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NAPLES — Well, with the east winds returning, the remnants of last week's red tide have been blown farther offshore. Cooler water temperatures should help slow the growth of the nasty algae.
From all the reports I received, the only dead fish seen were mullet, which is good news. Fishing in Estero on Tuesday, we had no problem with bait in the well, another good indicator for better water conditions.
Inshore, the transition to winter fishing continues, with water temperatures dropping slightly with each cold front that passes through our area. More sea trout, sheepshead, ladyfish, and flounder are showing up on the end of anglers' lines.
Pompano are being found around passes and deeper cuts off the beaches, and they will gladly eat your shrimp-tipped jig. The reds seem to be more scattered than just a few weeks ago. Snook are reacting to the cooler water, and the early morning bite is a little on the slow side until later in the day when the shallows warm up.
Mackerel are still off the beaches, but may not be tearing up the baits on the surface like they did just a couple of weeks ago. With the cooler water, schools of kings should be showing up any day. This is the time of year when near-shore bottom fishermen may encounter a big cobia while looking for snapper or grouper.
Offshore, the red grouper and amberjack action continues to bend rods for anglers. Cut bait, squid, or live pinfish will do the trick, but you may need to get well offshore to score any keeper red grouper. Catch-and-release action for gags and goliath grouper continues around wrecks.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Ken Chambers has been fly fishing out of Goodland recently and doing quite well. His clients have been throwing either a shrimp or crab pattern for redfish on outside points with good success.
Fishing the waters between Goodland and Indian Key, Ken has found the reds cruising the edges looking for something to eat. Most days of throwing the fly have resulted in double-digit catches of reds. Smaller snook are being taken in the back on topwaters, and there are plenty of trout up to 20-plus inches lurking inshore waters in the Islands.
On a recent trip, John Hickey had a good day of throwing the fly, landing over 10 nice reds.
Running out of Goodland, Capt. Matt Hoover has been nailing the reds as well as some small snook. Matt has used live pilchards on some days, and shrimp under a popping cork on others. Most days, the action has been primarily on the bountiful number of redfish that we are enjoying again this year. While small snook are the norm, Matt has seen several "logs" recently, but they weren't in an eating mood.
Naples/Estero Bay: After last week's red tide scare, fishing in the Naples area is back to norma,l according to Capt. Todd Geroy.
On a recent trip with Dave Fruend and his friend, 15 reds and some small snook fell for the jig/shrimp combination. On other trips, Todd hit some nice sea trout that were found along channel edges. A few pompano and flounder rounded out the catch. Todd says that the east wind will help clear any remnants of last week's red tide.
"Snookin and Cookin" Capt. Seth Hayes said that bait had been a little tough, but is better now. He has been getting a few really nice snook up to 38 inches, but it is the huge jacks that are stripping line off reels. On Thursday, his crew hooked up with more than 30 of the speedy critters, with the largest hitting a humongous 18 pounds! With the poor tides we have been having, the reds have been somewhat slow.
Offshore: Onboard the "Capt. Marvel," recent trips by Capt. Clarence Fleck have seen good results. A dozen or so keeper red grouper have been going into the cooler on each trip with plenty of catch-and-release action on gags and goliath grouper, too.
Clarence has been using live pins and cut sardines on the end of the lines. He has been fishing in about 65 feet of water southwest of Gordon's Pass. He reports that schools of king mackerel should be here any day now.
Capt. Tom Robinson of the "Sea Legs" has been thumping the red grouper on a pretty steady basis. Peter Ferro and friends went out on Tuesday, and enjoyed beautiful weather and calm seas, as well as very good fishing.
Running out about 30 miles, Capt. Tom put the group on a mess of grouper up to 28 inches, and an unusual 20-inch mutton snapper. Using cut sardines and squid, they then went after some spunky amberjack, releasing a bunch up to 28 inches. Tom says that offshore water temps are in the 72-degree range, and that there is still some red tide about 12 miles off the beaches west of Naples.