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Mark Goddard landed this blacktip shark while fishing with mullet off Big Carlos Pass

Fishing Report: Look for snook season in September 2012

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted June 15, 2011

NAPLES — It's not official yet, but it looks like we will have a snook season ... next year. As of now, the word is that September of 2012, we will have an open snook season.

I haven't heard if there will be any changes to the slot range, but will keep you posted. Also, a slight correction to the gag grouper season that was in last week's column. The season will open on Sept. 16 (not the 15th) and close on Nov. 15 of this year.

For those of you that have been out on the water the last week, you know that it has been hot. Water temperatures are ranging into the upper 80s and will hit the 90-degree mark soon if the rains don't come to cool down the back bays a bit. The warmer the water, the less oxygen that it will hold, and the quicker a fish becomes tired when hooked. Take special care to help revive a fish that you are returning to the water.

Offshore, the red grouper continue to be the main focus of most anglers, with some snappers, mackerel, and a few goliath groupers thrown in, too.

Without the rains we usually get this time of year, the water continues to be unusually clear, which can necessitate a scaling down of tackle to fool the fish, especially snapper . The grouper are gobbling up pinfish dropped down to them, and as usual, the bigger fish tend to be found farther offshore. Cut sardines and squid will work, too, but the live baits are preferred.

Closer to the beaches, there are a lot of mackerel around. Many of these fish are small -- in the 12-inch range -- but some larger fish can be found below the fish that are leaping out of the water chasing the pods of glass minnows.

Inside and around the passes, the snook will eat a nice live bait if you can find some. Pilchards have become very scarce in the last couple of weeks, and anglers are relying on pinfish, little greenies, and menhaden to coax the snook bite. Pilchards are the bait of choice, and if you are lucky enough to net a few, you can count on a good day of fishing.

Snook have been cruising around the bushes, and even out in the middle of coves, enjoying the huge schools of glass minnows that seem to be everywhere.

Trout are also looking to get fatter, especially those that have recently spawned. Catches of upper slot-sized fish are being reported from the Ten Thousand Islands up through Estero Bay. Most of the fish are succumbing to live bait, but a few are taking a shrimp on a jig.

Tarpon are still cruising the offshore waters as well as some of the inside bays. Down in the Ten Thousand Islands, there are quite a few being targeted in the back country. These fish are taking plugs and flies on a fairly regular basis, as well as live baits.

Ten Thousand Islands: Fishing out of Goodland, Capt. Ken Chambers said fishing has been pretty good the last week. He has been targeting back country tarpon with plugs and flies recently, with good success.

Fish up to 70 pounds are providing excitement to his anglers. He has also been netting some smaller beach baits, which seem to be the bait of choice for snook, reds, and trout. On Tuesday, he took Jay and Zack Downs out for a day of fishing, and they each got a tarpon -- one on a fly and one on a plug, with the largest running about 60 pounds.

Jay and Zack also put about 30 nice snook in the boat (and released), with the largest hitting the 30-inch mark. The water around Cape Romano has been nice, but south of there is dirty.

Capt. Shane Miller has been hitting the trout on a regular basis on recent trips.

Fishing the high outgoing tides around the flats, Shane has consistently been in trout with catches of 20 to 50 fish. These fish are eating white baits, as are the snook he is finding around the beaches.

Most of the snook are in the three- to five-pound range, but there are some really large fish in the passes. On Tuesday, Shane took his cousin Bobby and his wife Amy with their boys Stone (10) and Cole (8) out for a day of fishing. They really nailed the trout, but the highlight of the day was hooking three big tarpon while trout fishing. The largest was estimated at about 150 pounds as it greyhounded away from the boat, taking all the line on a reel with it.

On Sunday, Shane had Roy Dory and grandson Clay and friend Wyatt on board for a half day. They boated about 30 trout and a dozen snook. Even a 90-pound tarpon provided a few moments of entertainment before he left the area.

Offshore: On the "Sea Spirit," Capt. Bob Fisher has been doing well targeting the red grouper. Most of his trips have him running out to the 55- to 65-foot range after a couple of drifts to sabiki some pinfish. Once the bait is in the well, it's off to the live bottom where the reds hang out.

