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NAPLES — A consistent easterly wind of 15 to 20 mph has been blowing for the past five days or so, and it has made for some skinny water in the bays for morning anglers.
Of course, at this time of year we get a weak, incoming tide beginning in the morning, and then after a period of almost no outgoing tide, we get a much better incoming. Unfortunately for most of us, this tide is in the evening. The wind has made for some real bumpy offshore trips, too.
Water temperatures are generally in the low 60s in the morning, and rising to the mid- to upper-60s in the afternoon. Water quality is generally pretty good on the east banks of islands and shoreline. I have heard that there is still some red tide in the area, and the latest occurrence was down in Naples.
As the temperatures continue to cool, we will see the inshore fishing change to "winter" conditions. While fish are still hitting live pilchards, live shrimp are picking up more and more bites. At some point, even a snook will prefer to eat a shrimp. Reds are eating shrimp and cut bait right now. Trout love a live shrimp on a jig fished in the deep cuts or on a light jig suspended under a popping cork and drifted over the grass. We have seen more of the small sheepshead stealing shrimp this week, and even a few black drum have been reported.
For you offshore anglers, the kings are over hard bottom, around the ledges, and the big ones are lurking around the wrecks. I have seen king mackerel eat everything from cut sardines to any large live bait. As mentioned in previous articles, when bottom fishing, have a live bait (or big live shrimp) off the back of the boat under a float. Be sure to keep the drag light so that the fish doesn't pull off during the first screaming run.
Naples/Estero Bay: This week I have fished in the Estero Bay and Wiggins Pass areas, and fishing has been reasonably good. Live pilchards scored 15 to 20 snook each trip, with most of them being on the small size.
The largest fish were in the 26- to 27-inch range. Most of the reds this week were shorts around 16 inches, but we did get a couple of keepers. Trout up to 18 inches were found on incoming tide where deeper water transitioned onto a flat. Shrimp on a jig did the trick. The occasional flounder hit the same offerings. Tides were not great, but once some water came in and you could fish the east side of the bay, you found much better conditions.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak fished on Thursday with his father, Lester, to celebrate his 75th birthday. Rob headed south down toward Lostmans, where they found a bunch of big specs.
The fish ranged to 20 inches and were taken on jigs. Lester and Rob also boated about 20 reds with the largest hitting 25 inches. Friend Josh Limback was also along for the trip, and they also got a pompano and a flounder. Water was cool at 62 degrees.
Saturday, Walczak fished out of Goodland with a group, and they hit the trout hard. Using jigs, they got specs to 17 inches and silver trout to 16 inches in water that was 65 degrees. In the very low water, they also caught several other species of fish.
Offshore: Capt. Mike Lucas of the "Cuda" reports that king mackerel are scattered over hard bottom and range from 8 to 12 pounds. He found some bigger kings around the wrecks, and they are hitting large live baits. The red grouper found close to shore are mostly shorts to 16 inches, but an occasional keeper shows up.
Capt. Bob Fisher ran out about 15 miles on Saturday onboard the "Sea Spirit" for a three-quarter-day trip. Onboard was Mark and friends, and they trolled part of the way out resulting in eight kings on the boat. After that, Capt. Bob made three drops, resulting in one keeper red grouper of 24 inches, lots of nice-sized lane snapper, and 28 mangrove snapper to 17 inches, as well as short reds, and grunts. Bob used live pilchards for bait.