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NAPLES — Well, if you were able to find clean water during the strong northeast winds we had through Saturday, you couldn't once the wind shifted out of the southwest.
Dirty water substantially reduced the bite up and down the coast, and the wind is supposed to blow for most of the week. By the weekend we should be back to milder winds out of the east ... I hope.
Redfish continue to be the hot fish for the inshore anglers. Schools of fish are appearing from Estero to well down in the Ten Thousand Island, and these fish are hungry. Shrimp, pilchards, pinfish, cut ladyfish and even artificials are catching fish. Some people are using popping corks to present their baits, while others are using weights to keep a bait down in strong current.
Different-sized groups of fish are showing up, too. Last year's shorts are now in the 20- to 22-inch range, and there is a new year group of shorts in plentiful supply. Larger, oversized fish also are around, and fish up to 15 pounds are being reported. If you target an area and don't get something going in 10 to 15 minutes, try another area.
With all the redfish around, snook seem to have taken a back seat in the action, but that doesn't mean that there are no snook around. Down in the Islands, a lot of 12- to 15-inch snook are being hooked and released. It is nice to see some of these yearling fish in some of the old snook spots. Let them grow and multiply! They are eating small pilchards and shrimp, with or without a popping cork.
Early morning fishermen, and those who fish the bridges and passes at night are not only getting some of the season's biggest snook, they are enjoying a fairly good tarpon bite.
Mullet or cut ladyfish will do the trick. If you are lucky enough to get some larger live baits, give them a try, too. Speaking of bait, it seems as though our run of larger pilchards is running late. Last year at this time, we were getting nice-sized pilchards on the beach, but so far this fall only a few small ones are there.
Offshore, the winds have caused cancellations for most of the big boats. Those that did get out stayed close to shore working the near shore wrecks and reefs. Short grouper and lots of Spanish mackerel were caught. Hopefully, conditions will improve for this weekend.
Naples/Estero Bay: Lots of snook have been caught by Capt. Steve Nagy this past week. He has been working the beaches while the wind was from the northeast, using spoons, bucktail jigs, and shrimp.
The fish have been hanging close to the sand in the trough just off the beach. Steve also found some willing trout while fishing grass flats. He was using Hybrid Flurry baits under a Cajun Thunder float. Work it fast over the flats. For his redfish Capt. Nagy has been using cut ladyfish successfully.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I had the Bremen, Ga., crew: Rick and Skip Pollard, and Richard Butler.
We fought the wind all three days, and managed to coerce a good number of fish into the boat. Over the three days, we boated a good number of reds and snook, with the occasional jack and snapper thrown in. We fished both North Naples and Estero using live pilchards and pinfish, as well as shrimp and cut bait.
Skip managed to land a nice, 16-pound, 38-inch snook, and Richard Butler hauled in a 13-pound red and a 12-pound jack. Both Richard and Skip had a tarpon encounter, but in both cases the win went to the tarpon.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Pete Rapp was ready to cancel trips this weekend based on the forecast for rain, but he didn't, and the rain stayed away. The result was "great fishing."
Finding clean water was a little challenging, but not impossible. On Saturday, Pete took out Don Kubit, who wore out a lot of reds and some nice fat trout, as well as mangs and ladyfish. They used popping corks, and both live and Gulp shrimp to do the trick. Capt. Pete is looking forward to the fall migration of snook to the backcountry in the next few weeks.
Fishing south of Everglades City, Capt. Brandon Acosta says it is all about redfish, and he has been getting his share.
On Saturday, he had Bob from Hollywood, and his 7- and 9-year old daughters, Amelia and Jenna. Using corks and shrimp, they boated about 20 redfish, ranging from 16 to 25 inches. On Monday, 84-year-old Everett and his daughter Connie really nailed the reds. Each of the anglers boated about 20 reds, most of them in the 20s. Also, Brandon says he is getting about a dozen yearling snook on most trips, a good sign for the future.
Offshore: Capt. Mike Lucas, onboard the "Cuda," made lemonade out of lemons on Saturday.
He had a full-day schedule for an offshore trip, but heavy seas put an end to that, so he took the group out for a half day of near shore fishing. His group worked over the Spanish mackerel, using spoons, and boated a bunch up to three pounds. Also at a near shore reef, they caught some short grouper and other bottom fish.
Another captain also swapped a full-day for a half-day on Saturday, with good results. Capt. Tom Robinson of the "Sea Legs" took his group out about four miles offshore to work over some good bottom, where they got into some large lane snapper, short grouper, and grunts. They had one almost legal red, too. Then it was time for the mackerel, and they caught a bunch. The group went home with a cooler of nice snapper filets for dinner.