Between holiday chores, a windy cold front, and hurricane blues, this is going to be a great weekend to find plenty of elbow room, in the water.
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But there’s a good reason to go. The latest red tide sampling report shows a big improvement and the fish are biting in both fresh and salt water.
OFFSHORE: Fishbuster Charters Capt. Dave Hanson sent in two reports that bode well for future exploits when seasons reopen Jan. 1 on two of the Gulf’s most popular fish: red grouper and lane snapper. On Tuesday, Ingel, Matt and Max Merz fished spots ranging from 28 to 36 miles west of New Pass, using squid as bait. They released a dozen red grouper, including two potential keepers, and a half-dozen rails, plus a 9-pound goliath grouper, two yellowtail short snappers, and three small banks. In addition to great action, they put five mangrove snapper, a 14 inch porg and 30 white grunts in the box, while releasing many more grunts. Saturday morning’s Fishbuster trip to spots 17-20 miles offshore with Matt Burris was good for seven grunts targeting fish tacks, plus casting a dozen lanes and 15 red grouper .
This 20-inch red grouper and another as would have filled Matt Merz’s limit on his Fishbuster Charter on Tuesday. But at least captain Dave Hanson knows where they live, when the season reopens on January 1.
ESTERO BAY: Frequent contributor Karen Theis submitted this week’s Fish Tip species, a Mayan cichlid she caught near the scene of the home she lost to Hurricane Ian in the Bay of hurricane
CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER: Lehr’s Economy Tackle reports some big snook are moving into winter spots in the Caloosahatchee’s north shore creeks. An owner in Powell Creek, east of the Edison Bridge, and Hancock Creek, just downstream of the Caloosahatchee Bridge, reported releases of fish over 30 inches.
PINE ISLAND SOUND: Lehr’s has also received very good reports of sea trout bites north of Matlacha Pass, Bokeelia Island and north of Pine Island Sound. White 3-inch DOACAL jigs were universally powerful, although trout up to 24 inches differed in matters of avoirdupois. Those in the North Sound were reported to be on the thin side, while those caught by a different angler near Bokeelia Bar were said to be nice and chunky.
PORT OF CHARLOTTE: Matlacha angler Kody Payne used a white serpentine fly to catch a 31-inch snook, two slot-sized redfish and a bunch of ladybugs. But, “Of course we didn’t find a trout to complete the slam,” reported Capt. Gregg McKee of Wildfly Charters on his Saturday trip south of Burnt Store Marina. “I’ve been back there a few times this week and the trout are everywhere now,” and it really hit Wednesday as the cold front approached. He also reports sighting opportunities with more dolphins and manatees at the northern end of Matlacha Pass than he has seen in a long time.
LAKE TRAFFORD: Lake Immokalee’s famed walleye fishery is proving frighteningly fickle this fall, when walleye should be biting along the spawning shorelines. Last week’s report had them biting nicely, but still out in the central depths of the 1,500-acre lake. This week, nothing. Two of the lake’s veteran guides gave it a try, with one only catching three spot and the other bringing in a single catfish.
Roland Martin Marina & Resort Captain Justin Jones reports from the lake on fire (figuratively, of course). Morning trips with live wild baits for bait have been producing 20-40 bass in just four hours. That’s as much as a good bass every six minutes, not counting travel time, which sometimes involves running from Clewiston to the north end of the lake. Trailer boaters can launch into Lakeport at the Harney Pond Canal Ramp or Dyess’ Ditch before running to the Worm Cove or Tin House Cove areas. Hot spots on the south end of the lake have been Bay Bottom and Boy Scout Cut near Belle Glade. Capt. Jones reports that bass are starting to spawn at the bases of isolated groups of cattails, round reeds (junior and gulf spikerush) and lily pads, where unweighted Zoom Flukes in watermelon patterns have been effective. In more open water where bass break out on the walleye, the trick is to use a Rat-L-Trap or a willow leaf lure.
The 133-boat field of tournament anglers fishing last weekend’s 2022 Roland Martin Marine Center Series Championship presented by HUK had mixed, and sometimes fabulous, luck. Jerod Boltz and Jon Bowman jumped from 17th to first with a second-day bag of nearly 30 pounds caught on lures, including the 8.15-pound big bass worth a combined $35,000. Twenty-three teams received paychecks for weights from 33 to 47 pounds, and 81 teams weighed in 10 limits of bass over the weekend.
Jerod Boltz and Jon Bowman weighed a 30-pound bag, including the big bass of 8.15 pounds on day two, to sweep the 2022 Marine Center Roland Martin Series Championship presented by HUK.
RED TIDE: The news is good, with the potentially hideous dinoflagellate not detected in fish-kill concentrations in Lee or Collier counties.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Capt. Gregg McKee reports that Kody Payne was casting his brighteye streamer near the mangroves during low tide near Burnt Store Marine when this dandy snook took exception.
Snook have been running on the big side, with lines over 30 inches thrown over the past week.
Mike Westra of Lehr’s Economy Tackle received reports of two anglers releasing 33- and 35-inch snook near the Hancock Creek Bridge in North Fort Myers. And of course the biggest one got away. Their bait: exotic tilapia and Mayan cichlids caught with a cast net. This is by far the best technique for catching tilapia, which feed so low on the food chain that they aren’t really good hook and line targets.
Karen Theis used a small shrimp to catch this Mayan cichlid (a nominally freshwater species) near Hurricane Bay behind Fort Myers Beach.
Mayans, however, can attack anything that moves, or simply smells good, and have become more common than their tilapia cousins, by virtue of the greater salinity range they tolerate. Plus, if they’re as big as the one Karen Theis caught on a shrimp, they’re quality tableware as well as potential bait.
No. 1: The Burnt Store Bar for snook and redfish.
No. 2: Around North Pine Island for Trout.
No. 3: Caloosahatchee creeks for snook action.
No. 4: Offshore for mixed saltwater panfish.
No. 1: Worm Cove to Tin House Cove for bass.
No. 2: Boy Scout Cut and Bay Bottom for bass