat. Chick says the water was somewhat off color, but that isn't hurting the redfish bite.
Ten Thousand Islands: Saturday, Melissa and Greg Lavin from Jupiter went out for a half day with Capt. Matt Hoover.
Running south out of Goodland, Matt fished on the inside to get out of the wind. He had netted some small pilchards earlier, and they were pitching these baits into the bushes. The result was a catch of 10 slot-sized reds, and about eight snook. To mix things up, about a half dozen five- to seven-pound jack crevalle put a serious bend in the rods. "Tons of snapper were grabbing baits, too," Matt said.
On Sunday, he and wife P.J. took the dogs out for a boat ride, and on the way back stopped along one bank to fish for a short while. Six snook and three reds later, they headed for home after a nice day on the water.
Capt. Peter Babb ran well south of Everglades City on a recent trip. He has been finding schools of reds on falling water, and they are gobbling up Gulp jerk baits. They landed 12 fish, all in the slot, and a few of those fish were picked off in the middle of a school of mullet. As the water got thinner, they got out the fly rods and sight-fished some snook. Most of the snook recently have been on the small side, but they are a blast on a fly.
Offshore: Newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Anthony celebrated by going out fishing with Capt. Tom Robinson on the "Sea Legs" on Tuesday.
Dodging rain on the way out, their first drop was in the 10-mile range. Using cut squid, they quickly were bringing up grouper in the 17- to 20-inch range on light tackle. The mangrove snapper were on a bite, too, with a few larger mangs brought to the boat. Another drop resulted in a 25-inch red grouper and two more at 22 inches. Of course, there was the required run-in with a large goliath, and in this test, the fish won.
Capt. Kevin Condon went out on Tuesday later in the day with Cody and friends from England. Running out less than 10 miles, they found the short grouper very willing to bite and provide great action.
Snapper were also hot, and the group limited out on keepers. The catch of the day was a 30-plus-pound king mackerel that ate a cut bait and took off for the horizon before being brought to the boat.