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NAPLES — After last weekend's big blow, conditions are vastly improved this week. Water that was brown is actually clear enough to see the bottom in three feet of water along the beach. Large schools of threads are moving just off the beaches and all that food should bring the predators to life quickly.
Snook are prowling the passes, beaches and bays in their prespawn mode of fattening up. Lots of good quality fish in the 24- to 27-inch range are being caught along with quite a few of the 30-plus club. Along with the snook, big trout are being found up and down the coast. Just find some fairly clean, deeper water that has current and give it a shot. These fish are running to over four pounds on a regular basis.
Reds seem to be here one day and hard to find the next. When they are around, a shrimp under a popping cork or on a jig seems to do the best, but also try a piece of cut threadfin in the bushes. Don't be surprised if a big snook eats it instead of the targeted red fish.
Tarpon are around in decent numbers, but getting one to eat is another story. On Tuesday, we jumped one, but saw quite a few in the area. Maybe with all the threads showing up that will change the tarpon's eating habits.
Jack crevalle are roaming the bays and beaches in numbers, and when they find a bunch of bait the "jack attack" begins. You will find schools of hand-sized jacks and schools of 10-pound fish, too. If you have never had a big jack on the line, it is quite an experience. It is a good thing they don't get as big as tarpon, because we would never be able to land them.
Offshore, the red grouper are consistently eating cut baits on rough bottom as close as 12 miles off the beach. It is not unusual for anglers to limit out when they make their first drop of the anchor. Along with the reds, there are still some gags being released and a lot of lane snapper that are going into the ice. Some large king mackerel are still being reported in the 12- to 15-mile range off the beach.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Brandon Acosta has been heading to the rivers south of Everglades City where he has been scoring on a lot of quality fish. Trout over 20 inches have been "burning it up," according to Acosta.
His anglers have been catching some nice reds, too. On Monday, Peter from New York landed a big, 29-inch fish while his buddy John (age 95) pulled in a good 26-inch red. Brandon says he is getting a couple of flounder on most trips, too. Changing it up, he sometimes has been running just offshore and scoring on cobia that are hanging around the structure. He has landed fish in the 30- to 47-inch range on recent trips.
Naples/Estero Bay: On Monday, Paul Lichtfeld, along with his son Paul and grandsons Houston and Ryan, joined me for a trip on Estero Bay.
First off, we went after some fish for dinner, and the big trout cooperated just fine. After putting eight big fish on ice and releasing another three big ones, we decided to look for snook and reds. After we pulled up on an island, it didn't take long before Ryan had the first one on.
Paul Sr. and Houston scored snook, too, but Paul Jr. kept using bass-fishing techniques and the fish got off. He did score a 22-inch red, one of two we caught that day. A number of jacks added to the fishing fun, and we landed about eight that ran up to about six pounds.
Capt. Sean Davis says he has been doing well on the incoming tides. After loading up on live bait, he has put his clients on snook around the points and oyster bars. Sean says that most of the snook are in the 24- to 27-inch range, but on each trip they are getting at least one fish of 30 inches or better. While reds have been spotty, the big trout have been hitting well around the passes.
Offshore: On his last full day before all the wind this past weekend, Capt. Michael Avinon had a full-day trip, and they quickly landed 12 keeper red grouper, and released other smaller keepers.
On the first drop of the day, as an angler was bringing a grouper to the boat, it was followed by an eight-foot tiger shark. The shark promptly ate the grouper boat side, which was exciting for the anglers, but not so much for the grouper. Monday, while on a half-day trip, they put three keepers on ice, which were later cooked up by the Dock Restaurant for lunch. All the fish are being caught on cut bait. Mike says that there are still some big kings being caught on the half-day trips.
While on a recent three-quarter-day trip, Capt. Ed Nichols had his anglers limit out on red grouper in just one hour. The Ken Johnson group then went trolling for kings, and boated a couple with the largest hitting about 35 pounds. With lots of time left, they went back to catch and release on red grouper, and also hit a nice bunch of lane snapper.