Naples Backcountry Fishing Report

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks leading up to the cold front we had two days ago. The warm stable weather was great and lasted three weeks! Tarpon fishing, shark fishing, snook fishing, big jacks all we’re active. 

As I suspected and mentioned in my last fishing report tarpon, big tarpon, showed up in the usual backcountry bays as they always do when the conditions are right. Fishing with good client Zach Bensinger and his buddies last Saturday we slayed em”. They like action so we started out snook fishing but it was slow so we headed south to a big jack crevalle spot. While setting up I noticed big jacks bustin’ a few hundred yards west of where we were in the open water. We quickly moved over and hooked up.

The jacks were in the 10-12# range which is a great fight on light 10# test tackle. Our plan was to shark fish next so after a few jacks I said: “ok boys, let’s give it a few more minutes here and we’ll go shark fishing”. Moments later the boys caught two bluefish which are perfect shark baits. Out couldn’t of been planned better.

We headed down to the shark spot and Jack hooks up quickly with an approximately 35# black tip which he fought and landed nicely. See pic below. next up, Nick hooks into an approximately 65# black tip which he also fights and lands nicely. Now it’s Zack’s turn, we put out a couple more baits wait about 15 minutes and I’m about to call it a day when his reel starts singing, I look up and see a huge tarpon jumping, I yell tarpon! It was a great fish with great jumps. It had to go 150#. Zach did a great job of fighting it. We landed it and got some great pictures. I like to jump in the water while the angler holds the fish next to the boat, makes for a great shot. 

Naples, FL Tarpon Fishing
Tarpon Fishing Charters in Naples, FL

The next day I fished long time client Bill Blodgett. Same thing, we nailed the jacks, mackerel and bluefish and back to the shark spot and caught a nice black tip. The following day we landed another estimated 150# tarpon. A wild week considering I’ve never caught tarpon in December before ever and don’t think I’ve caught sharks in December either. 

Shark Fishing in Naples, FL
Naples, FL Shark Fishing Trips

After the cold front went through on Wednesday the water cooled and we had to revert back to wintertime fishing. That meant I couldn’t get liver pilchards so we used shrimp and jigs. We did ok landing a 14# goliath grouper, snook, trout, snapper and more leading up to eight species. Overall a good day. My goal when wintertime fish is too have good action and catch a variety of species. 

We’ve had great tides after the full moon last week and weaker tides this weekend on the quarter moon but will pick up again next week leading up to the new moon on January 2. 

Still booking tarpon trips for next May & June. Give me a call to talk about tides and strategies.

Capt. Mark (Skip) 239-450-9230

Tarpon Biology

While dinosaurs like T. rex and triceratops roamed terra firma during the Cretaceous Period (about 120 million years ago), ancestors of modern-day tarpon shared the ocean with other prehistoric fish. Mother Nature must have known a good thing when she saw it, because as far as evolution goes, the transformation of these early fish into Megalops atlanticus (the tarpon we pursue today) was complete about 18 million years ago. To put this in perspective, humans did not branch away from chimpanzee ancestors until 6 million years ago.

Despite spending the majority of their lives in coastal waters, tarpon actually begin life far from it. Spawning takes place offshore in the Gulf Stream waters of the Atlantic Ocean (about 20 miles east of Florida) and in the Gulf of Mexico (about 150 miles west of Florida). This has been verified through both satellite tagging and the capture of tarpon larvae. Tarpon have a unique larvae phase, called leptocephalus, that they share with bonefish, ladyfish and eels. In the first development stage, leptocephali have a limited ability to adjust for the ocean’s salty environment. Therefore, they must be born in waters with stable salinity. This explains why tarpon spawn offshore.

If these leptocephali were in Florida Bay, the tide change would alter the salinity of the water and the larvae would die from either shrinking (in higher salinity) or exploding (in lower salinity). Ironically, scientists conducting research projects in the 1970s and 1980s tried to discover tarpon eggs and larvae by chasing nearshore tarpon schools. It was not until the 1990s that large numbers of larvae were discovered 150 miles west of St. Petersburg, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico.

Another interesting aspect of leptocephalus larvae is their unique behavior of being swimming machines that do not eat, as opposed to the larvae of, say, snapper or billfish, which feed immediately after birth. Instead, leptocephalus larvae have long, slender bodies and very low energy requirements, and they avoid predation by being transparent. During this phase, their teeth point outward and work similarly to a weed guard on a fly to prevent items from entering their mouth. There has been some discussion in scientific literature about whether the teeth are used to pierce jellyfish and suck out nutrients — but this is still a topic of debate.

The Science Behind Tarpon

The anatomy, biology and everything else that makes tarpon tick are as fascinating as catching one is.

  • By Michael Larkin Ph.D.

Are you ready to plan your Naples fishing trip?

Experience the backcountry saltwater mangrove estuaries of Naples, Marco Island, the 10,000 Islands and Everglades National Park. Light tackle sport fishing for snook, redfish, tarpon, trout, pompano, bonita, sharks and other saltwater species. Contact Capt. Mark to plan your Naples fishing charter, call: (239) 450-9230

View Naples fishing charter rates, click here.

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