Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Snapper, redfish on the rise

Will Geraghty
Naples Daily News Correspondent
Holly with a nice snook while visiting Naples from La Jolla, Calif., with Capt. Christian Sommer.

An active beach bite is bending the rods and sizzling the drags for nearshore anglers, while offshore anglers remain busy catching snapper in what has been bumpy Gulf conditions.

Not to be outshined, backwater enthusiasts are finding increased numbers of redfish making their way into the landing net.

Needless to say, the October fishing is good here in Southwest Florida.

Up and down the entire coastline, massive shoals of baitfish are attracting an eclectic array of predators. From above, terns and brown pelicans are dipping for a convenient meal while below, sharks, pelagic species, tarpon and others are aggressively feasting on an all-you-can-eat buffet of herring, sardines, silversides and microbaits.

More:Southwest Florida Fishing Report: The air of fall brings new species like kingfish in play

More:Protect the pelicans: Board recommends changes to fishing rules at Naples Pier. Now council must decide

More:Collier hopes to preserve history of tourism, fishing industry in Goodland via restoration of cottages

Cashing in on this action, anglers are finding catching success with a variety of techniques.

Anchoring, bump trolling and drifting while casting jigs, live sardines or chunk bait have all been effective methods. Employing heavy fluorocarbon leader material is leading to more hook-ups. However, with such a large volume of toothy species on the prowl, a small trace of 30- to 60-pound wire leader will help avoid pesky cut-offs.

Currently this action is quite widespread throughout the entire region. Therefore, there is ample room for all to take part without encroaching upon your fellow angler. Locating an area to set up shop is fairly simple, if it is not possible to join an active fleet with minimal impact.

A few indicators to look for when searching the coastline for an area to prospect will be the presence of birds, visible baitfish to the eye, and on your onboard sounder/fishfinder, coupled with surface agitation or blitzes. Prior to wetting a line, seasoned anglers will take the time to drift and observe for good measure.

Pushing out beyond the horizon, it has been a bumpy period for those making a long run. Easterly winds combined with swift tides have made for several days of rough seas. Anglers making the brave commute are finding activity over hard bottom with catch-and-release red grouper, snapper and a scattering of king mackerel dominating the action.

While the open Gulf waters are a cornucopia of rod-bending activity, the mangrove shallows are also fired up with fall activity. Throughout the middle/back bay systems, snook, redfish, jumbo jack crevalle, juvenile tarpon and sharks are taking the bait. Anglers concentrating on areas of moving water are staying tight casting jigs, live sardines, lures and flies.

The forecast calls for multiple frontal boundaries to race down and across the peninsula, delivering high winds, seas and cooler ambient temperatures to the region. These weather changes will provide trying conditions for several days along with pushing some fish around both shallow and deep. 

Offshore: “We have been fishing around the conditions lately which has led to mixed bag catching,” Capt. Brandon Lawson said. “Overall it has been a good week aboard the Solo Lobo.”

Brisk winds out of the east have found Lawson and his angling crews working vast schools of baitfish along the beaches in 8 to 20 feet of water depth. Anchoring, along with heavy chumming tactics, have kept the action fast and furious with both free-lined sardines and chunk baits garnering the most attention.

Coming over the Solo Lobo rail was a steady pick of Spanish mackerel and blacktip sharks. Lawson’s highlight catch of the week was an estimated 14-foot sawfish, which was fooled by a chunk bait rigged on 40-pound class conventional gear.

Lucking into a few calm weather windows, Lawson aimed the bow of his Port O Call Marina-based Solo Lobo toward select natural hard bottom areas northwest of Gordon Pass. With red grouper and lane snapper closed until Jan. 1, Lawson targeted mangrove snapper using small-profile natural baits rigged on light tackle. 

Lawson is optimistic that after the next few cold fronts breeze on by, the king mackerel will begin to show up in its traditional fall haunts.

Naples/Estero Bay: Aboard my Port O Call Marina-based guide boat the Grand Slam, mixed bag catches have reigned supreme. Baitfish have been abundant along the beaches and inside the passes fueling several reliable bites.

The shark and mackerel opportunities along the beaches have been too active to pass up for my anglers. Anchoring or slow drifting while presenting live sardines and herring on a light single strand wire trace kept us hooked up and happy with Spanish mackerel, blacktip and brown sandbar sharks dominating the catch.

Within the middle bay systems south of Naples Bay and north of Johnson Bay, current swept points, deeper mangrove shorelines and oyster bar areas have been the scene for great flurries of snook and redfish. Live shrimp and scaled sardines free-lined or presented underneath a traditional popping cork has been an effective technique. 

Ten Thousand Islands: “During the period prior to the cold fronts, the fishing was excellent,”  Goodland-based Capt. Paul Nocifora said. “However, with the first few fronts of the year passing through, the water temperatures will drop, and it will be time to change our tactics a bit.” 

Early departures have aided Nocifora in beating the wind and enjoying the current beach bite. Casting small-profile baitfish fly patterns directly into bait schools and surface blitzes rewarded his casters with abundant catches of Spanish mackerel while casting toward small schools of snook along the shore edge has kept the long rods bent.

During the afternoons, Nocifora found snook and redfish success casting a white-colored Lightbulb fly pattern around submerged oyster bar areas, and along deeper mangrove shorelines possessing current and natural downed deadwood structure within the upper Ten Thousand Islands.

If you have a report to share email captwill@naplessportfishing.com.

Anglers, email your photos to news@naplesnews.com or post them at www.naplesnews.com/participate and we will compile your images into an online gallery that’s featured each Thursday morning at www.naplesnews.com. Do not submit photos of fish caught illegally.