It’s been a good couple weeks catching tarpon, some nice snook, a few reds, keeper snapper, mackerel and sharks. There’s been bait fish everywhere and consequently bigger fish follow and congregate. The mackerel along the beaches are as thick as I’ve seen them busting the small baitfish that are everywhere. Mackerel make great cut bait for sharks and tarpon which make it easy when we need cut bait.
The water has been gin clear especially at the higher tide phases. I can see the bottom at 12’ and along some of the sandbars and shoals it looks like the Bahamas or the Keys.
Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) are prowling the passes, adjacent bays and the beaches and make great sight fishing targets. There are also some bigger snook lurking as this is the time of year they spawn in the passes. They tend to spawn around the end of the falling tide around the full and new moon and the subsequent incoming tide carries the fertilized eggs into the protective backcountry mangrove estuary.
Common snook are protandric hermaphrodites, meaning they change from male to female after maturation approximately when they are 20-30” long.
The redfish we’ve been catching have been at the higher tide phases which of late has been mid to late afternoon. Live bait is always the best although jigs and shrimp work also.
There are a lot of mangrove snapper around also, my favorite fish to eat.. 10” is the minimum and many of the snapper we’re catching are keepers. We don’t catch them much bigger than 12” as they migrate to deeper water when they get larger.
With the baitfish so plentiful sometimes the fish get picky and you have to “match the hatch” so to speak. Targeting the mackerel for fun plus using them for bait we’ve been using silver spoons as well as small white jigs with a small swirl tail. Actually, once the tail is bitten off they work just as well or better as the bait is now more the size of the baitfish they’re targeting.
Tarpon continue to migrate along the beaches of Southwest Florida including the Naples and Marco Island fishing areas. I really love tarpon fishing, they have to be the most magnificent acrobatic hard fishing fish on the planet. We are so lucky to have them here in different places at different times of the year.
I’ve caught tarpon as late as November and have caught them as early as early January which tells me there are resident fish living here along with the spring and summer migratory fish.
Tarpon typically show up in the backcountry bays when the water reaches 73 degrees in March. These bays are no deeper than 5’ and sometimes when it slicks out they’ll “lay up”, meaning they’ll hover just below the surface lying motionless. They make good fly rod targets as a stealthy quiet approach is critical. To me this is the ultimate fishing in the world. Trying to fool a 100 # fish into eating your bait and when he’s hooked he jumps like a wild banshee, whatever that is.
On my spring and summer tarpon trips fishing the beaches we typically leave the dock at 5:30 or 6am to catch the first light to sunrise window, it’s a great ride cruising in my skiff along the beautiful undeveloped beach to our spot. Tarpon tend to bite well between first light and sunrise plus it’s a gorgeous time of day with the sun peeking over the horizon onto the beach.
Crabs seem to be the bait of choice although pinfish, big eye shiners and thread herrings all work. The crabs are hardy and easy to cast.
Tides will slow down as we approach the quarter moon on Friday July 2nd and then will pick up as we approach the new moon July 10th. Tides are a critical factor when fishing in the Southwest Florida coast and backcountry. Every spot I fish is because the tide is a certain height or the current is a certain direction or both.
I still have some slots open on the 4th of July weekend. Should be a good weekend with nice incoming tides till early morning and falling tides to follow. Call to book your trip, (239) 450-9230.
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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
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