A mixed bag best describes the weather and the catching both shallow and deep for the Southwest Fishing report in Florida. Anglers lucky enough to score ideal conditions have been rewarded, while those faced with lumpy seas and brisk winds have experienced a tough grind.
It truly has been an unpredictable weather pattern over the last several weeks. Tropical storms, waves of low pressure and a rare June cold front passage. Despite the fact that it is now officially summer, have kept us on our toes in deciding where to go and what to throw.
The inshore arena experienced a brief cleanup between storm systems, affording anglers some great Snook fishing. A strictly catch-and-release fishery, Snook have poured into the passes and middle bays in increasing numbers. Taking a variety of live and artificial baits, most of the Snook catches have consisted of medium- to over-the-slot-sized fish making their way to the landing net.
Also between weather events, the offshore bite has continued to become more active. Sharks are on the prowl virtually anywhere anglers drop bait, while red grouper have returned in aggregate to their traditional month of June half-day and full-day range haunts.
What has been an added bonus for anglers searching for a light-tackle thrill has been the return of solid numbers of the mighty barracuda. Often referred to as pesky or annoying while prospecting the numerous artificial fish havens, barracuda are quite the adversary when matched to light tackle spinning gear.
A slow trolled/free-lined thread-fin herring or palm-sized blue runner will draw the attention of a ravenous barracuda. If live bait is not available, try casting a brightly colored/multi-hook tube lure. Each presentation should be rigged with wire to avoid cut-offs and all fish should be handled with care to ensure a healthy release.
Gulf fishing between weather systems has proved fruitful for my clients aboard the Grand Slam. Docked at Port of Naples Marina, we have been prospecting select natural hard bottom areas northwest of Gordon Pass in the 8- to 12-mile range, and returning to port with red grouper and an assortment of reef species.
Large profile live baits including pinfish, pigfish and grunts truly have the red grouper responding. Deployed on a traditional fish finder rig, I have had to increase the monofilament leader size to 80- to 100-pound class due to the abundant shark numbers.
Turbid water has lane/mangrove snapper and porgies hitting live shrimp, small bits of squid on a chicken rig or a 1/2-ounce chrome metal jigs worked vertically in a slow fashion. So far the spring bite has yielded excellent size and numbers of snapper, so let’s hope the action remains strong.
In the same range and closer to shore, the fish havens or artificial reefs are producing action packed outings with sharks and barracuda being the highlight. I have been targeting both species on light/medium spinning tackle to ensure exciting, hard-charging battles. The sharks cannot refuse an offering of chunk bait, while the barracuda are responding well to live baits and tube lures cast and rapidly retrieved back to the boat. To continue with Southwest fishing report…
“The backwaters between Naples and Marco Island have been action-packed when the conditions have been calm, fishing between rough weather has been good for us as well.
We have been working the area passes and bays with a variety of live shrimp, scaled sardines and jigs. Primarily targeting Snook, Redfish and mangrove snapper, reports are that the best action has been at the beginning and end of the strong outgoing tide phase.
Casting shrimp tipped tube jigs in the deeper cuts, passes and flats has yielded mixed bag catches of Jack Crevalle, Speckled trout and a scattering of Pompano.
“For the first time since the devastating 2010 freeze/fish kill, we are experiencing great numbers of big Snook on the outside points from the Chatham River south to the Broad River.
With traditional pilchards or white bait difficult to procure, Turner has been using live finger mullet to entice his Snook catches. Concentrating on the outgoing tide phase, we have been averaging double-digit Snook catches on each outing. Free-lining or presenting his live baits rigged with a small pinch weigh has kept the Snook rods bent for our customers.
Tarpon have also captured everyone’s attention early in the fishing day. While the numbers have diminished over the last several weeks, reports of a few of the popular game fish still prowling the river mouths until the mid morning hours. Large offerings of cut bait have proved as effective natural bait, while larger, well-presented top water lures are also drawing the attention of feeding sliver kings.
Till next time, look for our next Southwest fishing report!