Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Action ready to ramp up into Memorial Day weekend
Anglers venturing both shallow and deep have been experiencing mixed bag conditions along with mixed bag catches coming over the rail.
While the overall effort is down, the action is truly heating up heading into the holiday weekend.
Within the inshore arena, tarpon are still testing skills, wills and equipment throughout the entire region. Taking a variety of offerings both early and late in the fishing day, schools of the popular game fish can be targeted inside the area’s passes, along the beaches and within select middle bay systems. Selecting a calm wind day will assist in locating the famed game fish.
Typical for latter May, the snook, and redfish bite is also providing rod-bending thrills. Excellent water quality and tides are fueling the action on this duo of gamesters with the best action taking place close to the open Gulf waters during times of swift moving tide. While live bait works wonders, snook and redfish can be enticed with a well-placed and retrieved lure, jig or baitfish fly imitation.
Out and over the nearshore artificial wrecks and reefs, anglers are enjoying a scattering of fast and furious mackerel and shark hook ups. The toothy bites are coming during the first few hours of the fishing day during low light conditions with live herring and trolling spoons being the preferred method. To avoid pesky bite-offs, savvy anglers will employ a trace of light single strand wire or heavy fluorocarbon leader.
While Spanish mackerel and brown sandbar sharks are providing most of the battles, there is still a surprising number of king mackerel cruising our local waters in the 7- to 30-pound class. Gulf water temperatures are rapidly approaching the low 80-degree mark; therefore, this could be the last flurry of kings the region experiences until the upcoming fall season.
Offshore and beyond the horizon, water depths greater than 90 feet are providing red grouper diggers their best opportunity at landing limits. Traditional natural hard bottom areas are yielding excellent catches of the popular grouper species along with vibrant catches of lane, mutton, mangrove, yellowtail and vermillion snapper.
Anglers employing stop-and-shop tactics of moving aggressively have reported solid action using a combination of live pinfish, squid and herring.
Remember, forecasts are indeed subject to change. However, varying conditions look to be holding fast through the Memorial Day fishing weekend. Pick your days wisely, fish the tides and not the clock and always listen to your captain.
Offshore: “Full-day fishing has been outstanding for my groups aboard the Solo Lobo,” Capt. Brandon Lawson said. “Our half-day trips have also been active but it is best to make the long run.”
Lawson has been pointing the bow of his Port O Call Marina-based Solo Lobo charter boat toward water depths exceeding 95 feet and finding catching success. Areas of natural hardbottom and scattered rock piles are yielding limits of red grouper, mangrove/lane snapper and jumbo porgies for his anglers.
Half-day trips have been fun for Lawson’s angling groups. Slow-trolling blue runners, threadfin herring and yellow colored tube lures are keeping the Solo Lobo rods bent with barracuda, a few king mackerel and the occasional spinner shark.
Naples/Estero Bay: Aboard my Port O Call Marina-based guide boat the Grand Slam, I have been focused on hooking up with both game fish and food value species. The tides have been great, and the water quality around Naples Bay has been clean and green.
Within the passes and middle bays, live scaled sardines presented near current swept points, residential docks and rock jetties are fooling good numbers of snook along with a healthy mix of redfish and mangrove snapper.
Early in the fishing day, my anglers are finding success casting pink- and chartreuse-colored tube jigs in the deeper beach troughs, sandbar edges and within select sections or runs inside Gordon and big Marco Passes.
Taking the bait has been pompano, Spanish mackerel and good numbers of fun fighting jack crevalle. While not a requisite, tipping the jig with a small fresh piece of shrimp does create an effective scent trail along with some incentive to strike the jig multiple times during the retrieve process.
Ten Thousand Islands: “The middle bays, beaches and nearshore artificial reefs have been top producers lately,” Capt. Chris Sommer said. “Early and late departures have been fruitful for my anglers despite some windy days.”
Sommer’s guiding prowess has found him focusing on island points and deeper shorelines within the upper Ten Thousand Islands. Casting live sardines/shrimp and soft plastic jigs, Sommer’s anglers hooked up with snook, redfish and juvenile goliath grouper. Light 10- to 20-pound class spinning gear was used.
Out on the nearshore reefs, Sommer has enjoyed catching success casting large chunk baits, live herring and crabs. Barracuda, snook, goliath grouper and sharks have all made their way into Sommer’s landing or boat side for a quick photo opportunity.
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