Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle biting nearshore

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.

While rapidly approaching fall on the calendar, several bites both shallow and deep remain as hot as a mid-summertime day. Slightly cooler air and water temperatures are on the way, but for now the ample baitfish and optimal tides truly have the fish fired up.

Out in the offshore arena, productive snapper fishing is keeping the rods bent.  Wrecks and ledges are holding respectable numbers of mangrove and yellow snapper. Feisty yet stealthy in nature, a light tackle presentation will increase the chances of snapper catching success. 

Seasoned snapper anglers often employ liberal lengths of 15- to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader combined with small-sized circle hooks to fool their quarry. Natural baits including live shrimp, sardines and squid combined with a variety of chumming products should always be on board and part of the routine.

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

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

Remember, our region’s top offshore target red grouper is now closed and will remain closed to harvest in both state and federal waters until Jan. 1. However, as the Gulf waters begin to cool, expect the gag grouper bite to ramp up. Found around and over ledges, rock piles and artificial reefs, gag grouper have a two fish per harvester per day limit and must measure a minimum of 24 inches.

Within the nearshore, conditions have a fall feel during the first few hours of daylight. Light northeast winds, shoals of baitfish, and diving seabirds are greeting anglers once they have breached an area pass. Under the birds diving from above, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle are snapping up trolling/casting spoons, natural colored jigs and live sardines.

Inshore enthusiasts continue to revel in an array of shallow water piscatorial opportunities. Ample bait of varying sizes is fueling snook and redfish action during all phases of the tide. Complimenting the game fish, pompano, jack crevalle and ladyfish are patrolling the flats, channels and beach troughs during the incoming tide phase. Casting jigs and flashy spoons will keep anglers tight to the action.

Offshore

Despite some active weather and erratic sea conditions out deep, Capt. Brandon Lawson has enjoyed three-quarter and full-day productivity aboard his Port O Call Marina-based Solo Lobo. Exclusively prospecting ledges and artificial structure. Lawson and crew have been putting together some vibrant snapper catches.

Lawson’s offshore prowess has found him anchoring up in water depths of 75 to 90 feet. Coming over the rail were limits of mangrove and yellowtail snapper, porgies, and a scattering of keeper gag grouper. Live bait and jigs were used for bait.

Lawson reports that the Gulf water has great clarity and there are shoals of baitfish prevalent along the beaches and out to the horizon.

Naples/Estero Bay

The beaches, passes and middle bays are providing a variety of opportunities for my anglers aboard my Naples City Dock-based guide boat the Grand Slam. I have been mixing up my charters casting live bait, an array of jigs and trolling 2- to 3-inch Clark spoons.

Drifting deeper beach troughs during the high tide phase and in between island cuts has been fruitful. Foraging on the shell substrate and eagerly snapping up a slowly retrieved jig has been pompano and mangrove snapper. Just off the beaches and early in the fishing day my anglers enjoyed quick trolling hookups with Spanish mackerel.

Middle bay points and areas of downed dead wood have been holding snook and redfish for my crews. Live scaled-sardines free-lined presented under a traditional popping cork was my go-to method for the week.

Ten Thousand Islands

“Snook fishing has been active for several months, but slight changes are beginning to happen here in Ten Thousand Islands”, said light tackle guide Capt. Joe Cassaro of Joesnook Fishing Charters. “Increased numbers and size of redfish are beginning to show up.”

Early and late departures have Cassaro and his casters prospecting outside flats from Indian Key southward. On the outside, Cassaro has found redfish success casting half-ounce gold spoons and paddle tails. The spoons and paddle tails allow Cassaro to cover increased water and locate the schools.

Pushing eastward into the islands, Cassaro is connecting with snook and more redfish around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines while presenting Mirrolure top water plugs and live pilchards free-lined, lightly weighted, and under a traditional popping cork.

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

Anglers, email your photos to news@naplesnews.com 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.