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NAPLES — Red tide has been causing some very localized problems for area fishermen, but hopefully the big wind we are having this week will help to greatly dissipate it. And it has been spotty indeed.
On Tuesday morning, I was at Lovers Key and the water was clear and loaded with bait. That same morning my wife walked the beach near Docks Restaurant in Bonita, and she had to leave the beach because of the dead fish. Go figure!
Generally, water conditions have been very good for inshore and offshore anglers. The predominately easterly wind pattern has allowed the water to clear right up. We also are in the midst of the annual fall bait run, and there are "rivers" of bait moving in and out of the inlets. This gives the snook, reds, and other species a continuous buffet to feed on.
While this does attract a lot of critters, it can make them a little less likely to hit your offering when they have so much to choose from. Try to make your offering look different. Use the bigger baits in your well or try a chunk of ladyfish among the "oodles" of bait. Early in the morning try a topwater, though the bait pods or use a jig below them.
As this is being written, we are expecting a mild cold front to pass through in the next day or two. This will not cause water temperatures to dive, and by the end of the week, the strong winds should start to subside just in time for the weekend.
Not only is Halloween coming, we are also at the end of this year's gag season. According to Capt. Tom Marvel, there was a public hearing this past week to discuss the possibility of doing something (a split gag season) about the current restrictions on grouper. The two-month complete closure also is up for possible changes. One representative from the Gulf Council was there to hear local concerns and a vote is due next week. Here's hoping!
Offshore: Capt. Ed Nichols is back in town after his summer sabbatical up north. He reports that on a trip with John Barensta and his wife, the red grouper were very cooperative. Running just 11 miles off the beach, Ed put the couple on a nice pile of fish. They limited out with red grouper running to 23 inches.
They also encountered some nice-sized lane snapper in the 15- to 18-inch range. Three sharks, including two lemons, were also caught and released. Capt. Nichols saw no sign of red tide, and he said the water was very nice.
On the "Capt. Marvel", Capt. Clarence Fleck said the red grouper fishing is as good as it gets. On his full day runs he has been heading out to about 65 feet of water for his first drop and the fish have been keeping customers happy. Capt. Fleck also notes that the gags are returning to the wrecks. On his most recent trip the crew boated twelve red grouper and two gags to 15 pounds. No signs of red tide past 35 feet of water.
Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing down in Naples, Capt. Tim Daugherty has been enjoying a great snook bite using live pilchards for bait. He also has been scoring both snook and reds while sight fishing in two feet of water or less first thing in the mornings. For that, he typically has one angler throwing a topwater and another angler tossing a jig/Gulp shrimp. If the fish misses the topwater, it usually picks up the Gulp.
Tim also reports that bait is all over the place. Some pompano are showing up and will take the jig/shrimp combo. While stalking fish in the backcountry, Tim also is seeing some baby tarpon around the creeks, and they are willing to take a live pilchard tossed their way. Capt. Daugherty says he has seen very little signs of red tide down his way.
On Tuesday, 83-year-old Joe Bloom with the Brooks Fishing Club made our trip by landing a 21-pound tarpon on a 12-pound spinning outfit. He handled it like a pro!
Ten Thousand Islands: Running out of Goodland, Capt. Matt Hoover has been enjoying some great fishing on recent trips. Loading up on live bait, he has been working key areas around bars and points where a variety of fish have been willing to eat.
Reds, mostly in the slot, have been really on the feed, along with small to medium snook. Along with those species, Matt has been catching legal-sized trout, ladyfish, and mackerel.
Matt reports that the fall bait run is in full swing, and sometimes there is so much bait that it seems that the fish are ignoring the bait offering from his anglers. In those situations, he is finding that chunks of ladyfish will earn a bite from both snook and reds. He has seen a few tarpon recently, but no hook ups. Capt. Hoover reports that there are spotty reports of red tide down in the Ten Thousand Islands.