Fishing Report: Gag grouper season opening soon; Rumors of a full sea trout season

LARRY REGIENCZUK

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— Well, if you managed to get out fishing before this wet and windy weather moved in, you probably had a good time.

On the other hand, if you tried to fish from Sunday on, you might have considered taking up bridge. We went from reasonably good quality water to real dirty in the exposed areas. Shallow areas fared the worst as the wind just piled up the waves. The weather man is calling for more of the same until about Friday.

A quick reminder that the gag season will open on Sept. 16, and the minimum size for a keeper is 22 inches for a gag and 20 inches for a red grouper. According to Ken Strassen at Master Bait and Tackle, he is hearing lots of reports of keeper-sized fish within three to six miles of the beach. Don't forget to use circle hooks.

In just a couple of weeks the second annual "Take a Soldier Fishing" outing will be held out of Calusa Marina in Goodland. If you want to help in any way, call Steve at 239- 304-4424.

Another potential change to regulations concerns sea trout. For many years now, our area has experienced a closed season in November and December, which made no sense to most fishermen. If you were going to impose a closure, you might think about doing it during the spawning months, but that was not the case. Rumor has it that the two-month closed season might be done away with, and we would have all 12 months of open fishing.

Inshore, the snook and reds continue to provide a decent amount of action. Live bait can be had, but mostly by chumming the grass flats. Shrimp are working well, especially on the redfish. The extremely high water we have had recently has increased the many places for them to hide, so a falling tide tends to work better.

Many of the offshore trips have been canceled for the last few days due to conditions. Before the big blow, action was good on grouper, both red and gags. They are willing to eat a variety of offerings, everything from a live pinfish to a chunk of squid. One positive effect of this windy weather is that, once it stops, the offshore snapper bite could get hot.

Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Pat Gould has been out four days recently, and he describes the bite as good.

Most days he has been able to net live bait, and those baits have worked well on the reds and snook. He has been averaging 8-10 snook and 8-10 reds on a half-day trip. Add to that a bunch of aggressive snapper and a few mean jack crevalle, and you have a successful day on the water.

Pat describes the water as dirty and very high, which has provides additional challenges for fishermen. He suggests finding a deep pocket along a mangrove bank, and then work it thoroughly. On a recent half day with Bill, grandson Nick and daughter Eliane, the group landed eight each of snook and reds, as well as a fair number of snapper. The reds were mostly in the slot, with one oversized. A couple were invited home for dinner.

Over at Master Bait and Tackle, Strassen says he is getting more reports of flounder than he has had in 11 years.

Jeff, who works at Dolly's restaurant, picked off four that went a huge 24 inches on a recent outing. Another customer has been working the water around Big Carlos, and on Monday jumped two "very large" tarpon. Also on Monday, Dr. George Miguel landed a 17-pound tarpon on light tackle. Reds seem to be congregating on the east wall in Estero Bay, and are very willing to eat a jig tipped with a shrimp.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak had continued to work the snook and reds. Fishing south of Goodland, he has been using mostly finger mullet or shrimp, since the bait has been tough the last week.

A good sign of recovery for the Islands is the more consistent catches of snook. Walczak has been getting them up to about 26 inches, but most are in the 18- to 22-inch range. It is not unusual for his anglers to land 12 to 15 of the linesiders in an outing. And then there are the reds. They continue to lurk from the front to the back country, and will eat a variety of baits, with the most common being a shrimp-tipped jig. Water is very dirty.

Farther south, Capt. Jesse Karen has been working the reds around Rabbit Key. Most of the ones caught have been on the smaller side, ranging from 16 to 20 inches, but he has seen a number of big cruisers in the shallows. Using root beer colored CAL baits, Jesse has been nailing 10 to 12 snook per trip, too. These are nice fish in the 24- to 28-inch range. Of course, he also reports that the water is not only dirty, but with all the rain it is fairly fresh.

Offshore: Only one report this week, and it is from Capt. Mike Lucas of the charter boat "Cuda."

On Saturday, Mike ran a half-day trip with two anglers from Germany -- Tomas and son Timmy, 8. Running out to about 36 feet of water, they saw consistent action on short grouper, lanes, grunts, and some mangrove snapper. Using cut bait, the catch of the day was made by Timmy. He hooked and landed a nice keeper red grouper for dinner. Water on Saturday was two- to three-feet waves, and it got much worse Sunday through Tuesday.

If you have a report to share, send it to captsnookus@hotmail.com

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