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NAPLES — Temperatures are high both on land and in the water, showers are ranging up and down the coast at times bringing out the mosquitoes, and the royal poinciana trees are blooming.
It must be May, and the fishing is good. All the inshore species are present and accounted for: snook, redfish, trout, mackerel, jack crevalle, and snapper. All are willing to eat an offering tossed their way. With water quality similar to what you find in the Keys this time of year, you might have to scale down your terminal tackle some to get the bite from leader shy fish.
Large numbers of snook are ranging along the beaches and around the passes. With the clear water, you can stalk them just like a bonefish.
At times, you will have schools of 12 to 20 working toward your boat. Shore fishermen working the trough early and late have a shot at some great action. These fish are anywhere from just off the beach, to sitting under an umbrella. Really, from shore, step into the water and cast right down parallel to the sand. A jerk bait or even a white jig can bring a great strike.
Reds are more scattered with the warmer weather, but they are around and will take your live bait, but are just as likely to pick up a chunk of cut bait.
Remember that a red has a smaller mouth than a snook, so size your bait accordingly. With cut bait, just wait for them to pick it up and move with your bait. Oh, and don't be surprised if it is a nice snook instead of a red on the end of the line. Recently, I have caught a lot of snook on cut threads.
Farther offshore it is all about red grouper. The fish are ranging up to 28 inches, and there seems to be a lot of them. A good number of gags are also being brought to the boat and released. Just a few more weeks and they will be legal, and I am sure a lot will go home for dinner. Kings are around the wrecks, and some are even hitting cut bait.
Tarpon are an on-again, off-again proposition. Some days you will see them, but they won't eat. Other days you may only see a couple, but they are ravenous. Some permit are being reported by tarpon anglers. They are ranging 25 to 30 pounds and, of course, the bait of choice is a nice crab.
Offshore: The "Sea Legs," skippered by Capt. Tom Robinson, had Dan and Sandy Tripp onboard recently, along with their daughter and her husband. They did real well on the red grouper, boating 12 keepers, including a huge, 28- inch fish.
On Saturday, Capt. Tom hosted a group of Canada anglers for a full day that was textbook beautiful. After putting a limit of 12 legal reds in the box and releasing others, the group was entertained for 30 minutes by a 50-pound cobia. This fish had been hanging around the boat for some time, but wouldn't eat any of the baits offered. When Tom found a crab in the livewell, they tried that, and the fight was on. The light tackle outfit tested the anglers' merit, but in the end it was cobia dinner at the "Dock" restaurant.
Capt. Michael Avinon reports similar action on his recent trips. He ran two trips with anglers from the Brooks Fishing Club recently. Joe Shannon hosted the first group, and Joe Bartoletti the second, and both groups limited out on red grouper. Fish are averaging in the 10-pound range, and are eating cut threads and squid. Mike also said he is getting king mackerel hitting the cut bait too.
Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing in Naples, Capt. Steve Sarbara has been finding some nice, fat snook on the beaches first thing in the morning. After loading up on live bait, he heads for the beaches where on Tuesday, Bob Lubar landed a bunch of fish, including three in the slot and one oversized.
In addition to the snook, Steve says his anglers are picking up some nice trout along the beaches, too. Reds are scattered and are a one or two proposition right now. Tuesday's trip also produced five flounder.
On Saturday, I fished with Bill Hickman in Estero and Wiggins Pass. While bait was tough to get, we accomplished that chore and set off to catch some fish.
Several large schools were targeted on the beach, and we landed a half-dozen. Venturing inside the passes, we found the fish chowing down on the nice incoming tide. We landed over 60, and at one point had a pair of large cruisers ignoring our baits. Finally, the bigger of the two decided to test Hickman, and took off with his bait. After a couple of close calls with the mangroves, we landed a 36-inch, 15-pound snook. The 25-pound test leader was worn down to about five pounds!
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Bill Jones fished on Tuesday, and they went looking for tarpon. The only problem is that the tarpon that were there yesterday didn't show up, but that didn't hurt the fishing.
In addition to a number of blacktip and nurse sharks, Bill's anglers tossed a crab at a nice permit, and after a wonderful fight, finally landed a 25-pound fish. They finished up the day with a couple of keeper reds (23 and 26 inches) as well as a nice flounder. Bill said that the water was absolutely beautiful.
Running south from Everglades City, Capt. John Dant took Kevin O'Neil and friend Steve south of Pavilion Key on a recent trip. On the full-day trip, they landed over 70 fish. Using popping corks and shrimp, they got eight reds with three keepers, as well as countless trout from 18 to over 20 inches. A large shark provided some excitement until it got bored and left the area. Only one snook was caught that day, but John says that there are a good number of larger fish around.