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NAPLES — For all you grouper enthusiasts out there, we are getting close to the July 1 opening of the gag season for our area. While they tend to move farther out as the water temperatures climb, there are sure to be some good-sized fish around our ledges and wrecks. Remember that you need to hit the 22-inch mark for a keeper, and only two fish per angler.
Next week, the Gulf council will be taking a look at a proposal that could end the February/March complete closure of our grouper season. The proposal, if it moves forward, could open red grouper during those months.
Warm and windy weather has been the pattern as of late, with more of the same, plus an increased chance of rain from Thursday to Sunday might keep a number of anglers off the water this weekend.
Some super high tides have made chasing snook and reds a little more difficult on the incoming side of the tides, but there are plenty of fish around, especially snook. Lots of fish are roaming the beaches and passes. While out the other day -- while we were looking for bait -- a number of fairly large fish were spooked including one that would have gone well over 40 inches. Early in the morning, topwater lures can be hot on these cruisers.
Good-sized live baits are somewhat difficult to come by at this time of year. Lots of two-inch pilchards are on the beach, and oversized threads are roaming just offshore. Huge schools of ballyhoo are roaming our waters, as well as some larger groups of mullet. If you can get some mullet in the four- to six-inch range, try tossing one of those to a cruise linesider. Trim the tail a little first as it will make an easier target for Mama Snook.
Offshore:Capt. Tom Robinson onboard the "Sea Legs" has been putting anglers on the keeper red grouper.
On Friday, he ran out about 18 miles for a three-quarter day with Bud and friend, and were rewarded with seven keeper grouper to 26 1/2 inches as well as a couple of battles with some goliaths. Prior to that, on a trip with Ed Follmer and friends, they ran out a little farther hauled up 17 keeper reds in a short time. Then they had a few battles with assorted sharks, including one persistent bull shark. Cut bait and spot tails did the trick and the water was beautiful.
Naples/Estero Bay: Inshore fishing for snook is hot right now. If you can get some decent-sized bait in the well, the snook are gobbling them up.
Passes and beaches as well as islands just inside are holding large numbers of fish. Capt. Steve Nagy has been fishing Estero Bay on recent trips, and has been putting fish in the boat ranging from 20 to 35 inches. Steve says that finding good bait has been a challenge, but when you get it, the fish are all over them. He also is catching a few reds on the incoming tides around the oyster bars, and they too are going for the live baits.
Catch of the day was when Robert Kleinfelter boated a 34-inch snook on Father's Day.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Stacy Mullendore has been working hard to get good-sized baits for his customers. A lot of the baits are way too big and he has to cull the smaller ones out to use. Some days he is able to get finger mullet and the redfish are chomping them up.
On Saturday, Stacy fished with Matt Hoover and they boated six nice reds ranging from 20 to 25 inches. Capt. Mullendore has also been using shrimp under a popping cork for the reds, but the abundance of mangrove snapper are making that an expensive proposition at $4 a dozen. Tuesday, he had Dick Behr and grandson Ian on the boat, and they landed two snook over 30 inches.