Naples Fishing December 2011

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Red tide lingers off Southwest Florida shore

Red tide is a bloom of microscopic algae that emits a toxin that can cause respiratory irritation in people and kills marine life, from manatees to baitfish. People with emphysema or asthma should avoid the beach, the county warns

  • A smattering of dead sea urchins was found this week on South Marco Beach as a red tide continues to plague waters offshore off Collier County.

  • Collier County pollution monitors received reports of respiratory irritation Thursday from North Naples and an unconfirmed report of a fish kill at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island.

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data indicate the bloom extends from Lee County to the Florida Keys. Winds from the north this weekend should continue to push the bloom south.

  • Water samples taken Thursday showed red tide at very low levels at Barefoot Beach, low levels at Vanderbilt Beach, medium levels at Caxambas Pass boat dock, Naples Pier and South Marco Beach and at high levels at Seagate.

  • Monitors said they received reports of respiratory irritation Thursday on Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples and are warning people with asthma or emphysema to stay away from local beaches.

  • Water samples taken Tuesday showed red tide at low levels at Caxambas Pass boat dock, Barefoot Beach, Vanderbilt Beach and the Naples Pier, at very low levels at Seagate and at medium levels at South Marco beach.

Fishing Report: Warm weather keeping snook, redfish around

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 28, 2011

NAPLES — Another year has slipped by, oh so quickly too. As we close out this December, it is one of the warmest ones I have experienced in Southwest Florida.

Tuesday morning, water temperatures in Estero Bay were still in the 70-degree range, and last year at this time we were in the low 60s. Quite a difference.

Catches of snook and reds continue as if it was October or November, and only recently have the fish moved to the backcountry creeks and rivers. Live bait is still available, and on some days it is the ticket to a great day of fishing.

On the other hand, shrimp have been drawing bites from both snook and reds, as well as a host of other species. Trout, sheepshead, ladyfish, jack crevalle, mackerel, flounder and even bluefish have been showing up on the business end of a line.

On Monday, I wandered offshore about 10 miles, and we even saw a six-foot shark (lemon, I think). It has to end some time, and as I write this, we are awaiting a cold front that started its approach on Tuesday. We will have to wait and see the impact it may have on our fishing.

Good news for grouper fishermen. On Dec. 30, the bag limit for red grouper will increase from two to four fish per angler. Don't forget that all grouper fishing is closed from Feb. 1 until March 31. That is for all our species of grouper, gags, red, and black grouper.

If you are into making New Year's Resolutions, make one about spending a little more time on the water. Remember, it is rumored that time spent on the water doesn't count toward your lifespan. Free days!

Offshore: Onboard the "Capt. Marvel," a group went out with Capt. Clarence Fleck on Monday for a three-quarter day of fishing.

Running out to about 62 feet of water, the crew made its first drop and started catching grouper. Using live pilchards and cut bait, they released quite a few, and put eight keepers in the box. They also found a couple of schools of king mackerel that were more interested in the live chum than the ones on hooks. The water was extremely clear, and the hooks were not appreciated. Tuesday's full day was a repeat on the numerous grouper caught, with 10 groupers to 10 pounds going home to dinner.

Capt. Michael Avion ran full-day trips on Monday and Tuesday with very good success. Monday resulted in 10 keeper red grouper, and a number of amberjack to 30 pounds. Tuesday, in addition to the grouper and amberjack, Capt. Mike got into a bunch of schoolie-sized king mackerel, and using his "secret" lure, trolled up a slew of kings to 12 pounds. They used cut bait for the grouper, and Capt. Mike reported the water very clear.

Ten Thousand Islands: Down in Everglades City, Capt. Glen Puopolo has been very busy this December.

Reds, trout, and pompano have been the mainstay of his anglers on most trips. The trout have been hitting Riptide jigs fished over the flats on the outside, and they have been running on the big side, up to four pounds. The reds have been falling prey to a shrimp or small pilchard under a popping cork, and they range from 18 to 27 inches. Glen says the pompano have been running big, too, and have been caught while anglers are catching trout.

Capt. Matt Hoover says he will be glad when the "radical tides" we have been "enjoying" are a thing of the past.

