Fishing Report: Use catfish to catch the now-appearing tarpon

LARRY REGIENCZUK
A Tarpon caught on July 6 on 10,000 Islands with Captain Dave Anderson and Connie Childs.  Connie is a resident of Marco Island.

A Tarpon caught on July 6 on 10,000 Islands with Captain Dave Anderson and Connie Childs. Connie is a resident of Marco Island.

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— Spring! When a young mans heart yearn for ... tarpon, of course. Tarpon are making their presence made from down in the Ten Thousand Islands to off Fort Myers Beach. These are the big fish on the annual trek up to Boca Grande, and then offshore to spawn.

Fish are being hooked up that range from 80 to 180 pounds, and the two favored methods are live bait or cut bait. One of the most effective cut baits is the lowly catfish.

Catch a few catfish, cut off the head and the tail, and put the chunk on an 8- to 10-ought circle hook. Put the bait out in a likely area, and then place the pole in a holder. Sit back and enjoy a cold one while you wait.

When one of the large silver-side monsters picks up a bait, you quickly will understand the power these fish can put out. Make sure you use appropriate tackle. While it is nice to use lighter tackle, it can really stress out the tarpon. A well-worn-out fish also makes a great target for a huge shark. Get your fish to the boat quickly and take a picture with the fish in the water, and then safely release the fish for another day.

The linesider snook are also in the mix, and they are really starting to bite well. With spawning months of May through June just ahead, the fish are more than eager to eat an offered bait. Artificials work well early in the morning and later just before dark. For the rest of the fishing day, live pilchards are the best bait around.

When the water is somewhat high, make sure to get your bait well under the branches. While we are seeing a good number of slot-sized fish, a lot of us don’t think that there are enough to warrant the reopening of snook season this fall. There are a lot of snook, but not enough of the large breeders when compared to the year before the big freeze back in 2010. Please carefully release all snook.

Large trout continue to fill out dinner menus for area anglers. Some of these fish are so large you will think you have latched onto a good-sized red. Remember that these trout don’t freeze well. Keep only what you will eat in the next day or so. Trout are hitting live bait, shrimp, and a variety of artificial baits. Look for them anywhere from the passes to the grass flats.

Pompano are to be found around the passes, and especially on the flats adjacent to those passes. If you are running on plane over one of these areas, it is not uncommon to “skip” some pompano behind the boat. If that happens, make a big loop, shut down and fish that area where you saw the fish. Bright-colored jigs that are tipped with shrimp work well, but sand fleas are hard to beat.

Red grouper are on the feed in offshore waters. Fish in the 30-inch range are being boated by area anglers. Live bait or cut bait will work well on these guys. If you don’t have some “numbers” for a fish-producing area, use your bottom reader to find some hard bottom, and try a drift or two over the area to find the fish. Once you get a hook up, hit the man-overboard feature to instantly mark the location. You then can go back and anchor up to see if the area will produce numbers of fish. A little chum will help.

Ten Thousand Islands: Running out of Goodland, Capt. Aron Blaisdell has been enjoying a fantastic snook bite. This is continuing proof of the recovery in this hard-hit area.

Most of the snook are running in the 16- to 22-inch range, but there are the big girls getting ready to spawn. Aron has had anglers bring in a couple of larger fish, too. Tarpon are roaming the near-shore and inshore waters.

Capt. Blaisdell reports that fish in the 80- to 150-pound range have been encountered. The reds seem to have slowed down after last month’s good bite. Trout ranging from 15 to well over 20 inches also are eating live baits. And speaking of live baits, this is the best showing of live bait down in the islands in some time and that is good news.

On a recent trip, former NFL great Jason Taylor, along with his father-in-law and son, enjoyed a very productive day on the water. On a half-day, they boated 25 snook, three slot reds, and lost two monster snook. Aron says the water is still off color, and the temps range around 80 degrees.

Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Steve Sabara has been enjoying a fishing bonanza in the Naples area recently. He has had anglers catch everything from snook, to reds, to pompano, and tarpon. Spanish mackerel and pompano also have been in the mix.

Steve says that in the last week the bait situation has tightened up somewhat. He had Bob Lubas onboard recently, and he landed and released a huge, 41-inch snook on live bait. Most of the snook are still in the back, but the larger ones are around the passes.

Along with the snook, some nice-sized mangrove snapper to 14 inches are to be found in the back. Capt. Sabara also has had guests trying their hand at tarpon, and as of Tuesday has jumped six ranging from 120 to about 180 pounds, but alas the final score is Fish 6, Anglers 0.

If you have a report to share, send it to captsnookus@hotmail.com

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