Naples Fishing March 2012

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Fishing Report: Red grouper season opening Sunday

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted March 28, 2012

NAPLES — Another week in paradise! As we near the end of March, I reflect on the fact that last year March went out like a lion — a wet, windy, cold lion. This year, March has been a pussy cat. All winter I only wore a sweatshirt twice while out on the water.

This warm weather is suiting the fish just fine. Snook are starting to prowl the beaches, reds are in the bushes, big trout in the deep channels, and now the tarpon are starting to show up in better numbers. How good can it get?

While bait is readily available in some areas and hard to find in others, if you get it, the fish will eat. It seems that even the trout are more interested in a live pilchard than a shrimp at this time of year.

If you are lucky to get enough, you can chum the fish up with handfuls of live pilchards tossed toward a likely fish hang out. It only takes a few seconds for them to make their appearance. Once that happens, toss in your baits and hang on. For the reds, try cutting up some of the bait, and chum the bushes with that. Reds feed using smell a lot.

Offshore, the guys are concentrating on snapper, king mackerel, and farther offshore, amberjack.

Offshore: Capt. Tom Marvel reports that Clarence Fleck had a great catch of snapper on a recent trip. His fish were eating live baits, and ran to three pounds. After they limited on snapper, it was amberjack on the menu. Several keeper-sized AJs were boated, and all but one released to fight again.

On Saturday, the "Capt. Marvel" was in about 75 feet of water when all of a sudden the boat was attacked by a school of mahi (dolphin, the fish). Several were hooked up and landed before the school darted off to their next stop.

Half-day trips have been the norm recently for Capt. Bob Fisher onboard the "Sea Spirit" out of Naples. Bob has been running out about 12 miles, where his anglers have been busy with snapper, grunts, some nice-sized grouper, and king mackerel. Both red and gag grouper have been bending the rod before being released. They are gobbling up live baits on the bottom,

In water that was a little rough on Monday, Brad Bell and his three sons caught enough fish for a fish fry they were hosting for 12 people. Some nice kings added to the fun.

Naples/Estero Bay: Very strong tides combined with some hefty winds made for some challenging conditions for a few days, according to Capt. Todd Geroy.

Persistence paid off for Todd, and the snook bite was actually pretty good, with fish up to 13 pounds being landed by his anglers. He is using live bait, and the trout are eating them, too. His trout are from deep channels in the backcountry. Todd has done well on the reds later in the day as the tide comes in.

Gene, Bob, and George joined me on Tuesday morning for a half day. The first goal was to put something in the box for dinner. With that in mind, we targeted trout, and big ones at that. Fishing Estero Bay, we hit on a cooperative school of fish in the 17- to 24-inch range. The largest landed weighed in at 4 1/2 pounds, with a number of fish hitting the four-pound mark. One really big one got off just out of netting range.

The guys landed 15, and then we went to look for snook. Both Gene and George hooked up at the first spot with snook in the four-pound range. After a move, we had a bit of feeding the fish before George landed another, and it was time to go clean the trout (they kept seven) and one nice snapper.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Rob Walczak says the snook are once again showing up in good numbers in the Islands. He is getting a lot of smaller fish in the 16- to 18-inch range and the occasional larger fish. These fish are eating live baits.

On Monday, Rob took out Lance, a fly fishing guide from Montana, and his girlfriend Meagan for six hours of fly fishing. Lance put 15 snook and three reds in the boat during the trip. Capt. Walczak reports that the water is cleaner farther south of Goodland, and that the tides have been very low the past few mornings.

Running out of Caxambas Pass, Capt. Shane Miller also has been nailing snook on the recent half-day trips. On Friday, his anglers caught 15 snook to 30 inches, four redfish to 25 inches, and 20 trout to 22 inches using live bait.

On Monday, the day after the front with conditions unsettled, the Curos family fought the dirty water and windy conditions to land a number of snook and several reds. The water is dirty but getting better, and the temperature is 76 to 78 degrees.

Next week, some of the grouper that have been thrown back will make a trip to the fish box for dinner. Red grouper opens on April 1. Don't forget a 20-inch minimum for a keeper! The water offshore is fairly clear, so if snapper is on your agenda make sure to go light. Use the least visible terminal tackle possible if you want to catch snapper.

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Fishing Report: Counting the days until red grouper are open again

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted March 21, 2012

NAPLES — On April 1, recreational anglers will finally, after two closed months, be able to keep a legal-sized red grouper, but the gags are still off limits.

Even though the recreational angler can't keep even one, the commercial guys are hauling them in. Just on Tuesday, two boats brought in a total of 8,000 pounds of grouper. This just doesn't seem fair.

