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NAPLES — Some great news for all the grouper fishermen — and ladies, too. Thanks to the major effort made by Tom Marvel, the Gulf Council has made a significant change that will benefit anglers.
First of all, the February-March closed season — during which no grouper were allowed — is being changed. Red grouper will be open all year, starting in 2013. Gag grouper season also will be changed, and will be in the form of a split season. The first part will be from June 1 to July 15, and the second will start sometime in the fall, and end on Dec. 31. The total length of the second part of the season will be determined sometime soon. Opening gag grouper fishing during the cooler months is a plus for us since during the hot months they tend to go well off shore. Again, thank you, Tom!
Last weekend marked the annual RedSnook Tournament that benefits the Conservancy. Turnout was great, and a great time was had by all, but maybe the most important thing is the $125,000 that was raised to go toward game fish research and water quality protection.
With a cool front coming in Tuesday night, we will see somewhat cooler water temperatures, and some breezy days, especially over the weekend. Our tides for the next week will be better, and fishing should continue to be good.
On the inshore scene, both snook and reds are still on the feed, and packs of hungry jacks are bending rods up and down the coast. Live bait is still readily available along area beaches, but shrimp are also working well. A few trout have been reported, and I would expect to see more of them as the water cools some.
Last week was a tough one for the offshore boats due to the high winds. By the weekend, the winds had diminished. Even though the water was still fairly dirty, that actually helped the snapper fishing. Good grouper catches were reported from boats traveling well offshore.
Another plus is that the king mackerel are starting to show up in local waters, and larger numbers will be seen in the next few weeks.
Offshore: Capt. Clarence Fleck, onboard the “Capt. Marvel,” took advantage of the dirty water to put a group of anglers onto a good yellowtail snapper bite. They put 14 keepers in the boat, with the fish ranging to three pounds. After the snapper, Capt. Fleck headed to some hard bottom and got in to the red grouper. Lots of fish were caught, and seven keepers went into the cooler. A few kings have been seen on recent trips.
The “Findictive” ran a full day recently, and Capt. Michael Avinon says the water was still dirty, but the fishing was very good anyway. He ran out to 80 feet of water, where his anglers were baited up with squid and cut herring, and the grouper slurped it up.
At the end of the day, 17 red grouper to 17 pounds were boated. As a bonus, a nice, 20-pound king was landed. Capt. Avinon echoes the other reports about the kings, and agrees the main schools will be here in a few weeks.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Pete Rapps has been out the last three days, and he reports that the reds have been on the feed mostly during the incoming tide. They are eating either live pilchards or a nice shrimp.
Most are being caught up close to the mangroves, but an angler named Eric hooked up with a big bull on the outside, and it ended up weighing 19 1/2 pounds! Pete says that the snook bite has been better on the outgoing tide, with most of the fish running in the 2- to 3-pound range, but a recent 30-inch fish points out that you never know what size fish is lurking in the bushes. Capt. Rapps also has been catching a few trout as “by catch” while working the reds and snook.
Naples/Estero Bay: On Saturday, I took out Bill Hickman for a day on the water. We loaded up with nice pilchards, and started in Estero. We caught some snook and jacks before the tide died.
Then we went out looking for triple tail, and after a few miles of “looking,” we finally saw a nice one. Bill made the cast, and the result was a nice, seven-pound “tail” for dinner. With the tide having changed, we went into Wiggins Pass, and the bite was much better. We landed over 20 snook, lots of jacks, and some snapper. The snook ranged up to about 28 inches.
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