Naples to Flamingo
Includes Naples, Marco Island, Everglades City and Chokoloskee
A very rare cold front (not that you would notice!) passed through this week bringing gobs of rain and thunderstorms to the region. With an influx of stronger winds and runoff, waters have become slightly less clear than in previous weeks. Expect to see some drying out over the weekend and a slight decrease in the winds. Tides will be a bit weaker but afternoons will be plenty strong. Look for the cleanest water to be found nearest the outside islands and beaches.
As conditions return to normal behind the front, snook will again begin to prowl the beaches and shallow outside islands. Pods of baitfish will most often give away the presence of snook as the spray and shower while running for their lives. Live bait has gotten big enough to use and can be found all along area beaches. Be selective and try to pick out the biggest baits, as they will draw the attention of bigger snook. Look for the best action for larger snook to be in the passes especially during stronger tides. Large jumbo pilchards or mullet allowed to drift close to shoreline structure will surely draw vicious strikes from jumbo snook.
Tarpon action in the backcountry creeks and rivers is beginning to peak as a flush of freshwater has pushed the juvenile fish to seek out more salty water. Look for rolling activity first thing in the morning or late in the day to give away the location of small schools or pods of tarpon ion the 10 to 20 pound range. Juvenile tarpon are known to fall for a variety of artificial lures but none work as well as soft plastic jerk baits. Rigged weightless and skipped under the mangroves, jerk baits can provide fantastic action. Remember to wait just a second before setting the hook for a higher hook to land ratio.
Bigger tarpon are still cruising the beaches and can be caught at first light especially near the mouths of passes. Look for tarpon to roll as they push north near Caxambas and Marco Passes to the south and Gordon’s and Doctor’s to the North. Large live or cut baits are almost a necessity but a few fish will fall victim to large paddle tailed soft plastic swim baits.
Redfish will be easier to catch as the waters calm and settle on the outside points. Perennial hot spots like Round and Stop Keys will peak at higher tide stages and just as the water begins to fall. Floating live baits or scented soft plastics beneath a popping cork is a sure fire late summer tactic for connecting with reds. A few reds will also be caught casting jigs and swim baits near oyster bars in the backcountry at lower tides.
Offshore anglers should plan on an early start to avoid thunderstorms and increasing winds this weekend.
Armed with a well full of live bait, anglers should head to the wrecks and reefs in the 70 feet depths and plan on camping out to locate a limit of gag grouper. Some absolute bruisers have been reported on the wrecks to the south.
Permit action is still steady near the towers and wrecks with taller vertical structure. Bait crabs are available now at most bait shops.