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NAPLES — Happy New Year to all and may 2012 be a GREAT fishing year!
After closing out one of the most beautiful Decembers that I can remember since 1992, January has started off with a real bang. We were expecting temperatures as low as the 30s Tuesday night, which will drop water temperatures drastically. Just a couple of weeks ago the water was in the low 70s, last week in the upper 60s and after this front maybe low 50s.
That is some kind of change for our various species of fish, and they will react accordingly. Snook will seek deeper/warmer haunts, while fish like sheepshead and trout will actually school up and make things a little easier for anglers.
Offshore, the weekend presented beautiful conditions for those venturing out. Light winds and warm temperatures made getting out a pleasure, and pretty decent fishing was an added plus.
Red grouper, amberjack, snapper and king mackerel were all available and willing to eat if you were in the right place with the right bait. Speaking of king mackerel, this past week the commercial guys brought in about 10,000 pounds of them. That is a lot of fish!
By this weekend, the temperatures will moderate and we all can get back out on the water without long johns and battery-heated socks. As the wind shifts back to the northeast/east, the water will start to clear up, too.
Shrimp will probably be the ticket in the bait department, and I expect that the pilchards will become rather scarce. Trout season opened Jan. 1, and the bag limit is four fish from 15 to 20 inches (with one fish over 20 allowed). Trout don’t freeze well, so don’t take more than you will eat in a day or two. Enjoy the fresh fish at its best.
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Todd Geroy states that 2011 ended well and that his fishing trips caught a mixed bag of fish, including redfish, bluefish, trout, pompano, sheepshead and pompano.
After last week’s mild cold front, as the waters warmed back up the tides slacked off. Todd found the reds along the shallow mangrove points, and they fell for shrimp and a light split shot that averaged in the 19- to 23-inch range. Pompano and trout were reliable targets, too, and were caught while working the outside passes and some deeper inside channels that had better tide flow. A 3/8-ounce jig with a shrimp on it did the trick.
Up in Estero Bay, Capt. Shane Davis has been using a chartreuse jig head with a shrimp on it to coax bites from a variety of fish. Sheepshead, pompano and whiting have been hitting well, and the trout are starting to school up, too. Before this front, snook were a viable target, but Shane thinks that this cold front might be the end of a great snook year.
Try a popping cork with a shrimp in the shallows as the water warms up this weekend.
Ten Thousand Islands: Down in Everglades City, Capt. Pete Rapps said the weekend was fantastic and the warm days really got the fish hitting well.
At the end of last week Pete hammered the fish and caught a number of species, including trout, reds, sheepshead, black drum, mackerel and snook. With Jan. 1 and the opening of trout season, his anglers enjoyed a solid bite on the incoming tides. The highlight of the week was a 22 1/2-pound tripletail caught by angler Jill on Saturday. A really huge “tail!”
Trout and more trout were the target for Capt. Tim Daugherty on Sunday. He took out the Mark Tishbine group and they had a great day. Tim said that the trout were everywhere and fell prey to a twister-type tail under a Cajun Thunder that was fished around the points.
“This is the best start to trout season that I remember,” Daugherty said.
Most of the fish were easily in the slot, and a few pompano were mixed in. The bigger trout and pompano were caught on a jig/shrimp combo fished on the bottom with a slow retrieve.
Offshore: Capt. Mike Lucas on the “Cuda” took out a group from Island Walk in Bonita recently, and angler Laura from Ironstone Bank said they caught over 100 fish and had a great time.
Capt. Mike went out on Tuesday with the O’Connor family for a half-day, and despite challenging conditions they caught a mess of fish. Short gags and reds provided good pulls on the end of the line, as did mangrove and lane snapper. Mike said he saw some kings, but none hit any of his baits. He was fishing 10 to 12 miles out of Gordon Pass and the water was “bumpy.”
On the “Sea Legs,” Capt. Tom Robinson fished a full day on Dec. 30 with Dan Michols and friends. They hit the big gags hard and then went to the reds. Fifteen legal reds were brought to the boat as well as a number of yellowtail snapper (to 15 inches) and mangrove snapper. Next were the amberjacks, which were arm breakers at up to 35 pounds.
Conditions were super. Catch of the week on the “Sea Legs” was a huge 37-inch, 20-pound gag grouper that was caught by Dylan Robinson on his birthday. Yes, he is the captain’s son!