Suspended. Well it really matters where and when; ask Tom Brady. My lil' buddies, the MirroMinidine and the like, function very well hanging around suspended just over the turtle grass and potholes in Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, and Estero Bay. These 2 & 1/4- to 2 & 5/8-nch minnow imitations can be trained, in the right hands, to traverse the water column at speed or at rest, eliciting strikes from spotted sea trout, redfish, and snook.
Snook bites across the board or region, in our parlance, is in full tilt and has been. With an eye to the pass bridges and docks with your shimmy shad-style softplastics, you're in the game. Although live shiners and threads maybe more attractive, that's a personal choice. You can avoid the hassle of bait acquisition, handling, and rebaiting with just about equally good results using the single hook-style softies. According to the reports and pictures and my own similar experiences, favored colors are greenbacks with white bellies in about 3–4"ÂÂ sizes. Larger sizes to 5–6ÂÂ" work well on bug bridge monster liners. These offerings are available weighted and hooked in three packets by companies like Storm Lures and others; very convenient and quick to change after you get terribly mauled by that bucket-list mega-liner. Half-ounce is the generally preferred weight for 3–5 inchers, but you can fish "loose pack"ÂÂ DOA, Gulp and other softies fished on a variety of jig heads. If you choose the loose bag lures, bring along some super glue; just a dab near the jighead will secure the softie for multiple casts and missed strikes.
Get out and bob around off the beaches, but bring plenty of sunscreen and Gatorade. Crews reported hot actionat the 25-plus mile marks outta Boca, 35-plus miles outta Ft. Myers. Grouper action is strong with mixed bag limits the norm; plenty of snappers in the 4-5 lb. range. Don't forget that extra block of ice, it's hot as Hades by noon! Top baits are pins, live threads and Spanish sardines; cast netting is easy on the flats near the passes. Chum and run, guys.
Fishing for tilapia has always been tough. They are wary and have good eyesight so it’s best to use very light tackle. Here is a recipe for a home made bait that works
Offshore: And so it goes! Lots of wind outa the ENE didn't help the diggers or draggers. The "A Team " crews reported some success on runs to the nearshore marks but it didn't sound like fun. No country for old men, or maybe even normal people. There are fish on the close marks at 3–7 miles off and a bit in the lee of the strong winds; early out and early in.
Good results 20-45 miles out, weather permitting. Lousy rain cycle made for rough sledding but soon crews braved the monsoon and reported good grouper, cobia kings and snapper action outa Boca. Live bait was the easy way to go, as usual, the pins, blue runners, threads, and the like. Trollers found active kings and big bonito around the masses of bait running the reefs. Short fishing week with poor weather but the more typical weather patterns are forecast to return, let’s hope so!
Add-ons are always fun. Some are more fun than others. Squid whole, in section or strips are and have been a go-to fish bait add-on. Group anglers have always carried squid in their arsenal of easy-boy live or, at least, frozen baits. For big fish, a whole squid jugged in deep water for grouper sand goliaths is a standby offering. Squid are inexpensive, easy to work with, and have a juice scent and attractive texture. When bottom-bounced or suspended on a circle hook and egg sinker rig, they offer an enticing natural-looking target for ground fish as well as reef-oriented critters like cobia. Calamari, as the Italians refer to them, are sweet and rubbery when fresh; they also exude a tasty scent trail. Often smaller bait fish will surround a squid bait and, in turn, stimulate a predatory game fish to come snooping around and thus inhale both squid bait and unwary lesser fish.
Offshore: Waters clear up! Good action on the Marks at 30–60 plus ft. Snapper are on a wild chew with some big doggies to 4-1/2 lbs. Grouper are eating as well; look to deeper cooler water at 50 plus ft. The close marks had nice mixed bag action with plenty of legal snapper, Spanish, whiting, white grunts, and, best of all, cobia. Cobs ate pinfish, threads, and big shrimp or crab hunks, good oh! Kings are thrashing the bait pods, eating freeline threads, pins; the bigger kings are eating Spanish and blue runners. Kings to 40-plus lbs. reported up outa Boca shipping channel.
The much maligned invasive South American and African species, cichlids, are becoming a very popular roadside attraction for resident and visiting anglers. Never look a gift fish in the mouth; long-time farm pond and lazy small creek fisherman, especially kids, love panfish fishing; that’s where it usually begins if you’re lucky. Kids and anglers of all ages love a hard bite, strong fight, and bent rod battle. Nothing else can compare to ditch fishing in swamp areas and pothole ponds in southwest Florida.
Captain Rick Knox of Absolute Florida Flats Fishing, out of Tarpon Springs, reports that the snook fishing is phenomenal on the barrier islands, along with tarpon fishing! With pilchards being the appetizer on the menu and pigfish, grunts, jumbo pinfish, and crabs being the entrée and small threadfin herring being dessert, huge giant tarpon are gorging themselves after the spawn; they almost seem to be intoxicated from all the natural proteins being absorbed from these important little baitfish on the beaches and in passes up and down Florida's Gulf Coast.