Why can't the recreational angler catch his own grouper dinner instead of having to pay for one that someone else caught? Surely the economic impact of a recreational-caught fish is way more than a commercially caught one. Hello Tallahassee, anyone listening?

Lots of grouper are being caught by recreational anglers, they just are releasing them. Some really nice fish are being caught within 15 miles of the beach.

On Friday, Ken Strassen from Masterbait and Tackle went out about that distance, and he was releasing grouper in the 30-inch range. Bill Hickman has been wearing them out, too. He has been fishing eight to 12 miles offshore, and scoring fish up to 15 pounds, while a few larger critters have won the battle.

The kings are still holding in the 15-mile range. They are hitting trolled spoons or free-swimming live baits. Geoff Shepard was about 12 miles out dropping shrimp to the bottom looking for mangrove snapper when his reel started screaming as line left the spool. After a wild 15 minutes of running around an anchored boat, a king estimated at about 40 pounds was leadered and released.

For those more adventurous anglers willing to run in some serious chop, the amberjacks are hanging on the wrecks and will wear your arm off. These fish are running to 40 pounds, and they really like a nice-sized pinfish for a snack.

Inshore, the snook, reds, trout, and jacks are getting more aggressive.

Some of the year's biggest trout are showing up in live wells on their way to dinner. Live bait is working on all the above species, but a shrimp under a cork or on a jig also can produce. Some of the snook are starting to show up on the beaches. After last week's poor morning tides, this week we have better flow and that should mean better fishing.

Tarpon also are making their presence known. From down in the Ten Thousand Islands, to off Fort Myers Beach, they are being spotted and, more importantly, caught. Large live baits thrown in their path will be the best bet, but soaking a large cut bait can be effective, too. Along with the tarpon, of course, you get the sharks. Everything from blacktips to hammerheads will be following along the same route as the tarpon, and the same baits will attract a bite from a shark.

Ten Thousand Islands: On Tuesday, Capt. Hector Diaz had Tim Christine out for a half-day trip. They caught several nice reds from 19 to 26 inches using shrimp-tipped jigs. A half-dozen sheepshead fell for the same thing.

The water was 76 degrees, and just a little murky from a strong east wind. Tim was using a light spinning rig with 15-pound braid and a 30-pound leader tied to the jig. And he put it to the ultimate test when, after a well-placed cast, the rod bent double. After about a 10-minute battle, Capt. Diaz netted the huge, 47-inch, 25-pound snook. After a quick measurement and a picture, the fish was safely released to go have lots of little snook in a couple of months.

Capt. Matt Hoover has been working over the redfish on a regular basis. These fish run from the rats to upper-slot fish.

Live bait has been doing the trick for Hoover, and a number of snook and trout are eating them, too. Fishing out on the Cape Romano Shoals area, Matt is finding schools of larger trout, some running over four pounds. On a recent trip, his angler, Rusty Schlacter, hooked up with three huge tarpon, and one estimated at 160 pounds made it to the boat. Matt also states that the jack crevalle finally have shown up, and they are tearing up baits with a vengeance.

Naples/Estero Bay: Friday, I had the pleasure of taking the Butler family out again for a half day. Dad (Brad) had a hard time of it because his wife (Melissa) and sons (Michael, Andrew, and Owen) were kicking his butt. They caught over 25 large trout, with the smallest being over 18 inches and the largest ones were 4 1/2-pounders. The boys and his wife were relentless, and the harder he tried, the more fish the others caught. Brad did pull it out in the end with a nice, 27-inch snook and a short red. A couple of jacks and ladyfish joined in the mix.

Down in Naples, Capt. Tim Daugherty says the morning tides have been good for pompano in the deep cuts. He has been using yellow or chartreuse jigs tipped with shrimp.

Snook fishing has been good and picking up on the beaches and around the passes. They are gobbling up nice white baits freelined. As the tide moves into the mangroves, Tim has been chumming with cut-up pilchards, and then following up with a pilchard under a popping cork and the reds are loving it. His fish are running in the 22- to 27-inch range with an occasional jumbo showing up. On a recent trip, two of the Grey Oaks Gang -- Len Judy and Ralph Golden -- pulled in eight nice reds on a half-day trip.

Offshore: Capt. Michael Avinon has been running his "Findictive" out for snapper fishing recently. While the snapper bite has been only fair, a lot of slack has been taken up by the very good grouper and king mackerel action.

Also on a recent full day, Michael ran out to a wreck where his anglers tangled with amberjacks to 40 pounds, and then for the "icing on the cake" were worked over by a bull shark estimated to weigh about 300 pounds.

