Naples Fishing Report August 19

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With the sun doing its best to cook any angler foolish enough to be on the water, inshore fishing has been a little on the slow side this past week.

Water temperatures are getting back toward the 90 degree mark, and the fish just aren’t as active when the liquid they are swimming in feels like a soup pot on a stove.

Having said that, there are still a lot of fish willing to be caught if you get out early and find some decent moving water.

The past few days we have had good morning high tide, which let the fishermen get into areas around the bushes and oyster bars to find feeding fish. Large schools of small bait are all over the place and will move with the tide. Work enough of those situations and you will catch fish.

Both snook and reds have been eating these little baits with groups of aggressive jacks and Spanish mackerel zipping in and out of the bait pods. Position yourself to work your lure or bait with the current in a natural looking manner. Before and just after first light, surface plugs or jerk baits can result in some explosive action. At night the snook and a few small tarpon are congregating around the dock lights. Some of these docks are holding 20 or more fish.

Offshore, red grouper continue to be the target of choice for most boats. As usual, finding them isn’t that difficult but finding fish at least 20 inches long can be a challenge. A friend was fishing some of the near shore artificial reefs a few days ago and was catching one after another, but no keepers. Keep moving around until you find the ledge or reef with some bigger fish.

For bait you can use about anything from cut sardines to live threadfin herring, and don’t be completely surprised to hook up with a cobia or large goliath grouper while targeting the red grouper.

Amberjacks, large and small continue to haunt the wrecks and some of the ledges, usually in a little deeper water (50 feet or more). Some nice catches of both lane snapper and yellowtail have been reported, too. Try chumming on the bottom and the top for more action on the snappers.

An interesting report was sent in by Gregg Malik about a recent adventure while fly fishing in his kayak off Naples beach. After putting in down around Third Avenue South, he was fishing around the old pilings when he saw some fish breaking water a little further out.

Once he paddled out he started to catch sail cats on a fly. Oh what a joy. Once he got rid of the hooked catfish he started to go back closer to shore, trailing his Clouser style fly behind the boat. All of a sudden a very large fish grabbed the fly and started to head to Georgia. Gregg set the hook and much to his surprise out of the water comes a five-foot tarpon.

Jumping the fish repeatedly didn’t slow it down, Gregg was towed back and forth. Finally after an hour and a half the leader gave out, but Gregg had the time of his life on his very first tarpon.

Offshore: This past Saturday, Capt. Brant Keller had Charles Aikey and Bob Bently out for a full day on the Gulf. Weather conditions were fairly good and they headed out about 25 miles southwest of Gordon Pass. Once they were at the first spot they started pulling in a number of red grouper, including several keepers, until the sharks moved in and spoiled the fun. Making a move to a wreck in 60 feet of water they caught a lot of large lane snapper and yellowtail snapper to put in the ice chest. The water was very clean and fish came up into the chum line.

Capt. Rick Featherstone has continued to work his red grouper holes with good success. On his most recent trip they headed out about 20 miles to some good hard bottom and started to work the fish. With a ratio of about 10 undersized fish per keeper they pulled in a ton of fish and managed to put 10 keepers in the box. Water was fairly clean, and they also picked up a few small amberjacks.

On board the “Sea Legs,” Capt. Tommy Robinson has been running mostly half-day trips recently. With fairly good weather in the mornings he has been heading out about six to 10 miles in search of fish. Lots of big Spanish mackerel have been bending anglers’ rods, and large lane and mangrove snapper have been filling the ice chest. Capt. Tom has been using freshly caught threadfin herring, both whole and cut, to entice his fish to bite. On Tuesday his catch of the day was a pair of goliath grouper weighing in at 30 and 60 pounds.

Naples/Estero Bay: Using small beach baits, Capt. Brad Brown has been fishing the early high water on the east side of Estero Bay, where the water has been clean enough to sight fish snook and reds. Brown has been out at first light and after quickly netting some bait he starts working the shoreline. Most of the snook have been on the small side and the reds right around the slot. On Monday, angler Thomas Kuir went one for two on juvenile tarpon found around the creek mouths. A few packs of decent sized jacks have also been terrorizing baits, but they move around very fast.

I fished Wiggins Pass a few times recently and the two days couldn’t have been more different. On Friday, with dirty water on the incoming tide, fish were just not eating. We caught several small snook and one jack. It was so slow that when I emptied my live well at my dock none of the resident snook came around to eat a free meal. On Tueday with much improved water clarity and a nice outgoing tide we quickly loaded up the live well with bait and started to catch fish. Bill Hickman and I caught 19 snook up to 21 inches, six redfish 18-20 inches, one nice jack, and loads of snapper in four hours of fishing. What a difference a day (or two) makes.

Ten Thousand Islands: Running out of Goodland, Capt. Rob Walczak has been doing well using small baits and jigs to catch a variety of fish. His anglers are bringing in mixed bags including flounder, redfish and lots of snapper.

On a trip this Monday his angler caught four reds up to 26 inches, several snook up to 34 inches and a bunch of snapper. Capt. Rob says the fish are just as likely to hit a jig as the live bait, and that fishing is getting better. He reported water temperature at 87 degrees and clearing up some after last week’s wind.

Further down in the Islands, Capt. Jesse Karen says his back country efforts have been somewhat slow with catches of a few snook and one or two reds being the norm. To combat that situation Jess has been targeting tarpon in the area several miles offshore. Using artificials he is getting plenty of action on fish in the 40 to 80 pound range. The average is five fish jumped for each one brought to the boat, but the jumps are the best part of the fight anyway. Plenty of black tip sharks also keep anglers busy.

On Tuesday Capt. Karen tried a little bottom fishing nine miles off the islands, and angler Marchin Dzyadik landed 62 short red grouper and four in the 20 to 24 inch range.

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