Des Moines junior Gryson Arnold got a little help with the lock from Capt. Kees VanDerAa of A&B Charters, but he reportedly pulled his huge red grouper out of 80 feet of water himself!Daniel Thiesson dug his personal best red grouper, this one at 32 inches, in 130 feet of water while drifting a dead squirrelfish (sand perch).Great beginnings! This is Amanda Thiesson with her first grouper, and Viet Hoang with her first black grouper, estimated at 55 pounds. They were fishing 80 miles from Sanibel Light on live bait.Illinois angler Mimi Janson’s speckled trout was one of three keepers caught Sunday at Big Hickory Pass on her Get Hooked charter with Capt. Matt DeAngelis.He’s been warned that the snaps can break, but grandfather Rick Mercer says Landry Curtis isn’t afraid and pulls them out himself. This one was at Wiggins Pass.Toronto angler Mark Minzer was definitely in the right place (not Toronto) at the right time for this Big O bass, caught with Capt. Bo White of Roland Martin Marina & Resort.The DOA Deadly Combo has its click mechanism inside the hollow foam float, which has a hollow face that also pops and gurgles to mimic feeding predators.• In Southwest Florida during the past week, bottom red tide has been observed at low concentrations in Charlotte County, medium bottom concentrations in Lee County and the coast, and bottom concentrations in Collier County.
Not-so-gentle breezes have put a damper on fishing efforts, but even offshore anglers have been doing well over the past week. Old salts have always used mangrove shorelines as winter windbreaks, but many are finding that Hurricane Ian trashed them leaving many trees virtually leafless and pierced.
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OFFSHORE: Viet Hoang reports that YouTube’s Chop Suey fishing crew made a grand entrance on Riley Alstodt’s new boat, fishing up to 80 miles from the Sanibel Light. Amanda and Daniel Thiesson and Viet achieved personal best red and black groupers respectively. Gag and black took live baits in 175 feet of water, and the 32-inch red took a dead squirrelfish (sand perch) drifted on the live bottom in 130 feet.
Great beginnings! This is Amanda Thiesson with her first grouper, and Viet Hoang with her first black grouper, estimated at 55 pounds. They were fishing 80 miles from Sanibel Light on live bait.
A&B Charters out of Port O’Call Marina in Naples send in an amazing photo of young Gryson Arnold from Des Moines, Iowa with a big red grouper caught in 80 feet of water on cut squid. He was fishing with Capt. Kees VanDerAa on the All In, and “It took everything the little man had to pull the fish off the bottom.”
ESTERO BAY: Frequent contributor Rick Mercer reports fun fishing with grandsons Landry and Lochlan Curtis and Grandma Char. They used shrimp to catch mangrove snappers and several baby goliath groupers Saturday at Wiggins Pass.
He’s been warned that the snaps can break, but grandfather Rick Mercer says Landry Curtis isn’t afraid and pulls them out himself. This one was at Wiggins Pass.
Get Hooked Charters Capt. Matt DeAngelis sent in a photo of Illinois angler Mimi Janson with one of three sea trout spotted Sunday on a shrimp and prawn rig in Big Hickory Pass. Monday’s catch-and-release trip with West Bay Club anglers Bruce Churton and Ed Summers was good for 40 12- to 20-inch trout, caught on “pop’n cork combos” near Black Key. The guide reports that other charters have produced undersized snooks and sheepshead keeper.
CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER: Lehr’s customers report that a big midge bites artificial baits better than live baits in the river, which has become salty enough for live sardines to survive up to the railroad trestle/Interstate 75 area. No live baits needed The baits and lead rigs are the preferred lures, cast on bridge structure, dam tailwaters and, after rains, in outlets at the mouth of streams.
Sanibel: Lehr’s Economy Tackle reports that sheepshead fishing is picking up nicely as we approach the height of the season in February and March. Boaters have had good catches in the Sanibel Causeway and nearshore man-made reefs, bottom fishing primarily with live and frozen shrimp.
PINE ISLAND AND CHARLOTTE HARBOR: Wildfly Charters Capt. Gregg McKee reports good trout fishing in the grassy areas of Bokeelia Island, “when it’s not a surf spot.” He also located a very large snook close to the power lines at Matlacha Pass, although negative low tides and strong northerly winds have made getting within casting range a challenge. He’s also seen very little in the way of live baits, which is not uncommon on winter bass, and one of the reasons artificial baits work well this time of year.
LAKE TRAFFORD: The fish bite on Lake Immokalee has slowed, but boaters are still out of chips. Pete Ramos caught 18 speck on Monday with minnows, and John Hall caught 18 on Tuesday with jigs. Also Tuesday, guide Joey Draple and two anglers caught 28 walleye on jigs. Most of the fish have been males and have been taken from shoreline vegetation, including junco. Courtney Johnson of Arcadia caught a 3-1/2-pound bass Sunday off the shore at Ann Olesky Park, but the walleye fishing from the shore and the park pier hasn’t been very good.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Roland Martin Marina & Resort Capt. Bo White reports that the bass bite on artificials slowed after the last cold front, but is improving with the warmer weather, following the recent new moon. The best areas have been along the northern shores around Horse Island, Tin House Cove and King’s Bar. The key is to move into vegetated areas and find clean water around clumps of cattails, where wild shiners under bobbers are a safe bet. As the waters warm, the best fake baits should be Speed Worms, Senkos and swim jigs in black and blue fished slowly around cover.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Toronto angler Mark Minzer was definitely in the right place (not Toronto) at the right time for this Big O bass, caught with Capt. Bo White of Roland Martin Marina & Resort.
Big bass in the Big O never tire of a wild shiner diet.
The DOA Deadly Combo has its click mechanism inside the hollow foam float, which has a hollow face that also pops and gurgles to mimic feeding predators.
Mike Westra of Lehr’s reports very good trout and redfish catches from Estero Bay to northern Pine Island Sound with two main ingredients. He went through the leeward fishing tip of the mangrove shores, which customers report aren’t blocking the breezes like they used to, before H. Ian blew away much of the foliage. The other key variable has been the use of clacker cork rigs, which have a multitude of variations beyond the fact that their clacker noise attracts nosy predators. They are often bought prepared, with plastic shrimp, or can be used with scented artificials, such as Gulp! branded baits, as well as live shrimp, herring or fish.
No. 1: Grass Plans on Bokeelia Island for Trout.
No. 2: Trout and redfish in the potholes of Pine Island Sound.
No. 3: Big Snook to Caloosahatchee, Fort Myers to Ortona.
No. 4: Estero Bay for trout.
No 5: artificial reefs near the coast for sheep.
No. 6: Inland well for red grouper and lane snapper.
No. 7: Lake Trafford for Crappie
No. 1: Horse Island to King’s Bar for bass.