Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Spanish mackerel keeping morning anglers busy inshore

Will Geraghty
Special to the Naples Daily News
Capt. John Brossard took soldiers from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa out during the 2022 Naples Take A Soldier Fishing Event held Sept. 8-10.

Snook and redfish remain center stage for inshore light tackle inshore enthusiasts. While the action is outstanding in the passes and out along the beaches, plenty of the popular game fish are being landed in the middle bay systems.

Live scaled sardines have been very easy to procure and remain the region’s top snook/redfish offering. However, artificial lures and small profile baitfish fly imitations are garnering plenty of looks and exciting strikes. Anglers expect this bite to only get better as we progress further into the fall season.

Pushing out to the nearshore arena, select artificial fish havens are now hosting shoals of small-scale forage fish. In hot pursuit of the easy meal are ravenous packs of mixed-grade Spanish mackerel. Showing up on the scene during the early morning hours is a near guarantee to experience the rod bending action.

Previously:Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Anglers moving from red group to gag grouper and snapper

More:Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Catch red grouper while you can, season ends on Aug. 30

Anchoring up the current of the submerged structure and broadcasting ample amounts of live and frozen chum will assist in drawing the mackerel within casting range. Once the mackerel are chummed up and chewing, presenting live sardines, white bucktail jigs and casting spoons rigged on 30- to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader will make for quick hookups.

Remember anglers, fall fishing is historically action-packed out on our local nearshore artificial reefs. The vertical relief of the structure creates a deviation in the current and commonly pushes water referred to as upwelling toward the surface. Below and nestled on the substrate, an eclectic array of materials hosts a wide variety of marine life or benthos. This benthic community is complex and comprises corals, plants, microorganisms, crustaceans, reef, and pelagic fish species.

Anglers making a trip out to the reefs during the fall can expect to cross paths with several migratory Gulf species. Following favorable water temperatures and forage, cobia, Spanish and king mackerel, bluefish, jumbo ladyfish, and speckled trout are just a small sampling of the species that will make a local reef pitstop this fall.


“Decent seas this week made for some comfortable half and full-day charters," said Capt. Kraig Dafcik. “Overall, the fishing has been good.”

At the helm of his Port O Call Marina-based Alabama, Dafcik has been selecting areas of hard bottom located in 80 to 100 feet of water depth on full-day outings while concentrating on 50 to 60 feet of depth when on shorter trips. Stopping and shopping over his various marks, Dafcik is keeping his groups hooked up and happy.

Deploying cut squid and herring resulted in catches of mangrove/yellowtail/lane snapper, porgies, and consistent catch-and-release red grouper for the Alabama crew. Dafcik reports that scattered schools of Spanish mackerel can also be found schooling along the beaches out to the 20-mile mark.

Naples/Estero Bay

“Good tides and conditions have made for steady catching,” said light tackle guide Capt. Chris Turner. “Baitfish have been abundant off the beaches and out over the nearshore reefs.”

Early departures have found Turner and his casters working inside Doctors and Gordon passes and several middle bay systems with live sardines either free-lined, lightly weighted or presented under a traditional popping cork. Concentrating on areas of current and natural structure, Turner’s anglers have enjoyed fast action with snook, redfish, jack crevalle and numerous mangrove snapper catches.

Ten Thousand Islands

“The fish have been cooperating for us in the upper Ten Thousand Islands,” said Capt. Chris Sommer. “Live bait has been easy to locate, and recent tides have made for active outings.”

Sommer has been concentrating his guiding efforts on several select nearshore artificial reefs and along Gulf-facing shorelines during the higher stages of the tide. Taking the bait for Sommer’s casters have been snook up 37 inches, redfish and limits of mangrove snapper. Sommer has been using live sardines and finger mullet for bait.

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