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NAPLES — Why go to the Bahamas or the Keys for crystal clear water when you have it right here? Conditions have settled down, and the water along the beaches and the passes is the clearest of the season.
Sight fishing for snook along the beaches is almost like stalking a bonefish in the Keys. Until the heavy rains start, the water should remain good unless we get another big blow for several days.
Bait is all along the beaches. Schools of small threadfin herring are right on the beach as well as brown swarms of glass minnows. Look for the pilchards in really close. Of course, all that bait is attracting the predators. Snook, mackerel, ladyfish, and yes, even tarpon, are taking advantage of this buffet line of bait. Small sharks and jack crevalle are liable to join the fray, too. Inshore fishing is at its best right now, so get out there and wet a line.
For the offshore anglers, not only are the red grouper plentiful and hungry, they are being joined by some sizable king mackerel chasing blue runners. If you have some live bait and are offshore fishing for grouper, be sure and run a flat line with a live bait on it behind the boat. Make sure to loosen the drag so that if a king hits, it won't pull the hook. When one goes off you could very easily have a 30- to 40-pound king on it.
Permit are now showing up on the wrecks, and are a sucker for a silver dollar-sized crab. If you can keep a hooked permit away from the wreck, you will have one heck of a fight.
Offshore: Conditions were really good the last few days for runs offshore. Capt. Michael Avinon says that the red grouper bite is still very strong, with the better-sized fish farther offshore.
On a full-day trip with Ron McKenzie and friends Garry Allen and Larry, they scored 11 keeper grouper and five kings to 25 pounds. Monday, Capt. Mike ran a trip with members of the Naples Fishing Club, and they got out to the 90-foot range, and really nailed some great red grouper. They landed 18 keeper-sized reds, and the largest was a huge, 34-inch fish that weighed 19 pounds.
Naples/Estero Bay: Absolutely beautiful water in the Estero/North Naples area currently. It is so clear that clients get scared when you are running in four feet of water, and they think it is only a foot or so.
Bait is all over the place, and so are the fish. On Tuesday, I had Bob Linesch from the Brooks Fishing Club, along with Bob and Al for a half day on Estero. At the end of the trip, Al won the big fish award, and Bob won the high hook prize. One of the other anglers, no name mentioned, won the early release award. The talley ended up with 17 snook to 26 inches, two jacks to five pounds, two mackerel, one baby goliath, one 20-inch trout, and one nice flounder.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Matt Hoover have been fishing most days recently, and he has been "killing it."
On Tuesday, he had Jim Croff onboard and, along with about 15 snook, Jim managed a grand slam. His tarpon was a big, 130-pound fish that was caught on cut bait. The trout was a huge five-pounder, and four reds finalized the slam.
Bait has been easy, and the water is really nice around Caxambas and pretty good in the islands. On another tarpon trip, Matt had his angler go 0 for 6 jumped fish.