Once again, it was another week where Mother Nature was in control. While she did not pitch a complete shutout, she did dictate where most successfully plied their piscatorial prowess.
Sandwiched between strong high pressure to the north and a series of low-pressure systems to our south — one of which included Hurricane Nate — made for a windy week. While fishable conditions could be found on the inshore and close nearshore arenas, the offshore was quite bumpy, which reduced efforts.
Easterly component winds can be tricky for area anglers and general boaters alike. Often referred to as a sucker wind, the perception of smooth, near-coastal conditions persisting as one navigates toward the horizon often puts those who don’t know in potentially rough seas. These conditions are often exasperated by strong tides moving in an opposite direction to the prevailing wind.
For the inshore angler or boater, easterly winds provide ideal opportunities along the beaches and throughout the middle bay systems. The smooth waters allow for an ease of bait catching, anchoring the vessel for a nice beach walk, or perhaps an afternoon of tubing or waterskiing with family and friends.
Back on the fishing front, inshore snook and redfish action has clearly been the highlight. Ample baitfish and robust tides have fueled a solid bite throughout the entire fishing day. Fresh water conditions in the deep backcountry have kept the best action in waters within close proximity to Gulf.
The cooling October water temperatures have redfish schooled up, which makes the species an ideal and popular Southwest Florida target. Areas of structure along the beaches, deeper mangrove shorelines and oyster bars during the higher tide phases have been top producers.
Remember, many of the redfish making their way boatside are too big to harvest and should be handled with care to ensure a healthy release.
Not to be overlooked, snook remain active in the passes and around residential docks during daylight and evening hours. As with their redfish counterpart, live bait, lures and a well-placed fly will entice exciting strikes.
Select nearshore fish havens have been very active with a variety of early fall reef and pelagic species keeping the rods bent early and late in the fishing day. Anglers have reported an influx of juvenile king mackerel mixed in with the usual suspects of Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish. The arrival of juvenile kings is a solid indicator that bigger kings are on their way to Southwest Florida waters soon.
Live sardines and shrimp presented on the surface have been the preferred technique for quick hook-ups out on the fish havens. Sending live bait down into the water column or near the substrate also will yield mangrove snapper and the occasional gag grouper.
Offshore: Despite the recent breezy conditions, Capt. Gene Luciano and crew have been enjoying a steady pick of reef fish on their half-day and six-hour Gulf outings.
Sailing from their temporary dockage located at Naples Bay Resort, the Dalis fleet of charter and multi-passenger vessels has been working areas of natural hard bottom in the 8- to 17-mile range.
Luciano reports that the lane snapper bite has been solid, along with a scattering on mangrove snapper, porgies and white grunts using small bits of squid, shrimp and herring. Luciano’s red grouper catches have been fooled with larger profile live baits and chunk pieces of threadfin herring.
Naples/Estero Bay: Aboard the Port of Naples Marina-based Grand Slam, I have been mixing up my half-day adventures between the inshore and nearshore arenas. Early and afternoon departures both have been productive.
Morning runs to several nearshore artificial reefs have been producing fast-paced Spanish mackerel action. Anchoring up current and casting bucktail jigs, 3-inch Clark spoons and live scaled sardines on light tackle has been my method of choice. With each passing week, the Spanish mackerel have been getting larger in grade and more plentiful.
Closer to shore and throughout the middle bays, snook and redfish have been our targeted species. Prospecting areas of moving water and structure have kept us hooked up to the game fish as well as mangrove snapper and jack crevalle.
Ten Thousand Islands: Splitting his guiding effort between Naples Bay and the upper Ten Thousand Islands, Capt. Chris Turner reports of good light-tackle activity around the outside areas from Coon Key southward to Fakahatchee Pass.
Working the outside bights and creekmouths early in the fishing day with top water lures and Gulp jigs, Turner and company have been staying tight to snook and small tarpon. Averaging 20 to 25 snook per trip, Turner’s largest snook of the week measured out at an impressive 39 inches, while most of Turners tarpon have been under 45 pounds.
As the day and tide progresses, Turner has been setting his sights on redfish. High tide conditions have been ideal for Turner to work deeper hard bottom shorelines and oyster bars arras with live-scaled sardines rigged under a traditional popping cork. Turner has been averaging 8 to 14 redfish per trip.