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NAPLES — How mistaken I was thinking that the rainy season was over already. When you look at what we have seen on Monday and Tuesday already and more forecast for Wednesday, I guess I was mistaken.
When the front finally makes its way to Southwest Florida on Thursday and temperatures have cooled, we may be able to get back out on the water, even if the high winds persist. Winds are forecast for mid- to-upper teens through the rest of the week, which makes offshore runs a probable no-go situation.
If you can believe it, some inshore fishing has been happening, even with the downpours, and the bite has been good.
Bait is showing up on the beaches in increasing amounts, and some of the baits are pretty good-sized. Pinfish caught on the grassflats seem to be doing the number on the reds, while the pilchards seem to be the preferred meal for the snook.
The great redfish run continues up and down the Southwest Florida coast, with at least three different groups of fish showing up at the business end of anglers' lines. Shorts represent last year's spawn, while last year's shorts are now the lower-end slot fish being caught (and filleted) in good numbers.
At the top end of the scale are the oversized fish, which are running well into the teens when weighed before release. What is surprising is that a fairly small red is taking a fairly large pinfish, as well as many other offerings. Everything from jigs, Gulp baits, shrimp, pilchards, and the previously mentioned pins are being consumed by ravenous redfish. These fish can be found from the passes to well into the backcountry, and are providing some great action for the inshore guys.
Tarpon continue to provide some early morning and late evening action for determined anglers who are armed with a well of live mullet in the 8- to 10-inch range. If you get out early (or late) enough armed with the above mentioned mullet, make sure to head for the passes. Look for rolling fish (once the wind gives us a break) and get a bait in the water.
Offshore, the grouper fishing has been great. Both gags and red grouper are being caught in good numbers, and fish are being found relatively close to the beach.
A number of reports have keeper groupers being landed in 40 to 45 feet of water. Once it is safe to get offshore again, take your cut and/or live bait out to a likely grouper haunt, and drop a line. Most of the fish range from minimum slot to three to four inches over slot. A nice dinner for anyone. Snapper should respond well to the freshly stirred up waters of the Gulf, too.
Offshore: Capt. Ed Nichols has returned to the Naples area after a summer in North Carolina, and on Friday, charter his group managed a limit of grouper.
Roy Chimente, along with wife Janet and son Doug, ventured out on Friday for a six-hour trip with Ed. Running out to about 48 feet of water they used cut sardines to fill the cooler with dinner. Along with numerous grouper, lane snapper, and grunts, there were a lot of hookups with sharks. The largest shark brought to the boat was a nice, five-foot lemon shark.
Onboard the "Findictive," Capt. Mike Avion had a half-day trip on Friday. He ventured out about 15 miles into 40 feet of water, where he made his first drop. And what a drop it was. The group had a load of keepers in short order, and a move to a second spot in a little deeper water was made.
While live pins worked great on the gags, on this drop it was cut bait that lured the red grouper bite. Landing about 25 reds in that spot, they managed to put another limit into the box.
Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing for snook and reds down in Naples has been a "bonanza," according to Capt. Todd Geroy.
On half-day trips, his anglers are hauling in 30 or more fish, with reds being the key target. Using live bait Todd is finding reds in the 18- to 23-inch range, and snook in the 18- to 28-inch range. Nice fish for anglers to tangle with.
On a Thursday afternoon trip with Jack D. and daughter Dorrie, a combination of snook and reds, with a couple of large jacks thrown in, made for a total of over 40 fish in just four hours.
Friday morning, Capt. Geroy left the dock at 6:45 a.m. with John Suddeth onboard, as well as a few live mullet. By 7 a.m., they were hooked up to a nice-sized tarpon, which was landed (estimated at 95 pounds). By 8 a.m., they were back at the dock, and John was at work by 8:45. Now that is what I call a quick trip.
Farther up the coast, Capt. Seth Hayes had a trip on Saturday with Joe Van Hooser from Seattle. In addition to the numerous short reds, they landed six oversized and two in the slot. Most of the reds were eating large pinfish, but some went for pilchards. A few snook were boated as well, with the largest being a respectable 33 inches.
Ten Thousand Islands: It wasn't an Iron Man contest, but Capt. Rob Walczak not only fished in the downpour on Monday, he ran from Goodland down to Pavilion Key and back.
The trip may have been wet and uncomfortable -- and long -- but anglers Fred and Bob from the Marco Fishing Club thought it was worth it. During the six-hour trip (including running time) they boated 35 reds, 10 snook, and two trout using a combination of offerings. Jigs, shrimp, Gulp shrimp, and live bait were thrown at the fish, and they responded quickly.
Rob says the reds ran to 25 inches, and the snook to about 21, with a 30-plus-inch red causing heartbreak when the line parted. The water was both dirty and tannin colored.
Tarpon have been the target for Capt. Bill Jones recently. He has been fishing almost daily to hit them while they are chasing the mullet in the passes.
On a half-day trip Sunday, his guys jumped seven and landed three on the incoming tide, with all the fish in the 100-pound range. Once the tide change around they jumped two more.
Pretty good fall tarpon fishing. Bill reports that the water wasn't too bad before the wind switched out of the east to the west.
Down in the Everglades City area, Capt. Glen Puopolo has been busy hitting the reds and trout. Using shrimp for the reds, he has been finding fish in the 22- to 25-inch range for his customers. Trout have been hitting the Riptide jigs well this week too, and fish are ranging from 15 to 18 inches. On a recent trip, John Pewter landed numerous reds and trout in the tannic-colored water.