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NAPLES — Don't look now, but the wind hasn't been blowing out of the west for a couple of days, and that sure makes for better fishing conditions for inshore and offshore anglers alike. In fact, on Sunday, you could actually look for bait on the beaches, and the water was clean enough to spot some cruising snook.
Water temperatures are ranging into the mid-80s in the bays and lower 80s offshore. Summer conditions are here for the next few months. Even though we are halfway through June, frequent thunderstorms haven't been a problem yet. The calmer winds will allow boats to resume the hunt for tarpon and permit in nearshore waters, and make for fewer "green" fishermen on offshore trips.
Live bait has been a here-today, gone-tomorrow situation in many areas. If you get the bait though, the snook are more than willing to eat them up.
We have had reasonably good outgoing tides in the morning and an afternoon/evening high tide. Planning-wise, if you can get out early or later in the evening, the action should be at its peak. Snook and, to a lesser extent, reds are finding their way onto hooks up and down the coast. Some larger snook are being reported from the Ten Thousand Islands up through Estero Bay. Trout seem to have moved out to deeper/cooler water for the most part, but lots of mangrove snapper are to be found in passes and backcountry waters.
Red grouper are still eating well offshore, and limiting out on keepers seems likely if you can put your bait down in the right location. A lot of the boats are still ranging out to 80 to 100 feet of water, and being rewarded with large grouper, up to the mid-teens. Closer to shore, you can expect more shorts, but there are still a lot of keepers to be had.
Offshore: The "Findicitve" reports that a number of trips had to be canceled due to high winds, but when they did get out, they filled the fish box.
Capt. Michael Avinon says that on Friday, they went out to about 100 feet of water where they nailed the big red grouper. A limit of 16 keepers went into the box, and they ran to 15 pounds.
On a 12-hour trip Saturday, they ventured out even farther, and the target was red snapper, 12 of which went home for dinner. Before they left that area, a bunch of diving birds attracted attention, and a few minutes later a nice 25-pound blackfin tuna was on ice. The catch of the day honors goes to Jack Moscovitz, who pulled in a huge, 20-pound mutton snapper at the end of the trip.
Ten Thousand Islands: Tarpon on fly in the early morning hours have been the quest for Capt. Jeff Legutki down in Everglades City. He is finding fish rolling first thing in the morning.
Tom Hargrove of St. Louis fished with Jeff for three days recently, and during that time, he jumped eight silver sides and landed three, with the largest running to about 90 pounds. Jeff has been using bait pattern flys at this time of year, and he has been doing well on the snook and reds, too. Most of the reds are in the 23- to 25-inch range, but some of the snook are running over 30 inches. According to Capt. Legutki, snook fishing isn't quite what it was before the freeze of several years ago, but that it has come back quite a bit.
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Pat Gould says fishing has been good recently. On a recent half day, he filled the baitwell in just two throws of the net, which allowed his anglers to start the day a little earlier.
It was one of those days when the snook were everywhere and were quick to take an offered bait. Starting in the passes and then working outside points, Capt. Gould had his group on fish for the whole trip. In addition to the snook, they got a couple of flounder and a mess of mangrove snapper.
In fact, Pat said that the smaller snapper seemed to be more aggressive than the larger ones. Spanish mackerel are around, but moving quickly from place to place. Tarpon fishing took a hit with the west wind, but hopefully we will have some better conditions this week.