Bob says there are lots of grouper out there, and after weeding through a lot of just short grouper, his anglers are filling the box with keepers. On Saturday, he ran out a little farther, to 80 feet of water, and the fishing was even better, with the grouper averaging about 26 inches.

Before heading home, they stopped on a wreck, and the anglers wrestled with a bunch of goliath grouper, landing two (60 and 25 pounds) and losing a number of others. Bob said the water is beautiful offshore.

Naples to Estero Bay: Capt. Seth Hayes recently had one of "his best days ever" while fishing in and around Estero Bay. He was fortunate to net a bunch of good baits, and that set the scene for a great day on the water.

Fishing in and around the passes, his anglers nailed 50 snook up to a huge, 39-inch fish. They lost an even bigger one that Seth estimated at about four feet long. Added to that were some jacks to 12 pounds, nine reds that ran from slot-sized to oversized, and even a few keeper trout -- all by noon! After that, Capt. Seth headed off the beaches in search of tarpon. His client went one for three, and landed a very nice 180-pounder.

Fishing down in Naples, Capt. Tim Daugherty says that the snook are all around the passes, but the best bite is early in the morning, and then again in the evening.

After the morning snook bite, Daugherty has been targeting what he describes as one of the best pompano runs he has seen. Using yellow jigs tipped with a piece of a Gulp bait, he has been getting nice-sized pompano, both in the passes and on the beaches. In fact, he has had anglers throwing pink flies at fish that are cruising the beaches.

Rounding out the fishing are a few little reds and plenty of snapper. On Monday, angler Randy Wayne has his limit of pompano in just 35 minutes.

Catch and no relief: Snook fishing put on hold until Sept. 2012

By ERIC STAATS Posted June 9, 2011

Snook are known to be an elusive catch. Now keeping one in Southwest Florida has become even tougher.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, meeting in St. Augustine, voted Thursday to keep snook season closed until Sept. 1, 2012.

The fishery has been closed since January 2010 to protect snook populations hammered by a bitter cold snap that winter.

Anglers can still fish for snook, but they have to throw back any snook they catch.

"Once the government takes something away, they’re very slow to give it back," said Ken Strasen, owner of Master Bait and Tackle in Bonita Springs.


Fishing Report: Reminder that snook can't be kept; gag grouper closed

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted June 8, 2011

NAPLES — First of all this week, let's cover a couple of species and their availability.

While snook may be around in good numbers, it is still illegal to keep one of any size. We are supposed to hear something later this summer (?) about a possible fall season. Secondly, gag grouper are closed in both state and federal waters.

Thanks to some checking by sometime contributor Charle Haskell, there is documentation of a two-month season this fall for gags.

According to a letter from a Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, the season will run from Sept. 15 to Nov. 15. As far as next year goes, there is no news as to what will happen with regards to gag grouper. As always with snook, gags, and any other fish to be released ... please release them gently and quickly.

This past weekend, we had a fair amount of strong wind, but that didn't seem to damper the fishing and catching done by local anglers.

From Estero down to the Caxambas Pass , area anglers report good catches of snook. Farther down in the Ten Thousand Islands, the snook are there, but not in the same numbers. Redfish that were in the 16- to 18-inch range a few months ago seem to be hitting around 19 to 20 inches, and responding well to shrimp on a jig. While throwing a jig for reds, a lot of good-sized trout are turning up on the hook.

Tarpon are around, and will actually eat a bait occasionally. Most reports have them ignoring baits, but around the bait balls of glass minnows, they seem to be more willing to eat.

Red grouper, kings, goliath grouper, barracuda, and an occasional cobia are providing steady action and some filets for the ice box. The water offshore continues to be beautiful in spite of the wind.

Speaking of barracuda, some of the larger ones have been quick to chomp on a nice 12- to 15-pound king that has been hooked. It is a race between angler and 'cuda for the prize. Lots of small sharks can also be had by the offshore angler. The captains have been using cut sardines, live shrimp, and squid for bait.

Naples to Estero Bay: After being blown out of the Keys this weekend, I fished with Bill Hickman on Monday in the Estero and North Naples area.

Getting lucky on white bait, we caught a few snook and a couple of mackerel before the tide started to come in. Once that happened, it got wild. Every time we threw out a bait, two or three snook would race to see who could eat it first. At the end of five hours on the water (and only one and a half of incoming tide), we called it quits at 40 snook, eight jacks, two trout, and three large mackerel.