Morning departures can be interesting, with a lot of real estate showing that is normally underwater. That hasn't hurt the red fishing, though. Capt. Matt is consistently hitting the reds using a shrimp under a cork, and they are running up to 28 inches.

Some smaller snook -- a good sign for the Ten Thousand Islands -- are showing up, too. While not fishing specifically for trout, some real nice ones have been hitting the shrimp. On Tuesday, his angler even got a 15-inch sheepie that went for the dangling shrimp.

Naples/Estero Bay: On a couple of recent mornings, Capt. Tim Daugherty has been hitting the last of the outgoing tide using live bait, and doing well until the water stops running.

"Early morning lows have been dramatic," Daugherty said. It becomes a game of finding the holes that are holding the fish until later in the day, when enough water is around to allow "normal" fishing. Late in the day on Tuesday, he hit on a bunch of nice-sized snook that included one slot and three reds. He also found some trout around the middle islands in the bay.

Running offshore for bait in the morning has become a "get 'em quick and run" game for anglers in the Estero Bay area this week.

Getting the bait is only half the battle, because we have some red tide that seems to be only affecting surface water. Once you get the bait in the well, the trick has been to get back inshore as quickly as possible without losing all your bait.

The good news has been that if you can get them into the bay safely, the fish are quite willing to gobble them up. On recent trips, I have encountered the same situation that Tim reports. Getting enough water into the bay is important for the better fishing, and the stronger east winds coupled with forecast very low tides resulted in enough new exposed land in Estero to make developers interested in putting up condos.

Happy New Year and a great year of fishing!

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Fishing Report: Winds only thing to complain about

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 21, 2011

NAPLES — If you are one of our many winter visitors from a northern state, I am sure that you are enjoying our beautiful December weather. With daytime highs in the upper 70s to low 80s, it is hard to believe that snow and ice are actually in the forecast for other areas.

While air temperatures have been nice, the wind has been somewhat of a nuisance for anglers. Offshore trips have been more than a little choppy, and even some of the exposed areas in bays have had some whitecaps. The water has stayed in the 70-degree range, which has given us a great blend of species to catch.

Offshore, grouper, amberjacks, and now some king mackerel are entertaining anglers. Inshore, it is possible to catch upwards of 10 species on a half-day trip. As long as the water doesn't get too cool, the snook and reds will be targets, along with everything from flounder to trout, and pompano to sheepshead for inshore anglers.

Live bait is still readily available in some areas, but getting more scarce in others. Shrimp are becoming the bait of choice for many anglers as the fish tend toward their winter diet of crustaceans. You can fish them whole under a popping cork or weighted down with a split shot. Put a small piece on a jig, and the number of hits increases substantially. If things are real slow, thread a whole one on to a jig and work it excruciatingly slow across the bottom of a deeper cut.

The nice weather is forecast to continue for the next few days, so if Santa brings you a fishing pole, get out on the water and try it out. Merry Christmas!

Offshore: Capt. Mike Lucas on the "Cuda" had a half-day trip on Tuesday. His group of three anglers headed out 10 miles in choppy seas, but the ride was worth the hassle. They got into a bunch of schoolie-sized king mackerel and had a blast.

Trolling at first until they located the motherload, Capt. Mike then switched to light tackle and bait. Fish after fish was pulling line off the reels as they screamed the drags. By the end of the trip, everyone had lost count of the 10-pound fish they had landed, but all agreed it was well over 30. Mike said that the water was real nice despite the chop.

Robert Thompson and his two companions went out for a full day of fishing with Capt. Ed Nichols on Tuesday. After motoring out to the first drop, they got into the grouper, landing quite a few, including three keeper red grouper to 27 inches. They then moved to a wreck and hammered the mangrove snapper, limiting out. Amberjack bending rods and wearing out wrists ended the day, and three keepers went into the cooler.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak fished a fly/spin trip on Friday out of Goodland. Rob said they got mostly snook, with the largest being about 26 inches. Most of the others were in the 15- to 18-inch range, which is a great sign of a snook rebound for the Ten Thousand Islands.

