Bottom fishing over the last recreational snapper weekend was on fire with no red tide issues offshore.
Inshore fishermen would have welcomed more favorable tides, but red tide problems were also ameliorated.
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Lake Trafford boaters had mixed success on crappie, with catches ranging from limits to just four or five.
Lake Okeechobee walleye fishing picked up over the past week, and the bass bite improved noticeably for anglers casting fake lures.
OFFSHORE: Capt. Allen Walburn of A&B Charters reports from Naples: “The aftermath of Hurricane Ian was devastating for much of Southwest Florida, but as bad as it was for the state, it the opposite happens inshore. In my 45 years of charter boating, I have never seen fishing as good as it was after the storm. Full day charters in offshore waters have been producing limits snapper, plus mangrove snapper, and half-day trips have also been excellent. Mackerel have also been caught while trolling Crippled Herring spoons and metal rigs. Capt. Walburn also notes that fishing in the high seas of Naples have not been hindered by the red tide and that there is no danger of contamination for the freshly caught fish in these clean waters.
Jessica and Andrew Lattanzio got Andrew’s wish for a grouper dinner and then some by fishing in just 35 feet of water on their half-day All In trip with Capt. Kees VanDerAa of A&B Charters.
David Stout’s family and friends had a killer trip Friday on the final weekend of the extended recreational “American Red Snapper” season, quickly catching their AR limits and releasing some 30 more in just 1 hour and a half of fishing in one. stop in 147 feet of water off Sanibel. After the snapper limits, they continued to fish for snapper, catching seven to 33 inches, while releasing 16 off-season red groupers, including 10 of 30 inches or more, all on fresh dead baitfish. Chuck Stout also landed an estimated 40+ pound black grouper in the boat before it unbuttoned.
The group caught mixed baitfish, mostly blue runners, using multi-hook sabiki rigs in 60 feet of water, where bottom-caught baitfish died almost instantly when placed in circulating surface water apparently contaminated with the red tide Stout released all the fish with a Seaqualizer descent device that automatically releases the fish from their lip grip at a predetermined depth, returning them to a safe level of atmospheric pressure without puncture wounds from venting.
Brian Sullivan reports on Saturday and Sunday’s trips, starting with a stop at Charlie’s Reef, where Riley Alstodt shot a hogfish and an estimated 60-inch cobia “fell back in the water.” Then they went out another 25 miles, where they caught snapper, including this beauty from Raise Alstodt, and a surprise blueline tilefish from Viet Hoang. On Sunday they ran 106 miles in 175 feet of water north of Lee County, where they caught a few red snappers, mostly red and rail snappers and a rabbitfish (smooth puffer). Frozen shrimp caught live cigar fish, pinfish, jigs and frozen squid.
Riley Alstodt couldn’t help but admire Raise woman’s dandy red snapper, caught west of Redfish Pass with friend Brian Sullivan.
Capt. Dave Hanson of Fishbuster Charters reports two trips out of New Pass. At the 18-mile mark on Friday, Jerry Jenkins and his grandson, Lucas, used squid to catch and release a dozen out-of-season snapper and three spearfish under 14 inches. They also released seven short red grouper and a 16-inch gag, while boxing 14 white grunts for fish tacos. Saturday morning’s eight-mile trip with Jeff, Beth, Tanner and Maddie Heimrich and Uncle John produced releases of 12 spearfish under 14-1/2 inches, three-lane snapper and a goliath grouper of 18 pounds plus 25 good grunts for the box. Captain Hanson reported seeing the red tide bloom six miles from the beach, but no farther on Friday.
ESTERO BAY: Rick Mercer sent a photo of wife Char with a “fiesty” snook from the Imperial River caught Saturday with a live shrimp.
Get Hooked Charters Capt. Matt DeAngelis reports that fishing conditions in central Estero Bay continue to be good. On Friday at Jack’s Bar, Michigan angler Joe Hoegler caught a 25-inch walleye. And West Bay Club anglers Bill Schirmer and Bruce Churton caught a 24-inch trout and a 26-inch red on Wednesday, using cut bait.
CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER: Mike Westra of Lehr’s Economy Tackle has had a report of 12 redfish and a few grunts caught on live baits at the mouth of the river. And reports from the WP Franklin and Ortona lock spillways have been increasingly good for snook and a few tarpon being hooked by anglers casting big lead jigs.
SANIBEL AND CAPTIVA ISLANDS: Lehr’s also reports that two anglers baiting with live ladybugs in the “A” and “B” sections of the Sanibel Causeway caught a dozen juvenile goliath groupers up to 60 pounds and lost a couple of crushing steals. On the other end of the island, an electrician staying on Captiva Island released a 40-plus-inch walleye while fishing a live ladybug back to the Blind Pass Bridge from the Sanibel shoreline. The same technique was responsible for some “monster snook” releases. Another report noted four pompano caught at Captiva Pass.
PINE ISLAND: Trout fishing has been good in the Pine Island Sound flats, according to Lehr’s.
On the other side of the island, Capt. Gregg McKee of Wildfly Charters reports good trout and ladyfish action in the Indian Field area north of Matlacha, where Gulp! lures under corks accounted for plenty, including dinner. “Lucky morning tides” were blamed for lackluster action, including Thursday morning at Rock Creek on the south end of Little Pine Island, where the water was beautiful, with no sign of a red tide.
LAKE TRAFFORD: Crappie action has been mixed in Lake Immokalee, according to Lake Trafford Marina. Kentucky snowbird Grundy Falwell has been using machines to catch daily limits in the lake’s central depths. Other boaters have landed with catches ranging from four to twenty, mostly while using fish. And the few anglers who have tried their luck from the Ann Olesky Park Pier have had no luck.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Roland Martin Marina & Resort Capt. Jose Betancourt reports, “The crappie bite has been great in Rim Ditch, south of the Clewiston Lock, and in the Harney Pond Canal, using fish and whiting.” The bass bite has been most reliable on live wild shiners, with topwater frogs and spinnerbaits occurring early in the morning, followed by creature baits, jigs and Big EZ swimbaits running through the grass when the sun rises Moonshine Bay in the Western Marsh, Observation Shoal and the north shore from Horse Island to Tin House Cove have been the best places to look for clean water along the hard vegetation lines.
LaBelle belle Micah Ross got his birthday wish with this Big O bass, caught in Moonshine Bay with JJ Bass Fishing Captain Jose Betancourt.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Thirteen-year-old Thomas Sullivan wore his red grouper camo to fool this idiot, launched last weekend with his dad, Brian.
Excellent catches of red grouper bode well for the season opener on January 1st.
Get Hooked Charters Captain Matt DeAngelis reports that Joe Hoegler showed his sons, Nate and Will, the practice of redfish fishing.
Guides have been complaining about lackluster action on slow tides for the past week. But Get Hooked Charters Capt. Matt DeAngelis still managed to produce trout and redfish for clients, starting the day by catching live baitfish off the beaches off Estero Bay. Flaky sardines can be smelt after being mixed with special mixes or canned cat food, or schools of baitfish can be spotted on clear bottoms. Then we head to the mangrove spots and bars of the inner bay, where direct contact with handfuls of live spangles can whet the appetite of sulky game fish, always looking for an easy meal.
No. 1: Matlacha Pass grass flats for speckled trout.
No. 2: Pine Island Sound for cutthroat trout and redfish.
No. 3: Blind Pass for snook and big redfish.
No. 4: Sanibel Causeway to catch and release goliath grouper.
No. 5: Estero Bay for trout and blacks.
No. 6: Offshore well for grouper and mixed snappers.
No. 7: Lake Trafford for crappies in the middle depths.
No. 1: North Shore for bass.
No. 2: Harney Pond Canal for shit.
No. 3: Observation bench for bass.
No. 4: Moonshine Bay for bass.
No. 5: Rim Canal lily pads for crappie.