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NAPLES — It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we had water temperatures in the 80s, and now after several cold fronts we got as low as the mid-60s. That is some drop but it hasn’t hurt the fishing at all. It actually has improved it in most areas.
With the cooler water come more of our winter species. It is not unusual to catch seven to 10 different types of fish on one outing. On a trip Monday we got nine.
For the inshore angler this is the time to be on the water. Our fall bait run is in full swing and the fish are lining up for the buffet.
Inside waters are loaded with redfish from Estero down to the Ten Thousand Islands. We are in our second year of a bumper crop of these great fighting fish. Depending on the day they are eating live bait, dead bait, cut bait, shrimp and plain jigs. When you find one, you usually find a dozen or so.
Look for schools of mullet working the flats. Reds will likely be following to eat up the critters that the mullet stirred up.
Snook are also taking advantage of the situation and depending on the area you are in you may catch more snook than reds or just the opposite. A lot of the snook are making their way into the back country as the water cools, but you can still find some in and near the passes.
With the strong winds out of the east and northeast the low tides have been on the extreme end of the chart, so be careful. It is hard to enjoy fishing when you are stuck in three inches of water.
There are more and more reports of trout catches up and down the coast. Jigs worked slow on the bottom will do the trick if you can keep the ladyfish away. Don’t forget that all trout must be released until Jan. 1.
Along with the trout and ladyfish, a fair number of mackerel are making their way into the bays, and some of them are nice sized fish. The bummer is when you have a fish hooked and the line is making a bubble line as it moves through the water and another mackerel tries to eat it, resulting in a cut line.
Some pompano are showing up down in the islands south of Marco. Jig and shrimp are the ticket, but you must be quick to hook them. Prized as table fare these guys go for about $10 a pound at the fish market. Try cuts off flats or around the passes.
As I write this we have about 24 hours left in this year’s gag grouper season and a few of the offshore boats braved choppy seas to put a few more in the cooler for customers. Along with the gags there are still quite a few red grouper being caught and the large amberjacks are roaming the wrecks.
Speaking of wrecks and ledges, don’t be surprised if the decent fish on your line all of a sudden becomes much heavier and stronger. You will have just fed a goliath grouper. They, too, are showing up in good numbers and will range in size from a few pounds to the size of a small truck. Good luck.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Brandon Acosta fished on Friday with the Burgess family for a half-day. Braving a cold front and the strong winds (and very low tides) he loaded up on shrimp and headed out.
The 8-year-old daughter caught the biggest red of the trip, a nice 22-inch fish. A number of other smaller reds fell for the shrimp before Brandon went in search of the black drum that have been showing up recently.
Four black drum later the happy crew headed in. On Saturday, Bryant had his son out fishing for his birthday and they headed well south of Everglades City in 20 mph winds. The bumpy ride was worth it, though. The duo boated more than 30 reds ranging from 17 to 23 inches using shrimp on a cork or shrimp tipped jigs.
Running out of Goodland, Capt. Aron Blaisdale says the fishing has been “fantastic”. Using shrimp to tip a bucktail jig his anglers have been hammering the reds daily. The fish are running from 20 to 23 inches for the most part, but a few smaller and larger fish have been regularly making an appearance. Fishing hard bottom on the outside, Aron has been finding some large trout to 23 inches and nice sized pompano, too. Lots of mackerel and ladyfish have added to the nonstop action down in the islands.
Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing in Dollar Bay with the Fleck family from Fort Wayne, Ind., on Saturday, Capt. Jim Wheeler put the group on both reds and snook during the half-day trip.
Chris caught his first-ever snook, a nice 30-inch fish, so he is now spoiled. Julie, not to be outdone, caught her first redfish, measuring 20 inches, so it went home for dinner. Jim has been using shrimp on a popping cork for most of his fish.
For those of you new the area and if you want to learn more about Fishing Southwest Florida, Capt. Wheeler is putting on a free fishing seminar on Dec. 2 from 1 to 3 p.m. Call 239-598-6133 for details.
Up in Estero Bay Capt. Neil Eisner said that the two days before and the two days after the cold front yielded some great fishing. With the very low water in the morning he worked the deeper cuts around the islands with shrimp either on a jig or under a popping cork. Good sized snook and upper slot reds were quick to bite.
As the water got higher Neil moved to the creeks where the fish continued to provide action. The shadow lines along the banks seemed to hold the fish as the water temp went from 68 in the morning to 72 just a couple of hours later. Neil says he has been seeing a ratio of 2 snook for every redfish recently.
Offshore: Gary Frazier and a group from the Brooks fishing club went out on the “Findictive” with Capt. Mike Avinon on Thursday. While the full day trip was bouncy it was well worth it. Sixteen keeper grouper went home for dinner (I hope Gary shared, he is a big guy) as well as three amberjack. The crew released an additional six AJ’s to 50 pounds, too.
With the winds strong, Capt. Tom Robinson onboard the “Sea Legs” kept closer to shore for a couple of days, running half-day trips. Lots of fish were caught and even a couple of keeper grouper went into the cooler.
On Tuesday the winds slowed quite a bit, and in an effort to get a few more gags before the season ended Tom took David Nelson, brother Rodney, friend Matt, Jim Bourdai and son Jordan 30 miles out. Four big gags to 30 inches seriously bent the rods before succumbing to the box. A dozen red grouper to 26 inches joined them. A few goliaths and a nurse shark helped to wear out the group and of course there were the amberjacks. Three to 20 pounds made it to the cooler.
Tom says the water way off shore was beautiful, but as he returned the water in the 15 mile range was brown and nasty looking. Red tide?
The “Captain Marvel” fought strong northeasterly winds on Sunday to get out to about 60 feet of water, but Capt. Tom Marvel says that by lunchtime the winds had dialed down a bunch. Using live pinfish for bait his anglers landed reds and gags to 11 pounds.
On Monday the winds were even less and the full day resulted in gags to 15 pounds and reds to 8. They ended up fishing in 70 feet of water west of Naples.