Four reds, small jacks, trout and ladyfish rounded out the days catch. The fly used was a Puglisi Minnow, and a jig tipped with shrimp worked for the rest of the fish.

Down in the Everglades City area, Capt. Pete Rapps had an absolutely great day of snook fishing recently, his best since the horrible freeze nearly two years ago. They lost count of all the 20- to 24-inch snook, but did keep score on the bigger fish. Eight fish were over 30 inches, with one at 35 inches and a real monster at 40 inches. Pete said these fish were in a muddy bay and were tailing like redfish!

Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Jason Moore fished out of Naples on Tuesday with 20 snook and some small reds. He was using bait under a cork for the reds, and free swimming bait for the snook. On Monday's trip, he fished the near-shore reefs, and got into a lot of snapper as well as some nice catch-and-release gag groupers. Several in the 22- to 27-inch range were released.

Pompano have been feeding around the the passes south of Keewaydin, according to Capt. Todd Geroy. He has had anglers using a small tube jig tipped with shrimp, and is landing fish in the 14- to 22-inch range.

Todd also states that the large snook seem to be around in better numbers than the past few years. With water temperatures in the 70- to 72-degree range, the fish seem to still be on the feed. Johnson and Rookery bays have been producing most of the big fish, including a 13-pound, 32-inch fish caught by Bill Forte on last Thursday's trip. Todd has also been catching up to 25 reds on his trips.

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Fishing report: Water temps, action are in good shape

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 14, 2011

NAPLES — Here we are almost the middle of December and the uniform of the day is still a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. Paradise is tough to take! Add to that some fairly good fishing with friends and family and you have the makings of a wonderful holiday season.

While we have had our share of fronts, the nice sunny days afterward have kept the water temperatures in good shape. On Tuesday I showed a surface temperature of 72 degrees in the afternoon. After relatively low winds on Monday the strong east winds came back on Tuesday and they are forecasted to hang around awhile.

If you are venturing out during these low tide periods be careful not to run aground, especially if you are not very familiar with the area. It is no fun trying to fish on a mud or sand bar.

Snook are still more than willing to eat a live bait, but other species are keying on shrimp. Shrimp are the universal bait during our winter months. They can be fished under a popping cork or on the bottom with a split shot to weight it down. You can pinch off a piece and tip your jig. Even better pinch off the tail and thread the whole shrimp on a jig to be worked slowly on the bottom. Free line a whole live shrimp along an oyster bar to coax a redfish bite.

Redfish are still biting strong, especially down in the Ten Thousand Islands. Fish are running bigger further down in the islands, while the fish in the Coon Key area are mostly in the 15- to 20-inch range. These fish are hitting the shrimp (or Gulp) tipped jigs that are thrown around bars, cuts and bushes (at higher tides). Trout are showing up in better numbers, and a lot of them are over the 15-inch minimum, but the question is whether they will still be easy to find after Jan. 1 when the season opens.

Sheepshead, some fairly large, are gathering in the normal winter haunts. Look for them along docks, around rocks and oyster bars. Shrimp on a hook with a little weight will do the job, but they are one of the best bait stealers in the water, so be quick. Some black drum are showing up on anglers’ lines while they are seeking redfish (red drum). Of course this time of year is when the ladyfish show up in huge number, and they will eat anything and put up a good fight on light tackle.

As you move offshore we have the mackerel schools anywhere from a quarter- to half-mile off the beach, and they are easy to find. Just look for the diving birds and in some cases (when the wind is low) you can actually see a slick on the surface from the baitfish being devoured below. Jigs, spoons and plastic baits will work. Fast is a relative term when you are dealing with mackerel. You can’t reel too fast. If a mackerel want it they will catch it.

Further out the red grouper are still the key target fish for anglers. There are still plenty out there, but the larger ones seem to be in water 50 feet or deeper. Cut bait, squid and live bait are the baits of choice. While dropping a line for grouper, don’t be surprised if something the size of a small car grabs hold and won’t let go. Some very large goliath grouper are lurking out there.

A few small king mackerel have also been reported.

