FISHING

Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Hurricane Nicole could hamper red snapper mini-season

Will Geraghty
Special to the Naples Daily News

After a nice stretch of placid weather, tropical wind, rain and rough seas will once again frustrate Southwest Florida anglers shallow and deep.

Post-Ian conditions continue to improve with each passing day and the fish were chewing. Certainly, November will be a month to remember as the region prepares to be brushed by Hurricane Nicole. 

While altogether not uncommon as Southwest Florida experienced tropical storm ETA back in November 2020, the timing and effects of Nicole could not be worse for offshore enthusiasts looking to push out beyond the horizon on November 11-13 for the scheduled fall red snapper mini-season. Hopefully, fishery managers will reschedule the dates before year's end due to inclement and unsafe Gulf conditions.

Previously:Southwest Florida Fishing Report for Nov. 3: Snapper biting on ledges and artificial reefs

Southwest Florida Fishing: Be cautious on the water for pollutants and bacteria

During the reporting period, offshore recreational and charter boat traffic was brisk. Truly a positive sign during the recovery, anglers were treated to an outstanding snapper bite and increased numbers of gag grouper coming over the rail. Artificial reefs, rock piles and ledges continue to be hot spots for best reef fishing results.

Closer to shore and in the shallows, large shoals of baitfish washing in and out with the tide continue to fuel rod-bending action within area passes, along middle bay shorelines and flats. Consisting of various grades of sardines/herring, the baitfish have been easy to catch using a 6-, 8- or 10-foot cast net. Expect the baitfish to scatter and then return to their traditional haunts as the conditions begin to settle.

Taking the bait within the shallows, snook and redfish were popular targets. However, anglers casting jigs and shrimp were rewarded with catches of black drum, jack crevalle, ladyfish, pompano and a scattering of speckled trout.

Truly, the area waters and fishery still have that summertime feel even as we ease deeper into the fall season.

Offshore

“We have enjoyed some good Gulf conditions, but weather looks to now keep us in port for a few days,” said Capt. Brandon Lawson. “Full day offshore bottom fishing was active and several fun trips along the beaches and out to the very nearshore wrecks.”

Working shoals of baitfish along the beach and just offshore, Lawson and his Solo Lobo crews have kept the rods bent and the drags screaming while casting live sardines, trolling silver spoons and laying out enticing spreads of fresh chunk baits. Taking the bait was a healthy mix of Spanish mackerel and shark.

Full-day outings found Lawson working ledges and artificial wrecks with success. Catches of mangrove/yellowtail snapper, gag grouper and barracuda kept the Solo Lobo crews hooked up and happy.

Naples/Estero Bay

“It was a good week of catching in the waters of Naples and Marco Island,” said Naples Bay skipper Capt. Pat Gould. “Each trip had activity and variety.”

Live bait was easily obtainable and effective each day for Gould. Prospecting all areas of the inshore, Gould kept his anglers hooked up to snook redfish, mangrove snapper and jack crevalle within the passes, around residential docks and deeper mangrove shorelines.

Mixing things up found Gould casting live sardines and bucktail jigs just off the Naples and Keewaydin Island beaches in water depths ranging from 10 to 18 feet. Snapping up the sardines were Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and feisty jack crevalle.

Ten Thousand Island

“Aside from hurdles because of Hurricane Ian, the fly fishing has been good,” said Goodland-based guide Capt. Paul Nocifora. “Going slow within areas of the islands is still necessary, as the mangrove landscape has changed.”

Nocifora reports that even though the waters remained stained there are plenty of catching opportunities for the inshore/backcountry angler. Casting a Lightbulb pattern from Mangrove Outfitters and small EP baitfish imitations has kept his groups hooked up to snook, redfish and aggressive jack crevalle.

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