Capt. Seth Hayes also reports a good snook bite while fishing Estero. He is finding fish in and around the passes, and they are hungry.

Most of the fish are in the 20- to 27-inch range. Seth has also been running outside looking for tarpon and permit on calmer days. Using threads, he is jumping tarpon found under the glass minnow bait balls. When found, permit are quick to gobble up a small crab tossed their way. Most of the permit run from 15 to 30 pounds. On a recent trip with Kevin Madison and his 11-year- old daughter, they landed over 40 snook.

Fishing out of Naples, Capt. Chris McCubbin took Tony Fontana out for a day of fishing, and they went looking for tarpon and to work the near shore ledges. In addition to the many short gags released, Tony landed a would-be keeper of 26 inches. Later, Chris went in to work the snook, and they quickly put a dozen in the boat. Bait has been spotty, but when you get it, the fish eat it like candy.

Ten Thousand Islands: Running out of Port of the Islands, Capt. Jesse Karen has been busy. Trout and reds are roaming the flats and points of the area south of Goodland, and Jesse is using the shrimp/jig combination on these guys.

He says the reds are running 17 to 18 inches, and that trout are also hitting the jig. The trout will run anywhere from tiny 12-inchers, up to respectable 23-inch fish. For snook, Jesse has been fishing around Caxambas Pass, and catching fish in the 25- to 30-inch range with an average of a dozen or so per trip. On a recent trip, angler Terry Moor of England landed a nice 34-inch snook using a DOA jig.

Capt. Andy Werner has been running the near-shore wrecks for some really nice fish.

He is finding big snook in the 30-to 40-inch range on these wrecks, and they quickly jump on a live bait. Cobia and permit are also on these wrecks.

On a recent trip, one of his anglers had a big cobia on that swam 200 yards away from the boat, and then did a 180-degree turn, and headed back to the wreck at warp speed. Capt. Andy finally broke it off before the reel was spooled. On a trip with Dave Rogers and sons Harrison (10 years old) and Oliver (19), they landed 30 trout over 20 inches off one of these wrecks. Five large snook, and a 35-pound cobia were also boated. Andy says that the reds and trout inside are biting well, too.

Farther down in the Islands, Capt. Brandon Acosta has been working the grass flats for trout, and doing pretty well.

Using Gulp shrimp, his anglers are landing over 20 trout per trip, with most of the fish well over the 15-inch minimum. Brandon also has been using a tipped jig for snook, and getting a few in the 20-inch range. He says the water continues to be on the dirty side even though we haven't had any rain.

Offshore: Onboard the "Sea Hooker," Capt. Chris took out Norm and his buddies for a half day recently. Using sardines, shrimp, and squid, they had a mixed bag of action. A number of short grouper were caught and released, as well as a few snapper.

Spanish mackerel and one king added some surface action, and a few three-foot long sharks added excitement.

Capt. Michael Avinon took out Dennis Church and family for a day on the water on board the "Capt. Marvel." Running out about 25 miles, they put 12 keeper red grouper in the box in no time at all.

Then they played with some medium-sized goliath grouper in the 70-pound range for a while. Rounding out the action were a couple of kings up to 15 pounds, a large amberjack (released), and some nice barracudas. Mike says the water is beautiful, and the wind seems to let up in the late afternoon, making the return to port a nice ride.

Fishing Report:
Snook and redfish tailing off, Spanish mackerel, red grouper good

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted June 1, 2011

NAPLES — Although the calender says we have several weeks to go before it is officially summer, it seems as though the inshore fishing for snook and reds has hit the summer doldrums.

Bait has been anywhere from difficult to impossible, especially with the rollers we had coming onto the beach from the south. NAPLES — If you can get the bait, you will do OK on snook, but the reds are widely scattered.

With bait so difficult, many anglers are using shrimp on a jig or on a hook under a popping cork. Some trout, sheepshead, jacks, and even flounder are providing action for anglers trying these combinations.

Spanish mackerel are around in some good numbers, and at times can be close enough to the beach that you can hit them with a beach umbrella. These fish are gorging themselves on the pods of small (1- to 1 1/2-inch) baits that can be found near shore and even farther offshore. Besides the mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, sharks, and even tarpon can be found around these brown spots in the water.

