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NAPLES — While our friends and relatives up north are freezing their butts off, we are enjoying summerlike weather, which has made for very nice conditions to get out on the water. Tides have been fairly low in the morning, and the southeast wind has murked up some areas waters, but overall it has been outrageously nice.
Our fish have been somewhat confused by these conditions, though. By their internal clocks it is supposed to be winter and the water temperature is supposed to be in at least the low 60s, not the mid-70s.
This is the time of year that shrimp is the only bait available for them to eat, not the loads of live bait that are on the beaches and in the bays. Snook are supposed to be way up the rivers and creeks finding water temperatures more to their liking. Well, throw out all the "how-to" books, and get out on the water. Snook, jacks, ladyfish, trout, sheepshead, black drum, redfish, pompano, and other species are all around for the taking, and offshore, the red grouper still think it is late summer.
On some days, you may find some fish that will only take a shrimp, and on others it is a live bait that merits a strike. Still on other days, it might be a nice piece of ladyfish that gets the redfish or snook to eat.
The secret is to keep trying. If one thing doesn't work well then try something else. Just a change in location may be the thing that results in success.
This upcoming weekend, the tides in the Estero area are less than great, but farther south, they aren't too bad. If the weather holds -- and it looks like it will -- this might be a good opportunity to try the nearshore reefs for some grouper or snapper fishing, and if you can get out a little farther you might find yourself in a school of kings.
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Steve Nagy reports that the fishing has been good between the fronts, and the extended warm weather does nothing but help. Steve has been changing up on techniques and locations in search of different species.
Sheepshead as large as seven pounds have been falling for a shrimp on the bottom. Steve has been working around the bridges, and dock pilings for these guys. He has been working the deeper holes for trout with shrimp on a jig, and then as the sun warms the water, he hits the grass flats using a cork with a 1/4-ounce jig under it. He puts a shrimp or a Flurry on the jig.
Reds have been haunting the bars and under the mangroves at higher water. He is using a shrimp under the popping cork on these spot tails. Live bait has resulted in some mighty tug of wars with jack crevalle in the 20-pound class, and for those of you who haven't ever tangled with a jack of 10 pounds or more, they are the strongest inshore fish, period.
Ten Thousand Islands: Down Everglades City way, Capt. Pete Rapps reports that the redfish action has been very good, with catches of reds hitting 20 or more per trip. On a recent trip with Pete Klopf and son Parker and friend Bert, they put 28 reds in the boat while fishing just one spot.
Shrimp under a popping cork has been the favored presentation, and most of the fish are being caught near the outside islands. The pompano also have been hitting well and using a jig tipped with shrimp has produce up to 10 nice-sized pompano per trip. Capt. Pete also said that the sheepshead are hitting around the oyster bars and under the mangroves, using shrimp.
Offshore: Red grouper are still the star of the offshore anglers. They still haven't moved farther offshore since the water is still on the warm side, and there are some great fish out there to be caught.
Capt. Michael Avinon of the "Findictive" reports that he has been catching keeper grouper anywhere from 12 to 50 miles offshore. The grouper include numerous shorts and keepers from the just-legal 20 inches to fish over 30 inches.
All of the grouper that Mike has been catching are falling for cut sardines or squid. A recent trip out to 115 feet of water produced limits of red grouper to 32 inches. On Monday, Mike had another full day that resulted in 16 keepers to 34 inches. His anglers also boated yellowtail and mangrove snapper, as well as a 45-pound amberjack that went for a live pinfish.