It’s early fall, water temperatures are, well, falling, and the fish are getting frisky. What’s more, more fish are headed this way, south along our coastlines.
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Offshore anglers have been filling boxes with grouper, permit, snapper, and porgies. Redfish and snook have been on the chew in the bays. And freshwater anglers can have it both ways, fighting bass for fun and panfish for later.
OFFSHORE: Blind Date Fishing Charters Capt. Tom Katz reports on Saturday’s trip to 120 feet of water west of Blind Pass, “We were able to fill the boxes with snapper and porgies.” The red grouper action was good, but all but Libby Fekette’s didn’t quite measure up.
A&B Charters Capt. Jim Rinckey notes his regular customers from Naples know when the getting is good, as Morgan Williams, Nicholas Hines, Jeremy Caprari, Mitch Fogulman, John Salay, and Bob Simms found last Friday in 85 feet of water northwest of Gordon Pass. They fished natural live bottom with live pinfish for a nice box of grouper, and used lived crabs at an artificial reef for permit, on their trip aboard the All In.
NAPLES & MARCO: David DeLeon sent in a picture of his wife, Michelle, with a 23-inch redfish she caught Sunday “on the east side off The First National by Rookery Bay,” using a live shrimp.
Rick and Char Mercer and their friend Niki Harvey weren’t far from there on Saturday when the ladies pulled a redfish double from the Marco River.
ESTERO BAY: Greg Graveson and Dewey Meyers had a fun day of catch-and-release fishing Tuesday in southern Estero Bay with six redfish to 24 inches and a short snook. And they still managed to bring home the bacon in the form of three keepers among six sheepshead, plus a 14-inch permit on their trip with Fishbuster Charters Capt. Dave Hanson.
Estero anglers Bruce Churton and Jim Oliver combined for four dandy redfish caught on live pinfish near Mound Key last Thursday. Get Hooked Charter Capt. Matt DeAngelis also reports good action on snook, jacks and snapper around stronger tide phases.
Karen Theis sent in a shot of a snook she caught at the north end of the Estero Bay system, off Hurricane Bay, while casting off her dock with her favorite bait: frozen sardines from Cattle Dock Bait in Punta Rassa.
SANIBEL: Bob Brooks of Sanibel continued his mastery of snook on the beach with a big one taken on fly from a west end beach Wednesday. Otherwise, strong winds have mucked up the surf fishing, although the best bet may be on the island’s other side. Norm Zeigler’s Fly, Bait & Tackle reports snook done with spawning for the year are evacuating the beaches and starting to stack up on the San Carlos Bay and Pine Island Sound shorelines as waters cool. Blind Pass has been hot with transitioning snook, and the action on reds and mangrove snapper also has been good. Trout fishing has been best mostly in the evenings around the causeway islands, with a few specks also biting in Blind Pass.
PINE ISLAND: St. James City Capt. George Grosselfinger reports fabulous snook action in lower Pine Island Sound, where he released 15 in the slot and lost a monster while casting a Top Dog and another nameless topwater bait around the east side’s outside keys Wednesday.
In the same area, around the MacKeever Keys, Fort Myers anglers Billy Tanner and Brian Malkou fished cut mullet under the bushes for a catch of “at least 20 redfish” from 23 to 28 inches, plus a 35-inch bruiser on Sunday, according to Lehr’s Economy Tackle.
On the other side of the island, around Oyster Creek in Matlacha Pass, Wildfly Charters Capt. Gregg McKee found a school of about 20 redfish from which Vinny Sawchuk managed to pull out a nice one on a baitfish fly, despite hampering winds. Capt. McKee reports lots of redfish, small snook, and slot-size trout in that area.
CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER: Cape Coral angler Dennis Cunningham cast netted a well full of sardines Sunday at the Sanibel Causeway, and converted the baitfish into releases of six high-slot redfish and close to a dozen snook to 30 inches by pitching them under docks in the Iona Cove area, according to Lehr’s.
CHARLOTTE HARBOR: Capt. Ralph Allen of King Fisher Charters at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda reports the first big wave of southbound Spanish mackerel has invaded the harbor in good numbers around the Cape Haze Bar (ICW marker No. 5 area).
MANASOTA KEY: Recent winds have made sight fishing impossible, but North Port Dick’s Sporting Goods pro-staffer Ken Taylor said that didn’t stop him from having a good time, releasing headstrong jacks and high flying ladyfish from schools showering big schools of scaled sardines along the beach Wednesday, on his birthday.
LAKE TRAFFORD: The fishing on the Immokalee lake has been good for good fishermen. LaBelle angler Randy Perkins caught his limit of crappie while drifting minnows in the lake’s central waters Wednesday, and Manuel Vasquez also had 25 fish — 23 specks and two catfish. Cassy Dimas of Immokalee also has been catching catfish and a few crappie from the shorelines of Ann Olesky Park, according to Lake Trafford Marina.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Brad Lytle of Roland Martin’s Marine Center in Clewiston reports bluegill are still biting on ultralight Beetlespin spinnerbaits, crickets, and live worms along the West Wall, just outside of the Clewiston Lock. For bass, cooling waters have the bite going all the way from the West Wall, clockwise up Observation Shoal, and along the North Shore to Tin House Cove. Lytle recommends starting at daybreak with a topwater or swimbait until about 9 a.m. After that, a 5- or 6-inch stick worm like a Gambler Fat Ace or Senko in black/blue tip, junebug, or watermelon red is the best bet.
PIC OF THE WEEK
With a quick pause for admiration, Michelle DeLeon’s 23-inch redfish went right back into Rookery Bay after its shrimp lunch.
As water temperatures begin falling in the Gulf, baitfish like these scaled sardines begin trekking south toward overwintering grounds. And with the bait come predators that slash through the schools, “showering” the hapless herrings with gluttonous attacks. So even though recent strong frontal winds mucked up the beaches too much for sight fishing his favorite snook, tackle manager Ken Taylor of North Port Dick’s Sporting Goods had no trouble seeing where to cast for fast action on crevalle jacks and ladyfish Wednesday morning along Manasota Key.
No. 1: Spanish mackerel on the Cape Haze Bar.
No. 2: Schooling redfish in south Matlacha Pass.
No. 3: Big snook and redfish around southern Pine Island Sound keys.
No. 4: Snook and reds under Iona Cove docks.
No. 5: Estero Bay for catch-and-release redfish, and maybe a fish dinner.
No. 6: Offshore for red grouper, lane snapper and more.
No. 7: Lake Trafford for crappie and catfish.
No. 1: Tin House Cove to the North Shore for bass.
No. 2: Observation Shoal to the West Wall for bass.
No. 3: West Wall for bluegill.