Naples Fishing December 2012


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Fishing Report: Cold front affected inshore action, not offshore

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 26, 2012

NAPLES — Well, we didn't have a white Christmas, but the cold front that blew through this past weekend sure felt like snow was a possibility. The chill also seriously changed the inshore fishing as water temperatures also plummeted.

Cold water and snook do not go together well. Remember 2010 when we had the huge fish kill? Before the front, the snook bite was pretty good, and live bait was the ticket. After the front, forget about live bait and think shrimp or shrimp imitations like Gulp baits. Also slow, slow, slow in your presentation, because most species that are into eating are going to be moving slower, too.

A jig tipped with a piece of shrimp, or better yet thread a whole shrimp onto a plain jig head, worked slowly in deeper cuts and in the passes can entice a bite from any number of fish. Trout, pompano, black drum, reds, sheepshead, or flounder all will hit this offering, but take note that the bite may be very subtle. And bring plenty of shrimp with you because the small sheepshead can steal shrimp after shrimp before a decent-sized fish gets a chance to hit.

Offshore, the water temperatures were not as drastically impacted by the front, and the red grouper fishing remains consistent. The snapper bite could actually be pretty good with the water a little stirred up. As the wind shift to the east continues, getting offshore should become an easier task, but beware: another front is on its way.

Naples/Estero Bay: In recent days Capt. Tim Daugherty has been fishing both Naples and Estero Bay. Tim says that on Sunday when he left the house, the thermometer read 39 degrees and when he reached the water it was already a balmy 42.

Conditions in both areas are similar, with the water pretty much stirred up until you get well into the back. Capt. Daugherty has been using a shrimp under a cork later in the day over the grassy areas, and working deeper areas with a 3/4-ounce jig/Gulp combination.

In the shallower areas is where he is getting most of his trout, and they are running from just under legal size to nice 18 inchers as well as a few short redfish. Sheepshead and black drum are hitting the Gulp in deeper water and many of the sheepshead are nice keepers

Ten Thousand Islands: According to Capt. Matt Hoover, Sunday morning was colder than cold. Last week, he was fly fishing for redfish and seeing a good many. By Sunday he was dressed like an Eskimo as he set out to do back-to- back, half-day trips.

With high winds and dirty water, his expectations weren't too high, but he and his anglers ended up pretty surprised. Using shrimp under a popping cork, Matt started working points that hold fish on the good days, and the snook, jacks and rat reds provided good action. A big sheepshead, a couple of nice trout, and a 10-pound black drum ended the morning trip.

For the afternoon a father and his 7-year-old son were aboard. The tide was fast running out, and the fish were still eating. Matt was casting for the youngster, and after about his sixth red, his father started "poaching" and he also got into the reds. A 24-inch snook was also brought to the boat and released.

Offshore: Capt. Tom Robinson braved choppy seas and headed out on Sunday for a day on the big water. The "Sea Legs" traveled about 24 miles out before the fishing started, and the ride was worth it.

Using cut bait, Capt. Tom's anglers, Dan Michols and party, got into the red grouper. When all was said and done, a dozen nice grouper to 27 inches were iced down. Dan has been fishing with Capt. Robinson for 25 years, and results like these are the reason why.

The group also caught several mangrove snapper to 19 inches, and got into the amberjack later on. The biggest A.J. hit 35 pounds and was headed to the smoker. Tom said the water temperature 24 miles out was a nice 68 degrees.

One last note: It is time to make your New Year's Resolutions. Make one to be on the water a little more, and to catch more fish. Happy New Year!

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Fishing report: Warmer weather has snook confused, anglers happy

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 13, 2012

We have been enjoying summer like weather for the past week and water temperatures have climbed back up to the lower 70s. Snook are somewhat confused since the cool weather previously had started them on their trip to the extreme backcountry and creeks. This week a lot of snook were caught in and around the passes and even on the beach. Reds, sheepshead, black drum, flounder, and trout are all around for anglers. Bait is on the beaches and in the bays making for plenty of food for all these fish. I even ended up with a couple of nice shrimp in my cast net one early morning.

Offshorethe lighter winds of the past week made it easier for anglers to get further offshore where the better sized grouper are to be found. In addition to the grouper the amberjacks are on the offshore wrecks and quite willing to gobble up a nice sized live bait. Closer to shore the schoolie sized king mackerel are here. Try a free lined live pilchard behind the boat or troll some plugs over likely bottom.

Closer to shore there are plenty of Spanish mackerel to be had and some are really nice sized fish. If you get out early in the morning on a relatively calm morning just look for the birds, but don't go zooming into the fish because the sound of a 300 horsepower engine is not music to their ears (do fish have ears?). Idle in or better yet line up with the wind/current and just float in.

A regulatory note: A proposed season for gag grouper for 2013 passed a recent vote by the Fishery Council unanimously. The season would start on July 1 and continue until the yearly quota had been reached, which will probably be in November or early December. A final vote (hopefully for approval) will take place after the first of the year.

Naples/Estero Bay

Fishing has ranged from very good to great in the Naples area according to Capt. Tim Daugherty. The trout bite has been especially good, with virtually all the fish being legal size up to 23 inches. They are being found in many areas and depending on water depth Tim is using a bait under a popping cork or a bait on the bottom in deeper water. Some nice reds are mixed in with the trout. The snook bite certainly picked up too. Most of the fish were in the 22 to 24 inch range, but several encounter with big fish made for some exciting moments. Up to 30 snook per day have been common recently. A few pompano are around and they are good sized fish, up to three pounds. A white or yellow jig tipped with a piece of shrimp will do the job.