Ten Thousand Islands: Fishing out of Chokoloskee, Capt. Pete Rapp says that despite the wind the water quality is surprisingly good. Water temperatures are holding up reasonably well and afternoon temps are hitting the low 70s. Nice schools of bait in the area have made for some good snook fishing. Redfish have remained solid bet, and snook fishing has picked up. On a recent trip fishing north of Chokoloskee his anglers landed a bunch of snook up to 33 inches.

Capt. Shane Miller has been focusing on redfish on recent trips. He has been fishing mostly the inside bays and finding lots of good sized red. Shane has been fishing south of Round Key where the fish have been running in the mid to upper slot.

Using shrimp-tipped jigs he has also been getting a few black drum and good sized sheepshead while hunting the reds. Lots of trout are on the inside and outside and mangrove snapper in the bushes at the high end of the tides. Live bait is available, but only the snook have any interest in eating them. Shane has been averaging three to four of those per trip, too.

Naples/Estero Bay: Down in Naples, Capt. Pat Gould had been trying to work around the severe low tides we have been having. Bait has been plentiful, but Pat has also been bringing shrimp along on his trips.

At this time of year, Gould says, you have to be ready for different species and different conditions. First thing in the morning the snook fishing has been slow so Pat has been hitting the trout, snapper and ladyfish. As the water levels rise, the snook and reds seem to be more active. Water quality has been good, and the weather beautiful, Capt. Pat said.

Capt. Steve Nagy has been fishing in Estero Bay a lot recently and he says the snook, reds and jacks are on the feed. Snook up to 33 inches are taking live baits, and marauding jacks up to 15 pounds have been busting up tackle too. Steve have been finding red first on the grass flats and then in the mangroves as the water comes in. Shrimp or scented artificials seem to work best for the redfish. The reds he has been tying into are in the 19- to 27-inch range. Trout are showing up in better numbers, too.

Offshore: Onboard the “Cuda,” Capt. Mike Lucas went out on Friday for a three-quarter day trip with a group from the Island Walk Fishing Club. They went out to 52 feet of water, where they caught lots of short grouper and lane snapper. Four keeper red grouper to 26 inches made it to the boat and home for dinner. They used cut bait, and Mike reports good water and no sign of red tide.

Capt. Tom Robinson of the “Sea Legs” ran a half-day on Tuesday where they got a bunch of short grouper, one keeper red grouper and a lot of nice lane snapper.

Over the weekend he had the Dr. Rick Green group out for two days. Both days were good, but on Saturday they put 12 keeper reds in the box and also a nice 26-inch mutton snapper. Switching over to amberjacks they wrestled a bunch of them up to 35 pounds. At the end of the day looking for one more AJ, a line went tight and a battle was on. Some time later a 200-plus pound goliath was brought to the boat, a picture taken and then released. On Sunday they also got a couple of small king mackerel.

Fishing Report: East winds helping push away red tide

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 7, 2011

NAPLES — Well, with the east winds returning, the remnants of last week's red tide have been blown farther offshore. Cooler water temperatures should help slow the growth of the nasty algae.

From all the reports I received, the only dead fish seen were mullet, which is good news. Fishing in Estero on Tuesday, we had no problem with bait in the well, another good indicator for better water conditions.

Inshore, the transition to winter fishing continues, with water temperatures dropping slightly with each cold front that passes through our area. More sea trout, sheepshead, ladyfish, and flounder are showing up on the end of anglers' lines.

Pompano are being found around passes and deeper cuts off the beaches, and they will gladly eat your shrimp-tipped jig. The reds seem to be more scattered than just a few weeks ago. Snook are reacting to the cooler water, and the early morning bite is a little on the slow side until later in the day when the shallows warm up.

Mackerel are still off the beaches, but may not be tearing up the baits on the surface like they did just a couple of weeks ago. With the cooler water, schools of kings should be showing up any day. This is the time of year when near-shore bottom fishermen may encounter a big cobia while looking for snapper or grouper.

