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NAPLES — Spring is bustin' out all over, especially for the inshore anglers. Everything from mackerel to snook, and pompano to redfish are eating up a storm. Schools of live bait are roaming the near shore and beaches making conditions ripe for hungry fish.
We are starting to see more snook from the sand of the beach to the branches of the mangroves. They are really starting to pop on live baits, and that is one of the coolest sounds in nature. Redfish seem to be a little more cooperative, especially down in the Ten Thousand Islands, where they are ranging from the short rat reds to the upper- and over-slot fish. Work the incoming tide as it hits outside points and bars, and then follow the fish to the mangrove. Live bait, cutbait, and shrimp seem to be working well.
Pompano are becoming a more regular sight at cleaning tables from Estero down to Everglades City. A shrimp-tipped jig worked in three to five feet of clear water that is moving seems to be the ticket. While you are doing that, don't be surprised to hook up with some of the best sea trout of the season. They are getting bigger and fatter weekly.
Offshore, with the grouper season closed until April 1, anglers are concentrating on mangrove snapper for the most part. After the wind this past weekend, the cloudy water seemed to have turned on the snapper. Lots of grouper are still being caught and released, with quite a few of them being nice slot-sized fish. The kings seem to be mostly in one large group, holding about 15 to 18 miles offshore. A few singletons are being caught closer in.
Offshore: Capt. Michael Avinon, skippering his "Findictive," says the snapper bite has been good. On two three-quarter days, his anglers got their limits. A recent full-day trip saw 23 snapper to 20 inches, along with 10 amberjack to 40 pounds. Bait has been very good most days, according to Michael, and he says the kings should move closer in the next week or two.
The "Sea Spirit" sailed out of the Gordon Pass on Sunday to find seas pretty rough. Four foot chop changed the original plan and Capt. Bob Fisher limited the trip to just ten miles off the beach. Lots of lane snapper, grunts, and short grouper made for decent action. They even got (and released) a 25 inch gag while trolling for king mackerel. Bob says that bait has been good and echo's the report about kings being 15 to 20 miles offshore.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Brandon Acosta has been working the reds out of Everglades City using shrimp under a cork for the most part.
On Tuesday, he had Steve Keller from St. Paul, Minn., along with his son Luke and daughter Rachel. In the afternoon half-day, they landed six slot reds to 25 inches and another 12 shorts. Brandon says he is working the points and oyster bars as the water comes in.
Naples/Estero Bay: Things are picking up in the Estero Bay/North Naples area, according to Ken Strassen of Master Bait and Tackle in Bonita.
Inshore species ranging from trout to snook are getting more aggressive in their dining manners, and anglers are benefiting. Just off the beaches, there are trout and sheepshead, as well as an armada of rays that will bend a pole. Inside, the snook are eating on a more regular basis, and the reds seem to be increasing in numbers.
Pompano and flounder are eating shrimp on a jig in the deeper cuts and around the passes. Ken also had a report of a half-dozen or so permit just five miles off the pass.
Naples has been real good, according to Capt. Tim Daugherty. The pompano bite has really picked up recently with fish in the 11- to 15-inch range eating his shrimp-tipped jigs. Tim has been working clean, moving water in the five- to eight-foot range.
Snook fishing is on the upswing, with fish going after live chum around the bars and islands. The fish range from little guys up to 30-inch screamers. With water temps in the mid- to upper-70s, it only gets better. On Tuesday, Tim had onboard Richard Tobey along with his daughter and son, and they cleaned up on nice pompano.
Freshwater: A rare freshwater report, courtesy of Capt. Shane Miller, this week. He has been running his Everglades bass trips most days recently, and reports the fish are off the beds and hitting soft plastics.
On a recent trip with a group from the Dunes Fishing Club, they put about 30 fish in the boat with a number of them in the three- to four-pound range. Special trips to Okeechobee have produced some real lunkers in the 7- to 10-pound range on big shiners.