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NAPLES — Finally, some relief from the summer temperatures. Today was almost fall-like, and that helps to lower the water temperatures and to turn on the fish. Incoming tides in the morning are making for better conditions than last week.
While the water in most areas is still somewhat dingy, the east winds are helping to improve that situation, and by the weekend we should have fairly clean water.
Bait schools are all over the place. We are talking about the little, 3/4-inch guys, as well as pilchards and threads. All this bait means the fish should be well into the fall fattening-up season. Snook are on the move to the back bays, river, and creeks. Reds should be schooling up more and more as the water cools. Trout are making an appearance, and the sizes are good.
One of the fall bonus fisheries that doesn't get the pressure now that it does in the spring is for tarpon. They also will be haunting the bait schools from just off the beach to somewhat deeper water offshore. And don't forget the big sharks. Sharks will be feeding on the mackerel and ladyfish that go into feeding blitzes this time of year.
If you are venturing offshore for grouper, don't forget that we only have a few weeks left of the gag grouper season. Cooler water temps might lure some of the gags from well offshore into water that is reachable by smaller boats.
Red grouper have been hammered for the past few months, but there are still quite a few around. Of course, the offshore boats are hitting mackerel, ladyfish, goliath grouper, and snapper. Snapper like the slightly murky water that we have right now. Chum to get them started, and if you are in the right location, the action can be nonstop.
Naples/ Estero Bay: Fishing out of Naples, Capt. Pat Gould has enjoyed good fishing on recent trips. While the snook bite of the last few days has been somewhat slower, that has been made up by the redfish.
Using live bait that has been very available, Pat has been working the slightly off-color water, and catching jacks, flounder, ladyfish, snook and reds. On a recent trip with Naples local Matt Franken and his buddies from Greenville, S.C., they boated about 20 reds, with most being in the slot. A few snook added to the successful trip. Capt. Gould has seen a few rolling tarpon, but none have taken a bait.
Capt. Steve Nagy has been doing well in Estero Bay the past week, with catches of snook, reds, and trout. His trout have been caught over the grass flats, using a Flurry or live bait under a float. Reds also have been falling for this combo early in the tide. Later, as the water rises, he has been doing better with live shrimp or cut bait around the mangroves. Most of the reds his anglers have been catching are in the 22- to 30-inch range.
Snook have been caught by working the normal routes to the back as they start their fall migration. Live bait has been the key to the snook and, if you have enough, chum heavily. Snook up to 38 inches were landed this past week.
Ten Thousand Islands: On Friday, Capt. Jesse Karen took Sal Vitola (from Naples and N.Y.) out to try and catch some pompano, so armed with live shrimp and light tackle they ran out about seven miles off White Horse Key.
When they got to the first spot, no pompano, but the tarpon were all over the place. Using paddle tail plastic baits, they threw at and jumped 12 of the 80-pound class fish. Of course, the light pompano gear made for an unfair fight and the fish won, but jumping them is half the fun.
Jesse then moved a little, and they did get the pompano, keeping 13 up to three pounds. Several trout and two reds also ate the shrimp.
Saturday, Jesse targeted reds on a falling tide, and they got about a dozen in the 13- to 20-inch range, as well as three snook up to 24 inches, with jacks and ladyfish rounding out the action. Capt. Karen says the water is the best it has been since Isaac.
Offshore: The "Sea Legs" ran several half-day trips over the weekend, and Capt. Tom Robinson says the water was murky, but that turned on the lane snappers. His anglers enjoyed nonstop action, and landed plenty in the 12- to 13-inch range to take home for dinner.
For the Saturday afternoon trip, they targeted a new piece of bottom, and as a result they landed a 27-inch gag, lots of lane snapper, and short red grouper using cut squid for bait. The catch of the day was a very persistent goliath grouper that took a bait several times before hanging on. After quite a tussle, the 80-pound fish was released.