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NAPLES — If you are one of our many winter visitors from a northern state, I am sure that you are enjoying our beautiful December weather. With daytime highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, it is hard to believe that snow and ice are actually in the forecast for other areas.
While air temperatures have been nice, the wind has been somewhat of a nuisance for anglers. Offshore trips have been more than a little choppy, and even some of the exposed areas in bays have had some whitecaps. The water has stayed in the 70-degree range, which has given us a great blend of species to catch.
Offshore, grouper, amberjacks, and now some king mackerel are entertaining anglers. Inshore, it is possible to catch upwards of 10 species on a half-day trip. As long as the water doesn't get too cool, the snook and reds will be targets, along with everything from flounder to trout, and pompano to sheepshead for inshore anglers.
Live bait is still readily available in some areas, but getting more scarce in others. Shrimp are becoming the bait of choice for many anglers as the fish tend toward their winter diet of crustaceans. You can fish them whole under a popping cork or weighted down with a split shot. Put a small piece on a jig, and the number of hits increases substantially. If things are real slow, thread a whole one on to a jig and work it excruciatingly slow across the bottom of a deeper cut.
The nice weather is forecast to continue for the next few days, so if Santa brings you a fishing pole, get out on the water and try it out. Merry Christmas!
Offshore: Capt. Mike Lucas on the "Cuda" had a half-day trip on Tuesday. His group of three anglers headed out 10 miles in choppy seas, but the ride was worth the hassle. They got into a bunch of schoolie-sized king mackerel and had a blast.
Trolling at first until they located the motherload, Capt. Mike then switched to light tackle and bait. Fish after fish was pulling line off the reels as they screamed the drags. By the end of the trip, everyone had lost count of the 10-pound fish they had landed, but all agreed it was well over 30. Mike said that the water was real nice despite the chop.
Robert Thompson and his two companions went out for a full day of fishing with Capt. Ed Nichols on Tuesday. After motoring out to the first drop, they got into the grouper, landing quite a few, including three keeper red grouper to 27 inches. They then moved to a wreck and hammered the mangrove snapper, limiting out. Amberjack bending rods and wearing out wrists ended the day, and three keepers went into the cooler.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak fished a fly/spin trip on Friday out of Goodland. Rob said they got mostly snook, with the largest being about 26 inches. Most of the others were in the 15- to 18-inch range, which is a great sign of a snook rebound for the Ten Thousand Islands.
Four reds, small jacks, trout and ladyfish rounded out the days catch. The fly used was a Puglisi Minnow, and a jig tipped with shrimp worked for the rest of the fish.
Down in the Everglades City area, Capt. Pete Rapps had an absolutely great day of snook fishing recently, his best since the horrible freeze nearly two years ago. They lost count of all the 20- to 24-inch snook, but did keep score on the bigger fish. Eight fish were over 30 inches, with one at 35 inches and a real monster at 40 inches. Pete said these fish were in a muddy bay and were tailing like redfish!
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Jason Moore fished out of Naples on Tuesday with 20 snook and some small reds. He was using bait under a cork for the reds, and free swimming bait for the snook. On Monday's trip, he fished the near-shore reefs, and got into a lot of snapper as well as some nice catch-and-release gag groupers. Several in the 22- to 27-inch range were released.
Pompano have been feeding around the the passes south of Keewaydin, according to Capt. Todd Geroy. He has had anglers using a small tube jig tipped with shrimp, and is landing fish in the 14- to 22-inch range.
Todd also states that the large snook seem to be around in better numbers than the past few years. With water temperatures in the 70- to 72-degree range, the fish seem to still be on the feed. Johnson and Rookery bays have been producing most of the big fish, including a 13-pound, 32-inch fish caught by Bill Forte on last Thursday's trip. Todd has also been catching up to 25 reds on his trips.