Speaking of tarpon, an angler I know went out on Saturday, and after netting some large threads, he went looking for the large silver things. While he saw tarpon in and around a number of these bait pods, not one was willing to take his offering of a fresh threadfin herring. Oh so frustrating.

For the offshore anglers, the principal action continues to be the red grouper. If you are willing to run out about 25 to 30 miles, you will have a good chance of bringing "Red" home for dinner. The captains I spoke with said the trip out there takes longer than it does to get five or six limits of grouper onboard. After that is done, they have been turning their attention to snapper, and by that I mean yellowtails.

Drifting a small bait on light line back in the chum line is producing some nice fish, and the occasional mangrove snapper, too.

Other offshore attractions have been the king mackerel and the sharks. The kings have been running from five to 15 pounds and are great fun on light tackle. While fishing for the kings (and the grouper), quite a few small sharks and an occasional large one are being hooked.

Offshore: Capt. Tom Robinson had a full day on Saturday with David Nelson and his group. They headed west out of Gordon's Pass and didn't stop for 25 miles.

When they did drop lines, the baits were quickly gobbled up, and rods bent with some great red grouper action. With great water under them and sunny skies above, the group quickly put a limit of 12 nice reds in the box. The fish ranged up to 28 inches, and were all caught within a couple hundred yards of one another.

After that, Capt. Tom got the chum line going, and before long, the yellowtail were in the slick. Along with six nice yellowtail that were boated, there was one large mangrove snapper that joined the party. To end the trip, they got into some kings and boated five.

Onboard the "Capt. Marvel," Capt. Mike Avinion also said that the grouper fishing was really good.

His full-day trip on Saturday had him out about the same distance as Robinson, where Max Selig and his group had their limits of red grouper by 10:45 in the morning. They were actually able to be picky since they landed about 30 keeper-sized fish. The ones kept were in the 24- to 28-inch range.

Selig's group also got into kings, where the smallest was about five pounds, and the largest close to 20 pounds. For extra excitement, they tangled with some goliath grouper, and managed to get three to the boat for release. The fish were 30 pounds, 80 pounds, and a whopper of 150!

Naples/Estero: Capt. Jim Wheeler has been working the near shore recently. On one trip, he had Bill and Barbara Jarrell out for a half day of fishing, and they encountered a nice variety of critters.

Spanish mackerel in the 20- to 25-inch range provided a lot of action on light gear. On the bottom, a few mangrove snapper were willing to cooperate, and even two barracuda were hooked. The highlight of the trip was several blacktips, with the largest going about 40 inches.

In the Estero Bay area, Capt. Steve Nagy says the bait has disappeared. He has been getting some threads around the bridge and buying shrimp to use on his charters.

Using the threads around the docks on Tuesday, his anglers boated four nice gag grouper, with the largest hitting 24 inches. For those of you who have never tangled with a large, shallow water gag around structure, that is quite an accomplishment. Steve's anglers (Lloyd and friend) also put the shrimp to use, catching a variety of fish, including sheepshead and reds.

Ten Thousand Islands: Fishing out of Goodland, Capt. Stacy Mullendore says the fishing has been steady, but you have to work at it.

He is catching up to a half dozen snook each trip, and has been getting the occasional slot fish mixed in, with the average (three- to five-pound) fish. Small blacktips have been searching for food on the flats, and Stacy has been having anglers tangle with the mostly three-foot fish.

While doing this, they have been surprised at times when a tarpon grabs a bait and heads for the stars. His most recent was a nice, 80-pound fish. Some nice-sized trout have been eating baits, too, and when you find them, they are all in the 16- to 20-inch range. The water along the beaches is clear on the incoming tide, which makes for decent fishing.

Capt. Pat Gould also says that bait has been a challenge recently. On Tuesday, he was able to come up with about three dozen and his angler, a 9-year-old boy, did just fine with them and some shrimp, too.

A mixed bag of fish, including mackerel, snook, and a large flounder, ate the three dozen baits, and then they went to jigs and nailed the pompano. Pat says he hasn't seen much in the way of tarpon recently. Water quality is good.

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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