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NAPLES — Once again, we had a great weekend, if you wanted to fly a kite, but not so great to get out on the water.
In spite of less than ideal conditions, many captains did brave the elements with hardy customers on board, and they were rewarded for their efforts. The strong easterly winds made for sluggish incoming tides and more robust outgoing tides. Water along the beaches and even offshore was in reasonably good condition, and bait seems to have increased its presence.
For the boats that went offshore, the results were pretty good. On half-day trips, large lane snapper were the target. These are not your little palm-sized lanes. No, these are ranging up to 18 inches, and filet very nicely. Short grouper, porgies, and grunts rounded out most catches for the shorter trips. If you were able to get farther out, the red grouper went from legal to huge, with fish up to 16 pounds being reported.
The bays and passes are producing some good fish as well. Snook continue to haunt the areas just inside the passes and near islands. With more bait showing up on the beaches, the number of linesiders lurking the beach troughs will pick up, too. Trout running to 25 inches are being caught in the deeper cuts and holes. Make sure to release as many of these big fish as possible since these are the breeding stock, and will provide lots of little trout for future action.
Redfishing reports have slowed, with the best results coming from down Everglades City way. In Naples and Estero, they are still around, but just not bunched up.
This weekend the annual Gene Doyle Fishing Tournament will be held, with launches at Everglades City, Goodland, and Estero. This is a charity tournament that funds life-changing adventure/nature trips for local high school students. If you are fishing it this weekend, good luck.
Offshore: Capt. Clarence Fleck of the "Capt. Marvel" has been running half-day trips this past week due to the high winds. On a recent trip, his anglers landed 15 lanes up to 18 inches, with most over 12 inches.
As the water cleared up, the emphasis changed from snapper to grouper, and on Saturday's trip, a number of keeper-sized gags and red grouper were caught and released. The highlight of the trip was a giant goliath that was brought to the side of the boat. This fish was estimated to weigh 200 pounds.
The "Findictive" was able to get well offshore on a couple of the days last week, and according to Capt. Michael Avinon, the farther out you got, the bigger the grouper.
Using squid and cut threadfin herring, his anglers were pulling up red grouper to 16 pounds. Geoge Cardoza and three friends racked up 15 keepers before moving to a wreck to try for a permit, which George had been wanting to do for some time. With just three crabs on board, it was a crap shoot, but after a 30-minute battle, a nice 25-pounder was brought to the side of the boat for a photo before being released.
A note from Capt. Mike: he has seen the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation being very active in checking catches. Make sure that you are only keeping red grouper, and that they are at least 20 inches long (no stretching!).
Onboard the "Sea Legs," Capt. Tom Robinson ran two half-days on Tuesday. The morning bite was on the slow side, with porgies, grunts, and short grouper being caught. On the afternoon trip, the big gags seemed to wake up, and they landed three big ones up to 15 pounds (and released them). These fish seemed to really like pigfish as a bait. For a finale, a 150-pound goliath grouper lost a battle with an angler, but after a quick picture it was sent back to its home.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Andy Werner and his crew thought they were ducks on Sunday. Andy says that from the time he got out of his truck at the marina until the boat docked after a full day, it was rain, rain, and more rain.
His hardy crew hung in there, and ended up with a respectable catch for their effort. John Harris and Phil Plaxton from Boca Raton ended up with a dozen trout up to 26 inches that fell for live baits, as well as snook and reds. The dozen or so snook ranged from 25 to 28 inches, and a half-dozen reds in the 22- to 24-inch range. Andy said that the water clarity was not bad.
Farther to the south, Capt. Glen Puopolo headed out of Everglades City on Tuesday with John Pewter from Chicago.
Using jigs they were able to put seven nice snook in the boat. The fish were all nice-sized, and the largest went 33 inches. The jigs worked on the redfish, too. John also landed seven of those, and most were around 24 inches. Glen reports that the water quality is not too bad considering all the wind recently.
Naples/Estero Bay: Bait is back on the beaches, according to Capt. Tim Daugherty. Fishing the Naples area, Tim said the trout bite is crazy, with fish from 15 to 24 inches gobbling up live pilchards in the deeper cuts and holes.
He also said that the snook bite is real good, with more fish showing up weekly. While his anglers haven't boated any monsters recently, they are consistently bringing in (and releasing) solid fish in the 22- to 24-inch range. Redfish have been scattered, and Tim reports that he is picking up one or two in the back bays at the higher stages of the tides.
In Estero Bay, Capt. Steve Nagy also has been finding a lot of really big trout on recent trips.
Live baits on the bottom of the deeper cuts seem to do the trick on fish, from just legal 15 inches, to fish weighing four pounds or more. The snook are ranging around the areas near the passes. This includes nearby islands as well as the beaches and bridges. The snook are running from the 22-inch range to the occasional big girl of 30 or more inches. Steve reports that other than the east wall, Estero water is pretty stirred up.