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NAPLES — Isaac pretty well shut down the fishing in local waters for the past four or five days, and it will continue to influence conditions for several more. Very high and dirty tides have been the norm and probably won’t go away until late in the week.
Of course we also have had a considerable amount of rain, which will change the salinity in our bays and backwater areas. All of this can and will cause changes in the normal summer patterns that we have grown used to.
Live bait had been up and down the beaches, and the size ranged from very small to really nice-sized baits. If history repeats itself, that bait will be scarce for a week or two until things get back to normal. The large schools of glass minnows that were found from the backcountry to well off the beaches are likely to be gone as well. It was these pods of minnows that were attracting the predators like mackerel, ladyfish and jacks. And some of the top-end predators like sharks and tarpon would be chasing the smaller mackerel, ladyfish and jacks.
Offshore, rough waters are likely until Friday at least. A very interesting point made by Capt. Tom Marvel is that after a big storm like this, many of the grouper move well offshore and into water well over 100 feet.
The commercial grouper fishermen find that the grouper get concentrated in these areas and when caught show many signs of having been beat up by the storm. Torn fins, missing scales and even bleeding cuts are to be found on many of the grouper. How long before these fish make a move closer to shore is anyone’s guess.
Well, we were lucky overall, and hopefully that will be our only encounter with a large windy thing this year. On the bright side, once it gets calm enough to get out in the Gulf, the snapper bite may be really good.
Naples/Estero Bay: Angler Bill Freyhof sent in a report just before the storm, and he has been fishing in the Doctors Pass area since 1972. His report stated that the canals around the pass were very full of glass minnows and, as mentioned above, the jacks, ladyfish and mackerel have been thick, too.
Bill said it was hard to get a bait past them in an attempt to get snook or snapper. Daughters Laura and Anne also are frequent anglers in the area, and Bill sent me pictures of some of their catch, which included trout, snook (to 36 inches) and two jacks caught at the same time on a single Rattle Trap. Freyhof also ventures out to the Clam Pass reef, where he says there are more mackerel than he can ever remember.
Capt. Steve Nagy also submitted a report that reflected fishing just before the big wind. Steve says that he has been using light jigs rigged with a Flurry soft bait on reds cruising the grass flats. Rapal Skitterwalks have been working, too. Most of the reds have been in the slot. Live bait along the beach was netted and used to coax a bite from the snook with most of the bites coming fairly early in the morning. He, too, commented on the number of mackerel in nearshore waters.
Offshore: Capt. Tom Marvel said that the “Capt. Marvel” got out for a couple of half-day offshore trips prior to Isaac. Running out 12 to 15 miles they enjoyed a fair amount of action, but the number of keeper grouper is down. Shorts, grunts and lane snapper were also in good supply and willing to eat the cut bait or squid.
Each trip also produced a nice-sized king mackerel, with the largest running about 20 pounds. The kings ate a piece of cut bait on mono while bottom fishing. Tom made the point that snapper usually bite better as the water starts cleaning up, but is still off color.
Ten Thousand Islands: Not too many boats were out, but Capt. Rob Walczak took a group out for a half day on Saturday, and he said it was a fairly decent day for fishing.
Using shrimp on jigs, the group fished the high, outgoing tide in the Goodland area. Eight reds were boated, with three just under slot, and a nice, 28 1/2-incher the biggest. A half-dozen smaller snook and a lot of snapper also go for the jig/shrimp combination.