Half-day trips are also producing some nice grouper catches. Several over-30-inch fish were caught on a single half-day recently. Capt. Avinon says the large sharks are showing up behind boats and these include bulls, tigers, and hammerheads. Warning: Stay on the boat!

King mackerel have been providing good action for anglers onboard the "Sea Legs," which is captained by Tom Robinson. Despite lumpy seas, he has been running out about 15 miles and trolling spoons for the kings. Most of the fish are in the 6- to 10-pound range, and are a blast to catch. Capt. Tom has also had anglers pulling in nice-sized gags and reds. He is counting the days until April 1.

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Fishing Report: Full moon, strong winds have shaken things up a bit

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted March 14, 2012

NAPLES — Full moon and strong winds have made for interesting conditions for area fishermen recently.

There were a couple of days when the wind was ripping out of the east so strongly we never had a high tide at my house. Of course the wind dirtied up the water in many areas, which made the task of finding cleaner, fishable water a challenge.

On the inshore front the snook and redfish are in a fairly cooperative mood if you can get a bait in front of them. Reds are seeming to still prefer shrimp (or Gulp Shrimp) over live white baits, especially down in the Ten Thousand Islands. Sea trout are still around and some large ones are being caught by anglers catching snook. These tend to be some of the biggest of the year. The snook are very willing to eat a nice pilchard tossed their way. It is getting to be the time of year to try tossing some surface jerk baits early and late for a hungry snook. While you will get a few misses, the strikes are well worth it.

Winds made for some bumpy rides for our offshore anglers recently, but the fish didn’t seem to mind. With the grouper season closed until April, there are a lot of nice sized fish being caught and released.

These fish are eating live and cut bait and can be found in water from 30 feet out to much deeper water. Snapper and King mackerel are the key targets for most boats. The kings are still hanging in the 12- to 15-mile range off the beach, and they will eat a live bate or a trolled lure. Make sure to use a short piece of wire to protect your hook from the razor-like teeth.

A few tarpon have been reported, but no sizable group yet. It has to happen soon, but with the water so warm a number of captains are wondering if the fish will just zoom by and head straight for Boca Grande!

Offshore: Lots of big grouper are being released by charters on the “Sea Legs,” according to Capt. Tom Robinson.

Hopefully they will still be around in a couple of weeks when the season reopens. His anglers are catching lots of kings in the 6- to 10-pound range, which are great fun on light spinning tackle. Also nice sized lane snapper up to 17 inches are filling coolers.

On Tuesday 88-year-old Pete Ferro fought and landed a monster 70-pound cobia. Three amberjack in the 35-pound range were also kept. Tom says they found some snapper, but some very aggressive goliath grouper were chasing the hooked fish to the boat in 90 feet of water. Only one snapper made it to the boat!

On recent half-day trips Capt. Mike Lucas on the “Cuda” has also been returning nice grouper back to the water. The fish range from shorts to fish well over the minimum for a keeper. He has been working water in the 35- to 40-foot range and doing well on lanes and mangrove snapper.

Mike reports that the water is running 72 degrees and is fairly clear. On Tuesday he had out the Tim Gill family, and their catch of the day was a nice 30-pound king mackerel on light spinning tackle.

Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Todd Geroy says that the winds and dirty water made for challenging conditions, but persistence paid off for his anglers. Snook and red action was as good as it gets. Trout, pompano and jacks also hitting baits. On Thursday, Todd had Margaret Smith and her daughter Mary onboard. Margaret has fished with Todd for 20 years and was celebrating her 80th birthday. She and Mary nailed the snook and reds, but the highlight of the trip was a nice 13-pound red caught by Margaret!

Up in Estero, Capt. Tim Daugherty says the snook were hitting very well near the passes on Monday. Bait has been spotty in recent days, but if you get it the fish are eating it. On the falling tide he has been catching nice sized snook in the 24-25 inch range, and a number of large trout also got in on the action.

On the flood tide he is chumming the bushes with cut up baits, and the reds have been responding well. Most fish are running in the 22- to 30-inch range. The water is clearing up nicely after last week’s wind.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. John Dant went out of the Rod and Gun Club on Tuesday with Tony Yokum and his son Tony, grandson Tony (age 9) and grandson Chase (age 5). A family day of fishing with the goal of the kids having action, and Capt. John delivered.

In the half-day trip they landed more than 40 fish and lost a bunch, too. They totaled 10 species, including sea trout, silver trout and whiting. A couple of bonnet head sharks even got in on the action.

Fishing out of Caxambas Pass, Capt. Bill Jones ran a half-day and went looking for reds. Using a Gulp shrimp on a jig suspended under a popping cork, he had his anglers working the bushes until the water ran out. Five nice reds made it to the boat and a several determined snook didn’t. The water is fairly dirty up near the pass, but somewhat cleaner further south according to Capt. Jones.

