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NAPLES — Tuesday at 11:30, I got a call from a friend fishing within 300 yards of the beach. He was not real calm on the phone because his boat was surrounded by rolling tarpon.
Now this is one of the reasons I just love fall fishing in Southwest Florida! At this time of the year, anything is possible, fish are on the prowl looking for something to eat, and if you are in the right place with something they want to consume, you are in for a treat.
Winds have been out of the east, and in spite of significant afternoon rains, the water quality ranges from good to very clear. We are due a "cold" front that should have passed by the time you read this, but temperatures won't be greatly impacted and winds will quickly return to an easterly bearing. One note about the winds, though. Don't completely rely on tide charts when estimating the water you will have during a period of low water. The lows have been running well below what the charts are indicating, due to the east wind.
In the back, the bait has been flooding in with the tide, and all of the normal suspects are enjoying the buffet. Snook and reds are getting the most attention, but trout, flounder and even mackerel are all available in the back bays. In Estero, I have been pleasantly surprised, that with all the fresh water pouring into the bay, live baits are not dying in the well. Water quality has been pretty good, and the water temperatures are now in the lower 80s.
For those anglers venturing offshore, the grouper still get the majority of the attention, but good catches of snapper and mackerel are being reported, too. Water conditions have been great, with calm seas and light current. Keeper grouper are being caught within six miles of the beach.
Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing has been strong all week long, according to Capt. Todd Geroy, who has been fishing out of Naples. Plenty of action all week on snook and reds using live pilchards.
On Friday, he had John Shoyer from Naples and his daughter, Susan, who was visiting from Charlotte.
Todd put them to work quickly as they got into some serious red fish, and they landed over two dozen in the 23- to 26-inch range, as well as snook , flounder and even a tarpon. But the highlight of the trip wasn't the tarpon. In just a couple of feet of water, John hooked up with a giant of a redfish. After quite a battle they landed a huge, 36-inch fish that tipped the scales at a whopping 24 pounds! This was all done on a 10-pound spinning outfit.
Estero Bay has been producing good numbers of snook and reds. We have been finding fish all over the bay on both incoming and outgoing tides. Bait has been all over the place and filling a live well in one throw of the net is how it should be all the time. Water quality is good, but as stated above watch the water level on the lower end of the tides. Small snapper, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, flounder, and trout are all being caught as well. For the trout and reds too try a popping cork over the grass flats where you have some water over the grass.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak has had good mixed bag action for his clients down in the Ten Thousand Islands. He has been using a combination of live bait and artificials with good results on both.
On Saturday, he took out Nick Carr and a couple of friends for a half-day trip, and they landed 10 reds in the 19- to 26-inch range, as well as a couple of snook, trout, snapper, mackerel, and flounder. Rob says that the water quality is pretty good between Goodland and Everglades City, but that the low tides have been really low.
Offshore: Charles Haskell reports that the near-shore action has been really good in the last couple of weeks. Just recently, he took out Chef Vincenzo Betulia of the new Tulia restaurant for his first ever Gulf fishing trip.
Charles went out six miles and anchored up. Vincenzo dropped a line, and bang, the fight was on. Moments later a nice, 26 1/2-inch gag was going home for dinner. His second fish was a 23 1/2-inch gag. The chef is now hooked. Welcome to the club! Other fish that Haskell has pulled in include a 12-pound snook and a 70-pound goliath grouper.
The "Cuda" went out for a half day on Monday, with Greg and his son, Nicholas. Capt. Mike Lucas went out to about 25 feet of water where the two guys got into a mess of mackerel. Most of the fish were in over two pounds, and were caught on light spinning gear and silver spoons.
Mike later moved the boat to a spot in 32 feet of water where they got a keeper red grouper, as well as a mixed bag of bottom fish using cut sardines for bait. Mike said that conditions were good, and the water was clear and 82 degrees.
Capt. Tom Robinson fished Sunday and Monday with Rick Green and party onboard the "Sea Legs."
Sunday, they headed out to about 60 feet of water, where they quickly got into the red grouper. The group ended up with 14 keepers to 28 inches, as well as a goliath and a nice, 24-pound king mackerel.
On Monday, the target was snapper, and Tom went out to a piece of ledge where they found some real nice mangrove and yellow tail snapper. The 20 mangs topped out at 25 inches, and the yellow tail "flags" were in over 20 inches. In addition to the nice snapper catch, they also landed three amberjacks to 25 pounds.