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NAPLES — Even though we are in the middle of summer, and with that the heat and the thunderstorms may keep some boats off the water, the fishing has been pretty good on most days.
What is interesting is that on a day where you have a better tide, you may not do as well in the catching department as on a day with a poor tide. The fish eat when they are hungry and in the mood.
On a recent trip, we started out catching fish on small pilchards, and the action was pretty good and then it stopped. Switching over to small pinfish, the bite got hot once again.
Snook, most in the 18- to 24-inch range, can be found around the passes, jettys, and just inside the passes. Early in the morning or in the evening, these fish are more than willing to jump all over a surface bait, whether it is a hard plastic like a Zara Spook, or one of the soft plastic jerk baits. Once the sun comes up and the temperature starts climbing, live bait seems to work the best, with some fish being caught on jigs, too.
Using some of the smaller beach baits can result in a lot of action from mangrove snapper at this time of year. It is not unusual for six or more snapper to compete for your bait, and while most of these guys are on the small size, there are some much larger fish to be had.
Try working your bait in slightly deeper water around structure. Another benefit of the smaller baits are the redfish and even flounder that seem to prefer the smaller-sized morsel.
Offshore, the red grouper saga continues. Closer to shore, most of the fish are shorts, but get farther out on some good bottom, and the keepers are aggressively taking a bait, live or dead. Mangrove snapper fishing offshore seems to be a little slow, but there are some larger snapper being reported coming off the ledges. Of course, the goliath grouper like to eat snapper, too, and they are particularly eager to eat your hooked fish.
It seems as though any problem we had with the algae bloom of last week was minor and short lived. While some dead fish were reported in North Naples and Bonita Beach, the numbers were relatively small, especially when compared to past years' red tides. Hopefully, this will be all we see of algae blooms this year.
Offshore: Capt. Tom Robinson, on "Sea Legs," had a full day on Tuesday with Mike D'Armon and family.
Heading out of Gordon Pass early Tuesday morning, Tom says they had to dodge a couple of rain squalls, but the cloudy day made for a fairly comfortable day of fishing.
Once they were out about 26 miles, Capt. Robinson made his first drop, and the action was almost immediate. Red grouper were bending rods, and quickly filling the ice box. A limit for everyone, and they were throwing back keeper-sized reds.
Young Jack (9 years old) landed the largest, a nice, 26-inch fish.
After the grouper, a move was made in the quest for some snapper, and even though the bite wasn't on fire, a nice 21-inch mangrove made it to the fish box.
A 60-pound goliath provided some great action, as well as a number of sharks, including a seven-foot nurse shark. A cobia came around to check out the boat, but didn't seem interested in eating anything. Live pinfish and cut sardines were used for bait.
Jim Lange and family recently went out with Capt. Michael Avinon on board the "Capt. Marvel" for a full-day outing. Running out over 25 miles offshore before the first drop, they found the grouper more than willing to bend a rod. Lots of grouper were caught and released, and everyone onboard got their limit of keepers.
Jim also landed a 35-pound goliath grouper after an arm-straining battle. Capt. Mike says the water was clear and flat, which makes for a very enjoyable ride out and back.
Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing around the jettys in the morning has proven very successful for Capt. Tim Daugherty on recent trips.
Using a combinations of top-water lures and small live baits, Tim has been putting anglers on a lot of snook. As the sun comes up, he will range into the back somewhat, but generally stays within a mile of a pass. On the inside, the snapper and reds have been gobbling up the small live baits as well. Johnson and Rookery bays have also been yielding good catches of reds caught on Gulp baits.
Ed Cuccio, fiancee Patti, and friend Hilton joined me for a half day on Monday. The morning started out bleakly since I couldn't find bait, and finally resorted to chumming inside the bay.
Thankfully, that worked out well, and we were off to see if the fish would cooperate. Right off the bat, the small snapper showed up, and they were hungry. After warming up on those little guys, we set out for some snook.
The three anglers landed over 20 snook in the 18- to 24-inch range, and Ed had an over 40-inch monster to the boat, when a last moment run under the boat set him free. Six redfish 17 to 24 inches, and a nice jack rounded out the catch. Patti was the champ of the day with a five-pound redfish and a three-pound mangrove snapper.
Ten Thousand Islands: Changing things up recently, Capt. Shane Miller put some crabs in the live well, and took angler Chuck Lapham out permit fishing. Running out about six miles, the first stop was a bust, but as they pulled up to the second spot, they could see a good number of large permit milling about. Before Shane could get the anchor down, Chuck was hooked up on a screamer.
After the battle was won, a nice 32-pound permit had been boated. Quickly rebaiting, Chuck tossed the crab out, and he was once again off to the races. At the end of the struggle, a scale produced a 30-pounder to add to the tally. A third nice permit was hooked up, and in the middle of the fight, an ornery bull shark decided to have it for lunch.
With the sharks showing up, Shane decided to change things up again, and they headed toward shore, and started throwing jigs for trout. A total of 12 nice fish in the 18-, 19-inch range helped to end a great day of fishing.
Capt. Ken Chambers says the fishing has been pretty good, with snook on the outside islands and on the points.
Using topwaters and/or flys in the morning, he has been successful working the snook. Ken has also been getting some small pilchards on the beach, and using them in the back under a cork and around the bushes for reds. While most of the reds are in the low end of the slot, there are some nice mid- and upper-slot fish around. Lots of snapper are eating the small baits, with jacks and even flounder mixed in.