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NAPLES — Well, we didn't have a white Christmas, but the cold front that blew through this past weekend sure felt like snow was a possibility. The chill also seriously changed the inshore fishing as water temperatures also plummeted.
Cold water and snook do not go together well. Remember 2010 when we had the huge fish kill? Before the front, the snook bite was pretty good, and live bait was the ticket. After the front, forget about live bait and think shrimp or shrimp imitations like Gulp baits. Also slow, slow, slow in your presentation, because most species that are into eating are going to be moving slower, too.
A jig tipped with a piece of shrimp, or better yet thread a whole shrimp onto a plain jig head, worked slowly in deeper cuts and in the passes can entice a bite from any number of fish. Trout, pompano, black drum, reds, sheepshead, or flounder all will hit this offering, but take note that the bite may be very subtle. And bring plenty of shrimp with you because the small sheepshead can steal shrimp after shrimp before a decent-sized fish gets a chance to hit.
Offshore, the water temperatures were not as drastically impacted by the front, and the red grouper fishing remains consistent. The snapper bite could actually be pretty good with the water a little stirred up. As the wind shift to the east continues, getting offshore should become an easier task, but beware: another front is on its way.
Naples/Estero Bay: In recent days Capt. Tim Daugherty has been fishing both Naples and Estero Bay. Tim says that on Sunday when he left the house, the thermometer read 39 degrees and when he reached the water it was already a balmy 42.
Conditions in both areas are similar, with the water pretty much stirred up until you get well into the back. Capt. Daugherty has been using a shrimp under a cork later in the day over the grassy areas, and working deeper areas with a 3/4-ounce jig/Gulp combination.
In the shallower areas is where he is getting most of his trout, and they are running from just under legal size to nice 18 inchers as well as a few short redfish. Sheepshead and black drum are hitting the Gulp in deeper water and many of the sheepshead are nice keepers
Ten Thousand Islands: According to Capt. Matt Hoover, Sunday morning was colder than cold. Last week, he was fly fishing for redfish and seeing a good many. By Sunday he was dressed like an Eskimo as he set out to do back-to- back, half-day trips.
With high winds and dirty water, his expectations weren't too high, but he and his anglers ended up pretty surprised. Using shrimp under a popping cork, Matt started working points that hold fish on the good days, and the snook, jacks and rat reds provided good action. A big sheepshead, a couple of nice trout, and a 10-pound black drum ended the morning trip.
For the afternoon a father and his 7-year-old son were aboard. The tide was fast running out, and the fish were still eating. Matt was casting for the youngster, and after about his sixth red, his father started "poaching" and he also got into the reds. A 24-inch snook was also brought to the boat and released.
Offshore: Capt. Tom Robinson braved choppy seas and headed out on Sunday for a day on the big water. The "Sea Legs" traveled about 24 miles out before the fishing started, and the ride was worth it.
Using cut bait, Capt. Tom's anglers, Dan Michols and party, got into the red grouper. When all was said and done, a dozen nice grouper to 27 inches were iced down. Dan has been fishing with Capt. Robinson for 25 years, and results like these are the reason why.
The group also caught several mangrove snapper to 19 inches, and got into the amberjack later on. The biggest A.J. hit 35 pounds and was headed to the smoker. Tom said the water temperature 24 miles out was a nice 68 degrees.
One last note: It is time to make your New Year's Resolutions. Make one to be on the water a little more, and to catch more fish. Happy New Year!