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NAPLES — Fishing has been reasonably good the past week, even though we had some pesky strong winds over the weekend. The wind stirred up the water in many areas, but by Tuesday the water quality had improved in many places.
With the predominately east or northeast winds, the beach waters have remained good, and bait continues to swarm along the beaches and is forced into the bays with the tide.
Speaking of tides, the strong winds have wrecked havoc with the tide schedules. On Tuesday, the tide was supposed to be low (in Estero) by 8:30 in the morning, but at 9:30 it was still pouring out, and when it started to come in, it took quite a while before we had any appreciable increase in the water level.
Inshore, snook and reds are getting most of the angling attention, but trout are making their presence known. Some catches of fish up to 20 inches are being reported. On Tuesday, Capt. Bill Curtis was cleaning a nice mess of trout for his customer in Estero Bay.
With all the bait pouring into the bays, the fish are having no problem with food availability. The key is to present to them something worthwhile. If you get something in front of them that looks like a larger or more desirable "portion," it is likely to entice a bite.
Look around the large schools of mullet for trailing reds. A piece of cut lady fish can be deadly on these spot tails at this time of year. Some larger reds are now appearing as we see the fall run of the bigger fish.
Snook can be found anywhere the food is, and that means from the beaches to the backcountry. Early morning surface lures can produce some great action, but for consistency nothing works like a live bait.
It is still not too late in the year for a tarpon experience. They can be found around the passes, either early in the morning or later in the evening, both times where boat traffic is at a minimum. At this time of the year, a live mullet it the best ticket.
With only days until the end of the 2012 gag grouper season, your shot at a great fish dinner is limited. If the winds cooperate and you get offshore, look for the nice ledges for the gags.
Red grouper are frequently found on areas of hard bottom, but can be mixed with a gag or two. While offshore, anything from a tarpon, shark or school of mackerel can be encountered. If you are looking for a big puller, try a chunk of cut bait on the bottom, and you might be rewarded with a visit from a large shark or a monster goliath grouper.
Offshore: Tom Marvel reports that Capt. Clarence had a great full day recently on the "Capt. Marvel." Running out to about 28 miles for the first drop, they were quickly into the fish. By the end of just two drops of the anchor, the crew had boated two gags and 13 red grouper that ran to 14 pounds. The gags ate live pin fish and the reds succumbed to cut bait.
After the limit of grouper Capt. Clarence made a move that resulted in encounters with goliath grouper and king mackerel that were caught and released.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Bill Jones, fishing out of Caxambas Pass, reports that the water is very dirty and "funky" looking, but that didn't hurt the redfish bite on Sunday.
He took out Jay Davis and friends for a half day in the Islands. Using "Gulp" shrimp under a popping cork, they landed 18 reds. Eight of them were shorts, but the rest of the fish were in the 22- to 25-inch range. They also boated a couple of flounder.
Sunday, Bill took out a group for a shark adventure, and they were kept busy with blacktips that ate cut bait fished on the bottom. The largest blacktip went about eight feet long, and a nice seven-foot bull shark was also brought to boat side before release.
Naples/Estero Bay: On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I had the "Georgia Boys" in town. Richard Butler, Rick Pollard, and Skip Pollard made thier annual trip south and were not disappointed.
Lots of snook, reds, and jacks were caught by the guys, but Saturday was the best day.
We started off with reds, and they were nice ones. At our first stop, they landed nine that ranged between six and eight pounds. Later in the day, they added two more hefty reds to bring the total to 11.
The snook bite was great, and we stopped counting after we passed 20. Most of the fish were in the 22- to 25-inch range, with a couple of 27s thrown in.
To end the day, we targeted baby tarpon, and much to Skip's dismay, he missed his chance (again!). Richard went two for three, and we got one more for a total of three tarpon landed. The largest was about 12 pounds, and they ate white baits.
By Saturday, the water conditions had deteriorated in Estero, and we fished Wiggins, where the bite was not nearly what we had the day before, but both reds and snook made it to the boat.