Offshore, the red grouper and amberjack action continues to bend rods for anglers. Cut bait, squid, or live pinfish will do the trick, but you may need to get well offshore to score any keeper red grouper. Catch-and-release action for gags and goliath grouper continues around wrecks.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Ken Chambers has been fly fishing out of Goodland recently and doing quite well. His clients have been throwing either a shrimp or crab pattern for redfish on outside points with good success.

Fishing the waters between Goodland and Indian Key, Ken has found the reds cruising the edges looking for something to eat. Most days of throwing the fly have resulted in double-digit catches of reds. Smaller snook are being taken in the back on topwaters, and there are plenty of trout up to 20-plus inches lurking inshore waters in the Islands.

On a recent trip, John Hickey had a good day of throwing the fly, landing over 10 nice reds.

Running out of Goodland, Capt. Matt Hoover has been nailing the reds as well as some small snook. Matt has used live pilchards on some days, and shrimp under a popping cork on others. Most days, the action has been primarily on the bountiful number of redfish that we are enjoying again this year. While small snook are the norm, Matt has seen several "logs" recently, but they weren't in an eating mood.

Naples/Estero Bay: After last week's red tide scare, fishing in the Naples area is back to normal according to Capt. Todd Geroy.

On a recent trip with Dave Fruend and his friend, 15 reds and some small snook fell for the jig/shrimp combination. On other trips, Todd hit some nice sea trout that were found along channel edges. A few pompano and flounder rounded out the catch. Todd says that the east wind will help clear any remnants of last week's red tide.

"Snookin and Cookin" Capt. Seth Hayes said that bait had been a little tough, but is better now. He has been getting a few really nice snook up to 38 inches, but it is the huge jacks that are stripping line off reels. On Thursday, his crew hooked up with more than 30 of the speedy critters, with the largest hitting a humongous 18 pounds! With the poor tides we have been having, the reds have been somewhat slow.

Offshore: Onboard the "Capt. Marvel," recent trips by Capt. Clarence Fleck have seen good results. A dozen or so keeper red grouper have been going into the cooler on each trip with plenty of catch-and-release action on gags and goliath grouper, too.

Clarence has been using live pins and cut sardines on the end of the lines. He has been fishing in about 65 feet of water southwest of Gordon's Pass. He reports that schools of king mackerel should be here any day now.

Capt. Tom Robinson of the "Sea Legs" has been thumping the red grouper on a pretty steady basis. Peter Ferro and friends went out on Tuesday, and enjoyed beautiful weather and calm seas, as well as very good fishing.

Running out about 30 miles, Capt. Tom put the group on a mess of grouper up to 28 inches, and an unusual 20-inch mutton snapper. Using cut sardines and squid, they then went after some spunky amberjack, releasing a bunch up to 28 inches. Tom says that offshore water temps are in the 72-degree range, and that there is still some red tide about 12 miles off the beaches west of Naples.

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Fishing Report: Water becoming clear, but too clear in some areas

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted November 30, 2011

NAPLES — If you are among those of us that may have had a little too much to eat on Thanksgiving, I have good news for you. According to the results of a study, a person burns about 230 calories an hour while fishing. Somehow I think the study needs more study. If you really burn that many calories well, then I should weigh about 130 and "that ain't going to happen."

On the fishing front, we had another little cold front just before Turkey Day, but the temperatures didn't drop much. When the wind got blowing from an easterly direction again, it produced some of the lowest tides we have had in a long time.

Up in Estero, we did see a number of dead mullet coming in the pass on the tide. If you remember in last week's article, it was reported that red tide was seen 10 to 15 miles offshore. The last thing we need right now is a severe bloom of this algae. Apparently, it seems that most game fish were unaffected.

Water clarity is improving significantly in many areas, with some becoming too clear. The clean water is sure to help the trout and pompano fishing. Both species are around right now, and numbers should increase significantly in the next couple of weeks. Big trout are usually easy to find until Jan. 1 when the season opens.

Inshore, the redfish bonanza continues up and down the coast. They are taking live bait, dead bait, cut bait, and shrimp that are fished under a popping cork or on a jig.

