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NAPLES — After being out of town for a number of weeks it was great to be back in paradise, even though it might be a tad hot and humid.
We are coming off a full moon, and fishing has been OK to good depending on where you happen to be. Water temperatures are in the upper 80s, making inshore fishing an early morning and early evening event for most of us. Once the sun starts heating up about 11 a.m. to noon, the inshore bite gets really tough.
Live bait can be a challenge at this time of year, and I found that out on Friday's charter. I ran offshore looking for some threads, but didn't get a single one. Then I worked a long section of beach in search of some small pilchards, again zero.
Finally I went to the grass flats, and chummed for about an hour and a half, and my total catch was about three dozen pinfish, two bales of grass, and several dozen sea slugs. Back to the ramp to pick up customers and buy some shrimp. Uh-oh! No shrimp. Fortunately, the first place I went to fish had a large school of mixed-sized pilchards and they made the day.
Offshore, the full moon may have slowed the red grouper bite a little. There are some Spanish mackerel and kings ranging off the beach, and tarpon sightings have been scarce. Water off the beach is very clear, and conditions have been very favorable for boaters wanting to get a little farther offshore. As has been the case, the bigger fish have been farther offshore.
Offshore: Onboard the "Findicator," Capt. Michael Avinon has been running half-day, three-quarter day and a single 12-hour trips. Capt. Mike said that the moon may have slowed the bite, but being persistent and offering up prime live pinfish resulted in success.
Running out about 60 miles on the long trip, his anglers were rewarded with a great catch of red grouper. Twelve went into the cooler, and they ranged from 12 to 20 pounds. Many others were released, and then the captain went in search of some arm-breaking amberjack. The crew landed several in the 25-pound range.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Stacy Mullendore has been having great success on reds south of Goodland. He has been using everything from small beach pilchards and finger mullet to cut bait to fool the reds.
Most of the fish are nice, slot fish ranging from 20 to 23 inches, and he has been getting 15 to 20 on most half-day trips. In addition to the reds, Stacy has been catching a few snook. While the numbers aren't huge, the fish are running from 24 to 34 inches. Capt. Mullendore says the water quality is good, and that on the incoming tide there is quite a bit of small bait flushing in around the points.
On Sunday, Capt. Rob Walczak fished with a father and son from Ohio. Using small beach baits, they caught a variety of species during the three-quarter day trip. In the catch were four snook ranging from 18 to 25 inches, five reds to 24 inches, one trout, two limits of snapper to 14 1/2 inches, two flounder, along with jacks and mackerel. All of the fish were caught in the islands rather than out off the shoals.
Naples/Estero Bay: Lou Macero and family joined me on Friday for a half-day trip. We fished the North Naples beaches and in the Wiggins Pass area.
The snapper were voracious, and gobbled up the small pilchards. Son Adrian (8) and daughter Mila (10) totally out-fished Mom, while Lou and Grandpa Henry helped out. The snook were hitting as well, and about 11 made it to the boat, but quite a few more tried. A couple of jacks rounded out the catch. The water along the beach was very clear, and in the back it had some color. My GPS registered a water temperature of 87+ degrees.
Monday, John Preeg and I went out for about four hours and did pretty good on snook. Over two dozen made it to the boat, but the largest one broke off about five feet from the boat. Mangrove snapper were quick to grab a live bait, too. Several jacks up to about eight pounds added to the mix. By about 11:30, the heat got to both the fish and the fishermen.