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NAPLES — First of all this week, let's cover a couple of species and their availability.
While snook may be around in good numbers, it is still illegal to keep one of any size. We are supposed to hear something later this summer (?) about a possible fall season. Secondly, gag grouper are closed in both state and federal waters.
Thanks to some checking by sometime contributor Charle Haskell, there is documentation of a two-month season this fall for gags.
According to a letter from a Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, the season will run from Sept. 15 to Nov. 15. As far as next year goes, there is no news as to what will happen with regards to gag grouper. As always with snook, gags, and any other fish to be released ... please release them gently and quickly.
This past weekend, we had a fair amount of strong wind, but that didn't seem to damper the fishing and catching done by local anglers.
From Estero down to the Caxambas Pass, area anglers report good catches of snook. Farther down in the Ten Thousand Islands, the snook are there, but not in the same numbers. Redfish that were in the 16- to 18-inch range a few months ago seem to be hitting around 19 to 20 inches, and responding well to shrimp on a jig. While throwing a jig for reds, a lot of good-sized trout are turning up on the hook.
Tarpon are around, and will actually eat a bait occasionally. Most reports have them ignoring baits, but around the bait balls of glass minnows, they seem to be more willing to eat.
Red grouper, kings, goliath grouper, barracuda, and an occasional cobia are providing steady action and some filets for the ice box. The water offshore continues to be beautiful in spite of the wind.
Speaking of barracuda, some of the larger ones have been quick to chomp on a nice 12- to 15-pound king that has been hooked. It is a race between angler and 'cuda for the prize. Lots of small sharks can also be had by the offshore angler. The captains have been using cut sardines, live shrimp, and squid for bait.
Naples to Estero Bay: After being blown out of the Keys this weekend, I fished with Bill Hickman on Monday in the Estero and North Naples area.
Getting lucky on white bait, we caught a few snook and a couple of mackerel before the tide started to come in. Once that happened, it got wild. Every time we threw out a bait, two or three snook would race to see who could eat it first. At the end of five hours on the water (and only one and a half of incoming tide), we called it quits at 40 snook, eight jacks, two trout, and three large mackerel.
Capt. Seth Hayes also reports a good snook bite while fishing Estero. He is finding fish in and around the passes, and they are hungry.
Most of the fish are in the 20- to 27-inch range. Seth has also been running outside looking for tarpon and permit on calmer days. Using threads, he is jumping tarpon found under the glass minnow bait balls. When found, permit are quick to gobble up a small crab tossed their way. Most of the permit run from 15 to 30 pounds. On a recent trip with Kevin Madison and his 11-year- old daughter, they landed over 40 snook.
Fishing out of Naples, Capt. Chris McCubbin took Tony Fontana out for a day of fishing, and they went looking for tarpon and to work the near shore ledges. In addition to the many short gags released, Tony landed a would-be keeper of 26 inches. Later, Chris went in to work the snook, and they quickly put a dozen in the boat. Bait has been spotty, but when you get it, the fish eat it like candy.
Ten Thousand Islands: Running out of Port of the Islands, Capt. Jesse Karen has been busy. Trout and reds are roaming the flats and points of the area south of Goodland, and Jesse is using the shrimp/jig combination on these guys.
He says the reds are running 17 to 18 inches, and that trout are also hitting the jig. The trout will run anywhere from tiny 12-inchers, up to respectable 23-inch fish. For snook, Jesse has been fishing around Caxambas Pass, and catching fish in the 25- to 30-inch range with an average of a dozen or so per trip. On a recent trip, angler Terry Moor of England landed a nice 34-inch snook using a DOA jig.
Capt. Andy Werner has been running the near-shore wrecks for some really nice fish.
He is finding big snook in the 30-to 40-inch range on these wrecks, and they quickly jump on a live bait. Cobia and permit are also on these wrecks.
On a recent trip, one of his anglers had a big cobia on that swam 200 yards away from the boat, and then did a 180-degree turn, and headed back to the wreck at warp speed. Capt. Andy finally broke it off before the reel was spooled. On a trip with Dave Rogers and sons Harrison (10 years old) and Oliver (19), they landed 30 trout over 20 inches off one of these wrecks. Five large snook, and a 35-pound cobia were also boated. Andy says that the reds and trout inside are biting well, too.
Farther down in the Islands, Capt. Brandon Acosta has been working the grass flats for trout, and doing pretty well.
Using Gulp shrimp, his anglers are landing over 20 trout per trip, with most of the fish well over the 15-inch minimum. Brandon also has been using a tipped jig for snook, and getting a few in the 20-inch range. He says the water continues to be on the dirty side even though we haven't had any rain.
Offshore: Onboard the "Sea Hooker," Capt. Chris took out Norm and his buddies for a half day recently. Using sardines, shrimp, and squid, they had a mixed bag of action. A number of short grouper were caught and released, as well as a few snapper.
Spanish mackerel and one king added some surface action, and a few three-foot long sharks added excitement.
Capt. Michael Avinon took out Dennis Church and family for a day on the water on board the "Capt. Marvel." Running out about 25 miles, they put 12 keeper red grouper in the box in no time at all.
Then they played with some medium-sized goliath grouper in the 70-pound range for a while. Rounding out the action were a couple of kings up to 15 pounds, a large amberjack (released), and some nice barracudas. Mike says the water is beautiful, and the wind seems to let up in the late afternoon, making the return to port a nice ride.