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NAPLES — As I write this, we are experiencing a very strong southwest wind that will be followed by another front that won’t affect air temperature all that much, but the fish are reacting to it.
The good news is that the tides for the next week are much better than we have had in quite a while. The incoming tides in the morning will gain about a half a foot of water over previous weeks’ tides, and that gets the water well up into the bushes and should increase catching opportunities.
Prior to the big blow, we were seeing water temperatures just under 70 degrees, but as of Tuesday, the temps jumped well into the 70s. In fact, on Tuesday, I saw my first tarpon of the season.
Speaking of tarpon, the word is that there are a bunch of them in the Flamingo area, and their northward migration might be somewhat early this year. It all depends on bait availability and water temperatures. If you have been running off the beaches recently, you had to notice the hundreds of pelicans sitting on the water, and that means there must be a good amount of bait in the water.
Inshore, the fishing has been good to very good, depending on where you were fishing. Snook were more active later morning into the afternoon hours as the water warmed. Reds are around, but not as plentiful as this time last year. Lots of good-sized jacks are roaming inshore areas, but they move fast and could pop up anywhere at anytime.
Red tide seems to have had an uptick this last week. Problems have popped up from the Ten Thousand Islands to the Estero area. Many times a well full of frisky live baits turned into a bunch of dead bait in just minutes. This has happened up and down the coast and it certainly has an effect on the catching program.
Offshore, the snapper bite has slowed down, forcing anglers to target amberjacks and king mackerel. The AJs seem to hold well on wrecks that are well offshore, and are a sucker for a nice blue runner or larger pinfish. The kings are closer to shore, about 22-25 miles off the beach. They can be had by drifting a live bait behind the boat or trolling some flashing-type lures behind the boat.
As we approach the first of March, we are enjoying a relatively mild winter with occasional fronts to disrupt things, but overall just think about the poor folks in Minnesota or Michigan.
Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Matt Hoover reports that the fishing had been pretty good until the big blow on Tuesday. He has had anglers nailing large numbers of trout. He has been using live pilchards for bait and the trout, up to 75 per trip, are eating them up.
The size range is from just under legal to about 20 inches. He also has been getting a few reds and snook on each trip. On Tuesday with the major blow well under way, Matt’s anglers boated a nice 30-inch, 10-pound red in the boat, and released as well as a just-under red.
The red tide has been a factor in the Islands this past week, and depending where you were, the bait might die or do well. Among the catch were reds, trout, snook, bluefish, and ladyfish. Matt said the water temperature was up to 78 degrees.
Offshore: The “Findicator,” captained by Michael Avinon, has been running both full- and half-day trips recently. The red tide also has been a factor for the offshore anglers, and Michael reports that blue runners have died even 10 miles offshore.
With the snapper bite a bit on the slow side, he has been targeting king mackerel and amberjacks on most trips. The amberjacks have been ranging from 25 to a huge 55 pounds. King mackerel have ranged from six to 20 pounds, and are hitting live blue runners or thread herring. On the nearshore trips, porgies and grunts have provided a lot of action.
Naples/Estero Bay: From Ken at Master Bait and Tackle, we hear that there have been kings about 26 miles out of New Pass and they are hitting live baits drifted behind the boat.
Inshore, there have been multiple reports of large sheepshead to 25 inches that have eaten shrimp. These fish are found around rock piles just off the beach. Reds and snook are to be found in the backcountry using live bait. There are some keeper triple tails on the crap pot lines, and they just love a nice-sized shrimp. Trout have been spotty, and there are some flounder and big jacks in the bay.
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