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NAPLES — As this week’s report is being written, we as a nation are recalling that fateful day 11 years ago that forever changed all of us.
Many of the younger men and women who have been effected the most are the members of our Armed Forces. After 9/11 five million of them enlisted in one of the services. Many have seen action in countries far from home. Some never made it back.
While there are many different groups throughout the United States that come up with ways to say thank you to the troops, we here in Southwest Florida can be proud of the “Take A Soldier Fishing” program that was started three years ago by Steve Lloyd and a few local guides.
This weekend will be the third year for the program. On Friday, 81 active duty soldiers will be transported from MacDill AFB (near Tampa) to Naples where they will be treated to what will be a great weekend, all at no cost to them.
Lloyd and his group have once again solicited numerous donations from local citizens and businesses that cover all rooms, plenty of food and “liquid refreshments,” golf on Friday for the early birds, and on Saturday a full day of fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands. Forty-one local guides have volunteered to get this group out for a great fishing experience, and then on Saturday evening they will rehash the day at a wonderful event sponsored by Lely Resort Players Club.
All of the fishing activity starts and ends at Calusa Marina in Goodland. If you can, come out around 2 p.m. or so when the boats come back in and results are tallied.
As promised by the weatherman we did have a minor cold front wander through our area this week. A little wind and some rain later, we are back to summer fishing.
Water just offshore is nice and clean and loaded with Spanish mackerel. A few gag grouper are showing up a little closer to the beach. There are only a few weeks left to the season, so now is the time to go gag hunting. Further offshore the red grouper are still plentiful and, as in past weeks, the farther out you go the better the quality of the fish.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Brandon Acosta has been fishing out of Everglades City and says the redfish have been the main event.
Acosta has been doing best on the high outgoing tides while fishing in the back. A shrimp under a popping cork has been doing the trick, but the small snapper can go through a dozen shrimp in about 10 minutes. The reds have been ranging from small rat reds in the 14- to 16-inch range to nicer fish in the mid to upper slot.
Water is still somewhat dirty from the recent front, but it’s somewhat better in the back.
On Sunday Capt. Acosta took out a father and son for a half day. Eight-year-old Justin was ruined for future trips after he and his dad, John, caught seven nice reds in about 45 minutes. They ended up with 11 reds and a mess of snapper for the day.
Naples/Estero Bay: Dirty water along the beach has Capt. Tim Daugherty using artificials while fishing Naples waters.
He, too, has been working the backcountry using Gulp baits on an eight ounce jig head and doing quite well on the reds. Tim says they are eating very well and the fish are pretty much all in the slot. Some oversized snook are succumbing to the plastics as well. Fish in the 28- to 30-inch range are not an uncommon thing this past week. A few snook have been taken on surface plugs, too, but that is a first-thing-in-the-morning strategy.
On a recent trip with Ken O’Leary and buddy Vince, we fished the Estero Bay area. I was lucky to get a fair amount of live bait, and that did the trick for the snook. We caught quite a few, but the first couple of spots yielded only smaller fish.
Making a move toward the pass resulted in an significant upgrade on our catch. These fish were running from 22 to about 27 inches and provided a lot more of a fight.
As the tide was about done, we went looking for some baby tarpon. Vince missed a couple of serious attempts at a hookup, but Ken was more successful. His first tarpon was about seven pounds, and it finally jumped into the boat. The next fish was in the 20-pound range, and after a few exciting jumps it decided to make friends with my power pole and went free.
Rebaited and back in the water it was only a couple of minutes and Ken was hooked up again, this time to a good 30-plus pound fish. On it’s last jump, just a couple of feet from the side of the boat, Ken forgot to “bow to the king” and the line parted like a shot from a rifle.
Offshore: Capt. Tom Robinson took the “Sea Legs” out on Friday for a three-quarter day with Jay and David from Cincinnati.
They ended up about 18 miles off the beach, and the fish were turned on. The group landed lots of grouper, including one nice gag and nine keeper red grouper. The reds ranged up to 28 inches and they all ate cut bait. Along with the grouper the group was entertained by numerous hookups with sharks in the three-foot range. The bonus fish for the day was a nice 27-pound king mackerel that picked up a bait off the bottom.