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NAPLES — Well, the seesaw effect is still in play, with a cold front coming in about every three days.
We seem to be making a little overall progress in the water temperature, and you can expect mid to upper 50s after a front, with the sun heating it back up to the mid-60s before we start the whole thing over again. That being said, we had a pleasant surprise while fishing in Estero on Tuesday, with the wind howling at 25 to 30 mph. Among the nine species we boated were five snook up to 21 inches. Can spring be far away?
Inshore, the focus continues to be on trout, sheepshead, and redfish. A lot of the trout being caught are in the 13- to 14 1/2-inch range, with the larger keeper fish doing a good job of hiding. Some really nice-sized sheepshead are finding their way to the cleaning table, as well as keeper black drum. For the most part, the reds are under the 18-inch minimum, but more and more of them are creeping past the minimum size for a slot fish. I talked with one guide who found some pilchards and put some in the well, but nothing wanted to eat even one.
Offshore, only a few days remain before the Feb. 1 closure of the red grouper fishery for two months, so if you want grouper, get out on the water in the next week. Mangrove snapper seem to be bitting well for the offshore boats, but they are running out quite a ways to find the nice-sized ones you want to put in the cooler. A few nice red grouper were reported and even a couple of amberjacks.
Ten Thousand Islands: Running out of Goodland, Capt. Rob Walczak fished with Jim and Karl Urban from Wisconsin recently. Using the jig tipped with shrimp program, they caught a bunch of trout, but most were throwbacks. They also got into some redfish, and landed a number of them, and while most were shorts, they did have a few in the 18- to 20-inch range.
Capt. Shane Miller has also been catching up to 40 fish per trip, with most of the trout being small and the reds short, but he has been finding some nice sheepshead in the 2- to 4-pound range. Of course, ladyfish are pretty much always willing to eat a jig, too. The sheepshead that Shane has been catching are coming out of deeper holes in the back country. The water has been pretty dirty recently.
Offshore: Onboard the "Sea Legs," running out of the Naples City docks, Capt. Tommy Robinson ran a night trip on Friday for snapper under a big moon. Tom said the group with Jim Avery and his Fan Depot group enjoyed a spectacular sunset on the way to the fishing grounds. Once out about 30 miles, the group started dropping lines which were quickly hit by the hungry mangroves.
Before the night was over 30 keeper mangs went into the box, as well as two nice keeper red grouper. While using the lighter tackle for the mangroves, a hungry amberjack invited himself to the party and gave one of the anglers a great fight.
Capt. Alan Walburn reports from the A&B Charters running out of Port of Call Marina that fishing offshore has been good. On Sunday, he had a group consisting of Michelle Linderman, Mark Gordon, and John Downey from Ohio. Limits of mangrove snapper were had by all and most were in the 4- to 5-pound range. Capt. Walburn also reports he is still finding red grouper in the 8- to 12-pound range, as well as some nice porgies.
Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Mike McDonald had an interesting catch on a Thursday trip in Estero Bay. His anglers had been catching a number of trout, with a few being keeper-sized and one hitting a nice 22 inches. One of the lady anglers hooked into a small 12-inch trout and was bringing it to the boat when the pole doubled over.
What was once a small 12-inch trout was now a 28- to 30-inch monster trout. Everyone on the boat saw the fish, but as it got near the boat it became clear what had happened. The big trout had the little one in his mouth and, unfortunately, before it could be netted it just let go of the little guy, which was totally skinned like it had been grabbed by a big grouper. Capt. Mike says the concentrations of large sheepshead just haven't happened yet, but he is getting some keepers using shrimp on a jig.
Down in Naples at the end of last week, Capt. Tim Daugherty was catching a wide variety of fish including trout, reds, sheepshead, black drum, and of course, ladyfish. He has had his anglers throwing a brown Monty's jig tipped with a piece of shrimp. Most of the trout, as well as the reds have been undersized, but he is getting keeper-sized sheepshead in the deeper holes in the back.
Freshwater: Thanks to Jess Edwards out at the Golden Gate Tacklebox we have a good freshwater report. According to Jess, now is the time to be out catching bass. He states that the water temperatures are holding up well even with the cold fronts and that the bass are in a pre-spawn now and eating up a storm. Also, the area around Alligator Alley is doing well on bass, and the crappie bite on Lake Trafford.
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