Typical for mid-August, the inshore bites are coming early and late while out on the offshore grounds standard catches are coming over the rail with consistency throughout the day. Overall, it has been a great week of angling here in Southwest Florida.
Out beyond the horizon, red grouper have kept the rods bent for anglers prospecting water depths greater than 90 feet. While runs to that depth are lengthy, they remain necessary for catching limits of the popular reef fish. Look for the best red grouper action to occur over vast areas of natural limestone hard bottom.
Arguably the most popular targeted offshore species swimming Gulf waters, access to the red grouper fishery will become limited as the recreational harvest of red grouper in federal waters of the Gulf will close at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 30. Red grouper recreational harvest will be closed until the 2023 fishing year begins on Jan. 1.
The closure, which is to prevent overfishing, comes as the recreational red grouper annual catch target (ACT) of 1,840,000 pounds gutted weight is expected to be met on Aug. 29.
Closer to shore and within the nearshore arena, area fish havens are providing goliath grouper battles for those deploying large pieces of chunk bait. Big rods, big hooks and plenty of elbow grease is needed when tangling with this large member of the grouper family.
Mixed in with the goliath, barracuda can be also found patrolling the surface over and around the periphery of submerged structures. Truly an exciting light tackle target, barracuda can be fooled with trolled live baits, shallow running artificial lures, and brightly colored tube lures. Revered for their strong runs and acrobatic antics, barracuda possess razor-sharp teeth and should always be handled with respect and caution.
The best inshore action is occurring early and late in the fishing day due to the August heat and warm Gulf water temperatures hovering at a toasty 87-88 degrees. Anglers can expect snook, jack crevalle, the occasional tarpon, and an endless pick of mangrove snapper taking the bait.
“Half-day Gulf fishing has been very active,” said Capt. Gene Luciano of Dalis Fishing Charters. “Full-day runs have also been producing plenty of red grouper for our groups on each trip.”
Departing from the Naples City Dock, Luciano’s morning multi-passenger vessel has been catching good numbers of lane snapper, white grunts, and Spanish mackerel in 50 feet of water. At that range, Luciano is also scoring a scattering of keeper-sized red grouper.
Full-day charters have found Luciano and his crews venturing out up to 50 miles offshore. Once on the fertile grounds, Luciano has kept his groups hooked up to limits of red grouper and excellent snapper catches using cut threadfin herring and squid.
“The fishing around Naples and Marco Island has been steady as long as you fish early before the heat and late in the day,” said Naples Bay skipper Capt. Pat Gould. “Baitfish are still available along the beaches which has been helpful.”
Gould and his casters are finding catching success within the middle bays and inside local passes. Casting live sardines close to line breaking structure, snook, some redfish, mangrove snapper and large jack crevalle are making their way boat side.
Ten Thousand Islands
Light wind has made for ideal morning nearshore/inshore conditions for Capt. Chris Sommer. Prospecting select shallow artificial structures have found Sommer and his crews hooking up to a variety of sharks, gamefish and food-value species.
Early in the fishing day, Sommer and his anglers have found success presenting live mullet, crabs, herring and dead ladyfish under corks or on the bottom. Snapping up his offerings were a mix of shark, goliath grouper, barracuda, permit and snook.
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This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Red grouper season ends August 30 | Southwest Florida Fishing Report