Fishing Report: Warm weather keeping snook, redfish around

LARRY REGIENCZUK

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— Another year has slipped by, oh so quickly too. As we close out this December, it is one of the warmest ones I have experienced in Southwest Florida.

Tuesday morning, water temperatures in Estero Bay were still in the 70-degree range, and last year at this time we were in the low 60s. Quite a difference.

Catches of snook and reds continue as if it was October or November, and only recently have the fish moved to the backcountry creeks and rivers. Live bait is still available, and on some days it is the ticket to a great day of fishing.

On the other hand, shrimp have been drawing bites from both snook and reds, as well as a host of other species. Trout, sheepshead, ladyfish, jack crevalle, mackerel, flounder and even bluefish have been showing up on the business end of a line.

On Monday, I wandered offshore about 10 miles, and we even saw a six-foot shark (lemon, I think). It has to end some time, and as I write this, we are awaiting a cold front that started its approach on Tuesday. We will have to wait and see the impact it may have on our fishing.

Good news for grouper fishermen. On Dec. 30, the bag limit for red grouper will increase from two to four fish per angler. Don't forget that all grouper fishing is closed from Feb. 1 until March 31. That is for all our species of grouper, gags, red, and black grouper.

If you are into making New Year's Resolutions, make one about spending a little more time on the water. Remember, it is rumored that time spent on the water doesn't count toward your lifespan. Free days!

Offshore: Onboard the "Capt. Marvel," a group went out with Capt. Clarence Fleck on Monday for a three-quarter day of fishing.

Running out to about 62 feet of water, the crew made its first drop and started catching grouper. Using live pilchards and cut bait, they released quite a few, and put eight keepers in the box. They also found a couple of schools of king mackerel that were more interested in the live chum than the ones on hooks. The water was extremely clear, and the hooks were not appreciated. Tuesday's full day was a repeat on the numerous grouper caught, with 10 groupers to 10 pounds going home to dinner.

Capt. Michael Avion ran full-day trips on Monday and Tuesday with very good success. Monday resulted in 10 keeper red grouper, and a number of amberjack to 30 pounds. Tuesday, in addition to the grouper and amberjack, Capt. Mike got into a bunch of schoolie-sized king mackerel, and using his "secret" lure, trolled up a slew of kings to 12 pounds. They used cut bait for the grouper, and Capt. Mike reported the water very clear.

Ten Thousand Islands: Down in Everglades City, Capt. Glen Puopolo has been very busy this December.

Reds, trout, and pompano have been the mainstay of his anglers on most trips. The trout have been hitting Riptide jigs fished over the flats on the outside, and they have been running on the big side, up to four pounds. The reds have been falling prey to a shrimp or small pilchard under a popping cork, and they range from 18 to 27 inches. Glen says the pompano have been running big, too, and have been caught while anglers are catching trout.

Capt. Matt Hoover says he will be glad when the "radical tides" we have been "enjoying" are a thing of the past.

Morning departures can be interesting, with a lot of real estate showing that is normally underwater. That hasn't hurt the red fishing, though. Capt. Matt is consistently hitting the reds using a shrimp under a cork, and they are running up to 28 inches.

Some smaller snook -- a good sign for the Ten Thousand Islands -- are showing up, too. While not fishing specifically for trout, some real nice ones have been hitting the shrimp. On Tuesday, his angler even got a 15-inch sheepie that went for the dangling shrimp.

Naples/Estero Bay: On a couple of recent mornings, Capt. Tim Daugherty has been hitting the last of the outgoing tide using live bait, and doing well until the water stops running.

"Early morning lows have been dramatic," Daugherty said. It becomes a game of finding the holes that are holding the fish until later in the day, when enough water is around to allow "normal" fishing. Late in the day on Tuesday, he hit on a bunch of nice-sized snook that included one slot and three reds. He also found some trout around the middle islands in the bay.

Running offshore for bait in the morning has become a "get 'em quick and run" game for anglers in the Estero Bay area this week.

Getting the bait is only half the battle, because we have some red tide that seems to be only affecting surface water. Once you get the bait in the well, the trick has been to get back inshore as quickly as possible without losing all your bait.

The good news has been that if you can get them into the bay safely, the fish are quite willing to gobble them up. On recent trips, I have encountered the same situation that Tim reports. Getting enough water into the bay is important for the better fishing, and the stronger east winds coupled with forecast very low tides resulted in enough new exposed land in Estero to make developers interested in putting up condos.

Happy New Year and a great year of fishing!

If you have a report to share, email captsnookus@hotmail.com

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