Capt. Michael Avinon has taken advantage of the nice weather to make several all day trips offshore. On these trips they are pulling in red grouper keepers to 30 inches and averaging 12 to 15 keepers per trip. He has also been nailing the schoolie sized king mackerel in the 12 to 15 mile waters. On Mondays trip he had five anglers and they put 15 keeper reds in the box by 12:30 and then they went looking for amberjacks. Using live blue runners they limited on amberjacks to 45 pounds. To finish the trip they hit the kings and caught them up to 12 pounds. The grouper were caught using cut squid and herring.

Ten Thousand Islands

Incoming tides have been good to Capt. Pete Rapps recently, but the outgoing ones have been challenging. With water temperatures in the 68 to 70 degree range the fish have been active. Some of the catches of note on recent trips have been: Nathaniel Kantor (age 5) landing a perfect tournament red that measured 26 7/8 inches, Norton Small with a 40 inch snook, and Alisa Aczel and her 30 inch red.

One trip resulted in 16 reds in just two hours and the trout fishing has been really good. Snook are also showing up on most trips. As is the case this time of year Capt. Pete has also been netting black drum, sheepshead, barracuda, and flounder. He has been using both shrimp and live pilchards.

State agency rejects later grouper-catching season in Southwest Florida

By ERIC STAATS Posted December 6, 2012

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Wednesday in Apalachicola to reject a proposal to allow Southwest Florida anglers to allow gag grouper catches further into the winter tourist season, when more gag are swimming closer to shore.

Instead, the FWC voted to move forward with a Southwest Florida season that starts July 1 and runs until the annual catch limit is reached. Farther north along the Gulf Coast in the four Big Bend counties, the gag grouper season would run from April 1 to June 30. A final vote is set for February in Orlando.

The catch limit likely would be reached between Nov. 11 and Dec. 3, according to agency figures, but local captains pushed for a gag grouper season that would run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31

Fishing Report: Winds making things bumpy out there

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted December 5, 2012 at 9:10 a.m.

NAPLES — A consistent easterly wind of 15 to 20 mph has been blowing for the past five days or so, and it has made for some skinny water in the bays for morning anglers.

Water temperatures are generally in the low 60s in the morning, and rising to the mid- to upper-60s in the afternoon. Water quality is generally pretty good on the east banks of islands and shoreline. I have heard that there is still some red tide in the area, and the latest occurrence was down in Naples.

As the temperatures continue to cool, we will see the inshore fishing change to "winter" conditions. While fish are still hitting live pilchards, live shrimp are picking up more and more bites. At some point, even a snook will prefer to eat a shrimp. Reds are eating shrimp and cut bait right now. Trout love a live shrimp on a jig fished in the deep cuts or on a light jig suspended under a popping cork and drifted over the grass. We have seen more of the small sheepshead stealing shrimp this week, and even a few black drum have been reported.

For you offshore anglers, the kings are over hard bottom, around the ledges, and the big ones are lurking around the wrecks. I have seen king mackerel eat everything from cut sardines to any large live bait. As mentioned in previous articles, when bottom fishing, have a live bait (or big live shrimp) off the back of the boat under a float. Be sure to keep the drag light so that the fish doesn't pull off during the first screaming run.

Naples/Estero Bay: This week I have fished in the Estero Bay and Wiggins Pass areas, and fishing has been reasonably good. Live pilchards scored 15 to 20 snook each trip, with most of them being on the small size.

The largest fish were in the 26- to 27-inch range. Most of the reds this week were shorts around 16 inches, but we did get a couple of keepers. Trout up to 18 inches were found on incoming tide where deeper water transitioned onto a flat. Shrimp on a jig did the trick. The occasional flounder hit the same offerings. Tides were not great, but once some water came in and you could fish the east side of the bay, you found much better conditions.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak fished on Thursday with his father, Lester, to celebrate his 75th birthday. Rob headed south down toward Lostmans, where they found a bunch of big specs.

The fish ranged to 20 inches and were taken on jigs. Lester and Rob also boated about 20 reds with the largest hitting 25 inches. Friend Josh Limback was also along for the trip, and they also got a pompano and a flounder. Water was cool at 62 degrees.

Saturday, Walczak fished out of Goodland with a group, and they hit the trout hard. Using jigs, they got specs to 17 inches and silver trout to 16 inches in water that was 65 degrees. In the very low water, they also caught several other species of fish.

Offshore: Capt. Mike Lucas of the "Cuda" reports that king mackerel are scattered over hard bottom and range from 8 to 12 pounds. He found some bigger kings around the wrecks, and they are hitting large live baits. The red grouper found close to shore are mostly shorts to 16 inches, but an occasional keeper shows up.

Capt. Bob Fisher ran out about 15 miles on Saturday onboard the "Sea Spirit" for a three-quarter-day trip. Onboard was Mark and friends, and they trolled part of the way out resulting in eight kings on the boat. After that, Capt. Bob made three drops, resulting in one keeper red grouper of 24 inches, lots of nice-sized lane snapper, and 28 mangrove snapper to 17 inches, as well as short reds, and grunts. Bob used live pilchards for bait.

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Snook season gone until 2013

Florida's snook fishing season will remain closed on the west coast until 2013 instead of opening as planned on Sept. 1, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced this week.

Wildlife officials made the decision in light of a 2010 cold kill, which reduced the snook population on the state's coasts.

Snook season was closed on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts on Jan. 16, 2010, but it reopened last September on the Atlantic Coast, where the freeze was not as severe.

Recreational snook season is expected to reopen in the Gulf on Sept. 1, 2013. Until then, catch-and-release of snook will be allowed.

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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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