Fishing Report: Foul weather still around, but wind has reduced red tide

LARRY REGIENCZUK

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For a while I thought that we might make it through the winter months without much in the way of winter weather, but I was wrong.

The last front sent water temperatures plummeting from the mid-70s to the low 50s. Also the heavy winds, coming from several different directions, have stirred up area waters quite a bit. As I write this, we are expecting another cold front to hit by Thursday, and that will keep water temperatures cool for another few days.

The good news is that the calendar is on our side. We are well into March, and while it may have come in like a lion, the chances are that it will go out like a lamb. I have had a report from down in Flamingo that a lot of tarpon were beginning to show just prior to this front, and with any luck they won't be long in starting the spring run up the coast. It all depends on water temperature and bait availability, but before long, the big silver tarpon will be within reach of area anglers.

Inshore, the fishing has been all over the map, depending on the conditions. Just before the front, we were seeing a fair amount of snook activity, and lots of big to huge jack crevalle, too. The colder water seemed to get the trout in gear, and the past few days have seen some good reports of sea trout up and down the coast. For the most part, they are eating shrimp, but some of the larger trout have been quite willing to eat a nice pilchard.

Sheepshead are another species that seem to have picked up as the water cooled. Fish up to three pounds have been chomping on shrimp. Black drum are being caught by anglers fishing for trout and sheepshead, and some are in the eight-pound range.

Snapper fishing offshore has actually benefited from the high winds. With the water somewhat cloudy, the normally hook-shy mangrove snapper become a little less spooky. There are several reports of good-sized gag grouper being caught and released, as well as the occasional king mackerel.

Naples/Estero Bay: Bigger trout were hitting "Gulp" shrimp for Capt. Tim Daugherty in the Naples area this past week. Tim is finding the fish in the deeper holes in the back bays. His fish are running from just legal to nice, 24-inch fish. He is putting the "Gulp" on a 3/8-ounce jig head, and working it slowly during the last of a falling tide.

A bonus catch has been in the form of six- to eight-pound black drum that also seem to like the "Gulp" shrimp. A few redfish in the 23- to 26-inch range are falling for a chunk of ladyfish up in the bushes during the last of the incoming tide.

Big catch of the week was by David and sister Linda Crouch. They boated a huge, six-pound trout the other day.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Stacy Mullendore says that with the constantly changing conditions, you have to work at getting fish. Conditions are dictating what species to go after, and when he can get live pilchards, Capt. Mullendore has been scoring well on big trout up to four pounds. He has been running south out of Goodland to find these nice fish.

If shrimp are the available bait, then big sheepshead have been the target. Fish have been running up to three pounds, and are plentiful. While fishing for the sheepies, some nice gags and mangroves are being caught. A nice, 19-inch mangrove was one of the keepers recently caught. Stacy says that one of the good things about the wind is that the red tide problem seems to have gone away, at least for now.

Offshore: For the offshore boats, the months of February and March mean snapper fishing, and the cloudy water created by recent winds have helped fool the mangs into biting.

Capt. Clarence Fleck, onboard the "Capt. Marvel," has been doing his snapper fishing in the 12- to 15-mile range, and his anglers are pulling in nice fish up to three pounds. On a full-day trip last week, one of the anglers pulled in a nice blackfin tuna in only 55 feet of water. The fish ate a live pilchard. A 25-pound king also was landed.

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

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