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Fishing Report: Strong winds affecting otherwise good conditions

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted March 7, 2012

NAPLES — Air conditioners have been humming for a week or two now in my neighborhood, and more people have been in the water at the beach.

All of this means that we have pretty much bypassed winter and gone directly into spring. Unfortunately as I write this, we are having a bit of a wind problem with winds pegging close to the 30-mph mark, which makes for less than ideal boating and fishing conditions.

Before this wind onslaught, things were happening quite nicely for the inshore anglers. Snook populations were on the rise, and some serious-sized linesiders were hooked, and a few even brought to the boat. Of course, the reds continue to be scattered around the bays and passes, moving into the bushes with the higher water.

Some of the largest sea trout of the season are being reported, and they are in a few of the passes and around the same oyster bars where you are looking for redfish. Early morning -- once the wind subsides -- might be a good time to try the surface plugs and soft plastics.

Schools of bait, both little things and better-sized things, are making their way into local waters. Pelicans can be seen diving all around the bays feeding on mostly glass minnows, but some greenies and pilchards, too. And mullet, they are all over the place. Now all we need are a few hundred tarpon around to chase them.

Recently while throwing a net for bait along the beach in somewhat murky conditions, I was amazed at the number of small pompano ending up in the net -- to be released. It was not unusual to end up with 12 to 15 palm-sized pompano in a single throw of the net.

Offshore, kings are providing a little more consistent action, with most of the fish running in the 5- to 10-pound range. While you can't keep the grouper, and large ones at that, are being hauled up just 12 to 15 miles off the beach. Along with the grouper are some of the largest lane snapper reported in some time. These fish are running to over 18 inches! Offshore: The "Findictive," with Capt. Mike Avinon onboard, has been hitting the kings on most days. His clients are using 20-pound spinning outfits to catch the schoolie-sized kings, which ran about six pounds on a recent trip with Chris, Trish, and 7-year-old Charley. On this half-day trip, Charley was able to bring in most of his fish unassisted, and the morning trip ended with a battle with a 150-pound bull shark.

Capt. Ed Nichols had a recent half-day trip with Jose Smith and his family where they went out 15 miles and got into some giant lane snapper to over 18 inches. They also caught a mess of hungry blue fish to go with their limit of snapper. Ed said they must have thrown back a dozen legal-sized grouper and a ton of shorts, too.

Naples/Estero Bay: Reds have been responding fairly well to a Hybrid Flurry skipped under the bushes, according to Capt. Steve Nagy. This technique has his customers covering a lot of territory, and racking up respectable catches of reds in the 17- to 22-inch range.

Steve said that sheepshead in the 1- to 5-pound range are being caught around dock pilings, too. On a recent trip with Sam Brenner and Mark Rogers, Okuma Fishing USA, several large snook were hooked up with Sam's 33-incher being his personal best so far. Several larger fish broke off.

Capt. Seth Hayes has started his spring hunt for the big ones, and so far, so good. Gene Johnson landed a 41-inch snook on a recent trip, and had an even bigger one take off on a one-way trip. Seth is using white bait -- the bigger the better for the large snook. Oversized reds to 31 inches and a fair number of slot reds were bending poles, too. A good sign is that Seth saw a large school of jack crevalle that were in the 10- to 12-pound range.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Matt Hoover has been running both fly and bait trips out of Goodland.

On his most recent fly trip, his anglers were using a Max 40 (white/olive bait) fly to coax bites out of snook and reds. The real rush came when a tarpon estimated at 120 pounds grabbed the fly and took off. Bait trips are producing some nice reds and snook up to 29 inches. Along with the reds, he is finding some fairly large trout and decent numbers of five-pound jacks, too.

Variety has been the theme for anglers fishing with Capt. John Dant. All three types of trout are eager to eat a shrimp fished on the bottom, and the sheepshead are running to three pounds, as was experienced by Jeff Johnson and family on a charter last week. Reds are around, but seem to be hit and miss on many days. Pompano are around the deeper cuts and in the passes.

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New measures protecting tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks went into effect on Sunday.

New laws protect sharks in Florida waters

Posted: Jan 01, 2012

LEE COUNTY -New measures protecting tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks went into effect on Sunday.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission passed the measures on November 16th.

They prohibit the harvest of tiger sharks and great, scalloped and smooth hammerhead sharks from state waters as well as prohibit their possession, sale, and exchange.

FWC notes that the sharks can still be caught and released in state waters and can be taken in adjacent federal waters. Read more

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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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