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NAPLES — Unless you have a fairly large boat -- with an enclosed cabin -- your fishing excursions are most likely limited to mornings considering the regularity of afternoon rains. Not only that, as the morning hours progress and the temperatures rise, the fishing conditions get somewhat uncomfortable.
The best inshore bite is in those early morning hours with snook and reds on the feed. With live bait a hit-and-miss proposition, you might want to throw surface plugs for the snook, and jigs for the reds. If you can come by some fresh ladyfish, try chunking pieces. Both reds and snook will jump on this tasty offering. At this time of year, shrimp are running very small, and you have to use more than one on a hook to coax a bite.
Bay waters are tannic-stained, but generally clean. Water along the beaches is very clear, but that just makes sight fishing for snook that much better. Snook are all over the beaches and around the passes. Reds are hanging around the middle islands and in some bays as long as there is some current for them to feed into. Don't forget to look for those in the early morning -- just before sunrise -- as they roll and gulp some air.
For the boats heading offshore, the best game in town is still the red grouper. A few gags are being had here and there, but for a consistent fishery, the reds over hard bottom are your best bet. Keeper grouper are being landed as close as 10 miles off the beach, but the farther out you go, the better and bigger the fish get.
There are still Spanish mackerel, sharks, barracuda, and goliath grouper out there as well. If you want to try your hand at sharks, then try to drop a couple of cut baits on the outside of a pass on a good outgoing tide. Hang on!
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Andy Werner reports very good redfish action down in the Islands. He has been fishing south of Everglades City on recent trips, and has scored lots of reds.
In a recent tournament, he boated plenty of reds to 25 inches, and a number of overslot fish as well. Andy was using cut ladyfish to entice the bite, and he had several nice snook take the cut bait as well. He boated several in the 30- to 34-inch range.
Capt. Werner reports that the water quality is not bad for this time of year. Also he has seen a good number of gators and one croc down south.
Naples/Estero Bay: Snook fishing has been pretty good for Capt. Tim Daugherty recently. While he has had to work hard to fill a live well with usable bait, the end results have been good.
Tim has been starting his trips as early as 6 a.m. to work the rolling juvenile tarpon with surface lures. By 7 a.m., the fish are gone, and Capt. Daugherty starts looking for snook in the passes and on the beaches. Most of the fish are in the 20- to 27-inch range, with an occasional big girl getting in the mix.
For reds, Tim moves into the bay and fishes around the middle islands. Small schools of reds are willing to eat a live pilchard or a piece of cut bait. Afternoon rains have limited his trips to the mornings.
Offshore: According to Capt. Mike Avinon, all offshore trips have one thing in common, and that is red grouper.
Michael had a full day where they put nine keeper red grouper in the box for dinner, and then went to look for some larger action. Goliath grouper were the target and his anglers got worn out hauling four up to the boat to be released. The largest was about 150 pounds.
A 12-hour trip had the "Findictive" out 60 miles offshore to some prime bottom. His anglers put 24 keeper red grouper in the boat and released other fish as well. These keepers ranged to 15 pounds, and they added a couple of mutton snapper to the catch as well.