Fishing Report: Simple truth, if you can get bait, you've got fish

LARRY REGIENCZUK

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— A group of people came together 235 years ago to start something really special ... the United States of America. Of course it took a while and a lot of hard times before the reality of their cause came to being. And with that I hope everyone had a safe and happy Fourth of July!

It was a good time to be out on the water, even if you had to dodge one too many thunderstorms. I know my group got soaked (and cold) on Sunday while out on the water. On the Fourth we really expected a lot of boats to be out early but were pleasantly surprised by the lack of boats until later in the day.

Up and down the coast it is the same thing. If you get bait you get fish (snook!). Snook are more than willing to eat a live bait, whether it is a two-inch pilchard or an eight-inch threadfin. Of course the bigger baits don’t work as well on the run-of-the-mill snook, but for the really big ones, the bigger the better.

An example of that is the giant snook caught by Ryan Clase while fishing in Estero Bay. Ryan was tossing baits when he spotted a large fish cruising in about four feet of water. His toss was good, the fish ate and the battle was on. After about five minutes the encounter was ending in favor of the angler and a 27-pound, 44-inch monster was in the net and ready for release.

In addition to snook the inshore anglers have been scoring on pompano (using shrimp tipped jigs), jack crevalle, a few trout and even some tarpon. The tarpon are more interested in just rolling around and driving anglers crazy than they are in eating, but every once in awhile they put on their display of acrobatics for everyone around.

If you have a small fortune to invest in shrimp, there are more mangrove snapper around than you can count. They are more than willing to eat every shrimp that you care to throw at them, often swarming the bait being offered. You can add small to medium sharks to the potential inshore take at this time of the year. The smaller blacktips seem to creep well into the back and can offer a spectacular fight on light tackle if you manage to hook them just right.

Offshore fishing continues to be about the red grouper. If you are able to run offshore 25 miles or more and find some hard bottom to fish over you will catch some red grouper. Do it long enough and you will get some keepers to take to dinner. These fish are running into the upper 20-inch range and can weigh in at 15 pounds or more. Cut sardines or live bait will do the trick, but be aware of the aggressive goliath groupers that will gladly eat one of your smaller reds.

Barracuda are also another offshore species that is targeted at this time of year and hooking into a fish that is in the three- to four-foot range is a hoot! If you avoid getting cut off be sure to exercise care when the fish is at the boat. More than one angler has had an eye opening experience when a supposedly “tired” fish makes one more leap ... into the boat with teeth flashing.

Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing in the Naples/Estero area is typical for this time of year. One day getting fish can be a challenge and the next you cant keep them off your hook.

Capt. Pat Gould went out Saturday. Finding bait was a struggle but he stuck with it and finally got some usable bait in his well. He had a father and son team — both named Michael from Miami — and they worked hard, but landed eight snook and a bunch of snapper before the rains and storms ran them off the water. Pat has been seeing a number of tarpon, but they have been bait shy and none have been jumped.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of fishing with Richard Butler and Doug Mealor from Villa Ricca, Ga. We lucked out and got a fair number of pilchards on the first throw of the net (Doug got to pick out all the ones that were gilled). Running to the Wiggins Pass area to catch the outgoing tide, we hit snook on the very first cast. Doug, who had never caught a snook, did well on the larger fish but was a real conservationist on the smaller fish that wanted to eat his bait.

Richard, an old hand at catching Mr. Snook, was better at bringing all his fish to the boat. We boated 39 snook, with a number of them being in the six- to seven-pound range, a couple of large jack crevalle and a bunch of mangrove snapper. There was even a three-foot black tip willing to try our offerings. They ended up with a couple of slot red fish before afternoon shower chased us back to the dock.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Matt Hoover has been netting some larger white baits offshore and putting them to good use on some really large snook.

Hoover has been hitting the outside islands and his anglers have been nailing snook in the 15- to 17-pound range on a fairly regular basis. Matt has been concentrating on the upper islands and the area around Caxambas Pass for most of his snook recently.

While tossing these large baits at likely snook hangouts his fishermen have been pleasantly surprised on several occasions when a giant silver thing erupts from the water. He has brought in tarpon in the 35- to 80-pound range under these circumstances. When using some smaller beach baits Capt. Hoover has been catching some reds and smaller snook.

Pompano have been the target of choice for Capt. Jack Thompson on recent outings. On a trip late last week his anglers brought home 11 nice pompano in the two- to three-pound range and released quite a few smaller fish.

While fishing for the pomps his crews have been encountering the odd Spanish mackerel or trout. Jack says that most of the trout he is seeing now are the smaller fish. A few jacks are rounding out the catches, and while tarpon have been seen rolling none have eaten a bait lately. Captain’s note: Jack, who has been fishing this area since (well we won’t get into how long) reports that there are more (and larger) pinfish than he has ever seen.

Offshore: The “Sea Legs” captained by Tom Robinson has been out on half- and full-day charters recently. On the half days there is a lot of action on short grouper, grunts and some mangrove snapper.

On a full day charter Tuesday, Tommy had Ed Fulmer and on board for a full day of fishing. On his way to a location about 30 miles out Capt. Robinson saw something interesting on his bottom reader and decided to make a drop. By 10:30 they had not only put a limit of 10 nice red grouper in the box, they were releasing keeper sized grouper.

Next on the agenda was a battle with some really large goliath grouper. After a struggle with some of these monsters ranging from 150 to 180 pounds, the tired anglers needed something a little easier to target. Tom went to a nearby wreck and played “feed the barracuda” until a nice 25 pounder ate the hook and not the wire. A few nice mangrove snapper and a “baby” 30-pound goliath rounded out the day before the trip back home.

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

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