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NAPLES — Welcome to fall! Finally we have a break in the humidity and temperatures below 90 degrees, which makes it a whole lot easier on the fishermen, if nothing else. Winds shifted to the northeast after the cool front passed through, and that has allowed the water near the shore to clean up. That makes sight fishing for snook a winning proposition.
Schools of bait are showing up, but not as fast as we would like. Perhaps the cooler weather farther north will hasten the fall migration.
In those schools of bait that are around, you will find lots of Spanish mackerel, but most of the ones close to shore are fairly small. Venture a little farther out, and the size of the macks increases substantially. Mixed in with the mackerel are some small bonita.
The offshore boats are enjoying some good fall fishing, with both red grouper and gags being reported. The gags can be caught in as little as 25 feet of water, with the bigger ones usually farther out. Reds will start moving out farther as the water cools. Snapper fishing is picking up, and some fish in the 3- to 5-pound range are being reported. Water conditions offshore are pretty good, but the northeast wind makes for a bouncy trip back home.
Inshore, the redfish saga continues to be the story of the week.
From well down in the Ten Thousand Islands to Estero Bay, the redfish bite is on. You can run into a school of fish on one point that will all be in the slot, and then move 50 yards to the next point, and find a school of rat reds willing to eat. And eat they will, everything from plastic or feathered jigs to live bait to cut bait.
Try trimming the tail off a small-sized pinfish, and toss it into a likely area. This technique can lure some of the bigger fish to eat. Depending on where you are fishing and the current conditions, you might be able to sight fish reds in the real skinny water or be fishing deeper water off a point.
Let's not forget about the snook and trout fishery as well. While the snook bite down in the islands might be limited, the waters of Marco north to Estero are proving to be home to very good numbers of the linesiders.
Early morning topwater lures work well, but if you toss a handfull of live white bait into a fishy looking spot that has current, don't be surprised to see the fish start scarfing up all the freebies! Trout continue to bend rods, too. A lot of larger fish are being hooked while fishing a red or snook spot, and schools of smaller fish are being found around the grass flats.
Don't forget that the RedSnook Catch and Release Tournament is coming up the weekend of Oct. 21-23. There is still time to register to compete in this very worthwhile tournament. It is sponsored by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the funds raised go to improve the quality of water in our area. As the logo says, "Clean water, more fish." Call 239-403-4200 to sign up or for more information.
Offshore: Capt. Tommy Robinson, onboard the "Sea Legs," had a full day on Friday, and his anglers were Frank Potesio with sons Nick and Jake.
Things started off before they even left the dock when a school of larger mullet seemed attracted to the back of the boat. Quick response by Capt. Tom resulted in about a dozen baits in the well. The next stop was for one throw of the net for a load of white bait, followed by some pinfish on the gold hook rigs.
With all that bait in the well, Robinson headed out about 27 miles to work the ledges for gags. They ended up with a limit of fish up to 29 inches, and a few red grouper, too. Next were the snapper, and Tom came up with two varieties of keepers. Both yellowtail and mangroves to 15 inches went into the cooler. Add in some action from Spanish mackerel and bonita, as well as an 80-pound nurse shark, and you have one very successful day on the water.
Red grouper were the target for Capt. Mike Avion of the "Findictive" on Tuesday. His group went out for a half day and headed out to the ledged about 12 miles off the beach. In that short four hour period, including travel, his anglers landed six keeper gags up to 30 inches as well as four keeper red grouper. The icing on the cake for the trip was when a keeper cobia decided to grab a bait. On a previous full day Mike hammered the red groupers with a full limit in the box he released 16 keepers up to 12 pounds!
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak was fishing well south of Everglades City on Tuesday. He took his small skiff down to the rivers to fish for reds. The water was very low, but he was able to poll into the shore lines, and he found the reds.
Fishing with his dad, Lester Walczak, they caught about 30 redfish in just two and a half hours, throwing topwaters and jigs. These were nice fish, too, ranging from 18 to 28 inches. They caught all these fish in just three spots. Water quality varied, with cleaner water in the lee of the islands to muddy in the wind.
Fishing out of Goodland, Capt. Stacy Mullendore fished with Bill Rudolf and wife Beverly on Tuesday. After netting some finger mullet, they started working the outside first, where they found some smaller reds. Moving farther into the back, they got into some nice slot fish, ranging from 22 to 25 inches. At the end of the half day, they had nine slot reds, eight snook, a bunch of snapper, and one jack crevalle.
Naples/Estero Bay: Snookin' and Cookin' Capt. Seth Hayes says the fishing has been good recently. He is finding reds schooled up on the flats in good numbers.
On Saturday, he fished with the McMorrows from Naples, and they nailed the reds, with five being over slot and one at 27 inches. A few decent snook also were hooked and released. At one point, they had three oversized reds on at one time, and managed to land all three.
Earlier in the week, Seth had Jesse Griffiths from St. Louis out for a day, with pretty much the same results, but with a 39-inch snook to talk about, too.
Naples snook fishing has been hot, according to Capt. Time Daugherty. He is fishing in the areas around the passes using live bait, and nailing snook in the 18- to 36-inch range.
Tim also is seeing the snook beginning the fall move to the back bays, and he is getting similar-sized fish there, too. Some reds are mixed in with the snook. These fish are in the 18- to 23-inch range, and eating the same live bait.
Tim is getting them warmed up by using a lot of chum, and once they are popping the freebies, he has anglers toss in a bait. Lots of snapper around, too.