Anglers are seeing three distinct size groups of these red drum. Small fish in the 15- to 16-inch range, lower slot fish in the 18- to 22-inch range, and the larger upper slot (and over) (Slot limit of not less than 18" or more than 27"; no closed season; one fish per person per day limit) fish can be found from Estero Bay to well south in Everglades National Park. They are a blast to catch, and while they usually don't display the speed that a snook exhibits, they are bulls on the end of the line.

Sheepshead numbers are improving, but not many of the larger fish have been reported. Time to get lots of practice on the shrimp stealing small ones. If you can catch these, then the big ones will be a breeze. Flounder catches are more and more common, and occasionally a dinner-sized one is boated.

Offshore, the winds have kept most boats at the dock or at least not very far offshore. The near-shore targets are grouper (usually shorts), grunts, mackerel, lane and mangrove snapper, and sometimes king mackerel. Once the winds give the captains a break, they will be back after the larger grouper found farther offshore, as well as the arm-breaking amberjacks.

Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Tim Daugherty has been fishing quite a bit in Naples recently, and he has been catching large snook on the falling tides using white baits.

When the tide swings around, he works the incoming looking for reds, and he is getting some nice fish, ranging from 22 to 26 inches. Heavy chumming helps get the critters in a feeding mood, and even the trout start popping baits. Tim has been getting a few decent pompano using bright-colored jigs tipped with shrimp. He is working the passes and the deeper cuts near the passes.

On Friday, I had the Norris group from Georgia that included Daniel, Donald, and "Gouche," and Brandon from Tucson.

With the water so low first thing in the morning, the bite was a little slow. Ladyfish got everyone warmed up, though. As we started to get some water to fish in, we started picking up a snook or redfish at spots, but not many. Later, we finally got into the fish, and we ended up boating around 20 snook, about eight reds (two keepers), a trout, and lots of jacks that ranged from five to seven pounds.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak says the water down in the islands is getting real clear, almost too clear in some areas.

On a recent trip, he netted some live bait that his anglers put to work on a variety of fish. They ended the day with about a dozen snook, six reds, five flounder (one good sized), three big trout, a pompano, some good jack crevalle, and of course, all the ladyfish you could ever want.

Offshore: With conditions on the rough side on Friday, Capt. Tom Robinson, onboard the "Sea Legs," got his group of anglers out about seven miles for some catching.

Action was good, using cut sardines and squid. Fish caught included short to almost legal grouper, grunts, some nice lane snapper, and some mackerel. Tom saw another boat hook up with a king mackerel, but that was the only one that day. He is looking forward to calmer seas and a return to the hot spots.

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How to Find a Guide

Shorten the Learning Curve - Save Money & Time -
More Productive Fishing - all good reasons. Here's one more....

(excerpt from Secrets from Florida's Master Anglers)

Do a little research before booking a guide.

Friends and acquaintances are good sources for recommendations, but if none are available for your intended destination, use the internet.

Most professional guides maintain web sites that can be found by Googling the location you want to fish. Organizations such as the Florida Guides Association ( are also good sources.

"These organizations," says Capt. Tom Van Horn, "hold their members to high standards. Members are required to provide their legitimacy annually."

Proof of a Coast Guard captain’s license, a state issued vessel license that covers all anglers on the boat, marine insurance that includes liability coverage and adherence to a stated code of ethics are some of the things to look for in a qualified guide.

You can email the captain and ask questions before you book.
Why Hire a Guide?

Now here's your part.

These are just a few of the responses given to Ron when he asked top guides "What do you expect from a client on a charter fishing trip?"

Guide #1: Guests should recognize that not every day will be full of fish and aim to share a fun day on the water.

Guide #2: I value clients who discuss their experience and level of fishing skills before the trip. Let me know if inexperienced anglers, small children or special needs persons will be accompanying them. This assists me in planning the strategy for the day.

Guide #3: Patience and willingness to listen is the best virtue of a prospective client. I want to accommodate them in every way. Their willingness to trust me and follow instructions will normally improve the day’s productivity.

Guide #4: I really appreciate it when my clients show up on time and are prepared to deal with the weather and willing to listen and learn.

I expect them to stay sober...
Read 'the rest of the story,
' in "Secrets from Florida's Master Anglers."

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