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NAPLES — Good new for grouper anglers. The 2013 season for gag grouper has been announced for the state of Florida, and it is an improvement over last year’s. As of July 1, anglers can keep legal-sized gag grouper in state waters, and the season will continue until Dec. 3.
Gags tend to move well offshore during the warm months, and the fact that next fall we will have a shot at gags as the water cools and they move to more accessible waters for local anglers. The federal season has not been announced yet, but it is expected to be similar to the state season.
Well, I was hoping that we could make it through February without a major cold front hitting us, but this past weekend reality came to us in force. Water temperatures dropped around 15 degrees in just a couple of days, and that didn’t help fishing at all.
Before the front the water inshore was in the 70-degree range, and a lot of snook and reds were willing to eat a bait. Large jack crevalle also were in the mix, and in some locations there was a good trout bite. Live bait was readily available offshore and on the beach. Obviously it will take a couple of warm days to get us back on course, but according to the forecast, we can look forward to a good stretch of warm days.
Red tide survived the high winds associated with the cold front, and in some areas is really bad. On Tuesday, I was getting bait offshore, and a lot of it died before I got back into the bay. Down in Naples, it has been even more severe.
Offshore, the wind kicked up the water and actually made for better snapper fishing. Mangrove snappers and lane snappers will receive most of the offshore attention until the end of March when we can resume fishing for red grouper. A lot of nice gags are to be found relatively close to shore, and make for good catch-and-release fishing, but be careful to return all gags safely back into the water.
Ten Thousand Islands: Fishing has been real good, according to Capt. Rob Walczak. Fishing out of Goodland, Walczak has been catching a lot of trout in the 13- to 19-inch range. There are a lot of shorts, but if you work at it, you can come up with a limit for dinner. He has been using a jig tipped with shrimp and, along with the trout, he has been catching black drum and pompano, too.
Earlier in the week, Rob got into a bunch of snook while using live bait. Most were on the small side, but a nice 10-pound fish was caught and released. On Monday, the afternoon tide proved to be a good one for anglers Joe and Phil Latorre. They were into a lot of fish, and landed five nice pompano and big black drum to 29 inches.
Rob says the water ranges from clean to dirty depending on where you are, and which direction the wind happens to be blowing that day.
Offshore: Onboard the “Capt. Marvel” skippered by Capt. Clarence Fleck, the target has been snapper. Using cut bait, anglers have been into mangrove and lane snapper up to three pounds. The front stirred up the water, and that makes the wary snapper a little easier to fool.
Capt. Fleck has been fishing half-day trips about 12 miles offshore. Before the front, there was a good number of king mackerel located 20 to 23 miles out of Gordon Pass on a heading of 260 degrees. Very nice of him to pass that information along. It will probably take a couple of days of settled weather to see if they are still holding in that area.
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Todd Geroy said that last week the red tide continued to seriously affect fishing in the Naples area. Add to that the weather pattern we enjoyed, and you have less than ideal conditions. Heavy winds, rain, and a cold front all contributed to mixed conditions, and Capt. Geroy was targeting anything that would bite, and as usual he was quite successful.
Moving around a lot, he put anglers onto reds to 25 inches, working pockets and points. The key was getting a bait well under the mangroves. Plenty of mangrove snapper, some small snook, black drum and sheepshead (to 3 1/2 pounds) made for successful trips.
On Saturday, Doug Brown, along with sons Jeff and Dave, boated five nice reds along with loads of snapper and black drum on their half-day trip.
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