Fly fishing gear

Tarpon, snook, red grouper biting on July mornings

The Southwest Florida summer grind is in full swing, both shallow and deep. Early starts were paramount to capturing the best conditions and capitalizing on multiple hot water stings.

In the coastal arena, all the usual July fishing suspects cooperated. Snook layers in the passes, mangrove snappers swarm around natural and man-made structures while tarpon continue to show up early in the day along the shoreline.

The mangrove snapper in particular lends itself to being an excellent inshore target for those hoping for quick action and perhaps a dinner of fresh fish. Aggressive in nature, the mangrove snapper will crush a wide variety of natural and artificial baits. The minimum size limit for mangrove snapper is 10 inches with a daily limit of five fish per angler.

Previously:Southwest Florida fishing report for the week of July 5: The action is as hot as the weather

Read more:Especially magical golden hour for local fishermen

While the various shallow water bites remain constant, the baitfish have now dispersed. Typical for the month of July, anglers may have to scout in several places before getting a tank full of offers. Look for surface commotion, diving pelicans and wader activity to help locate herring, sardines and mullet.

Cheerful junior anglers displaying their caught red grouper aboard the Dalis fleet based at Naples City Dock.

Pushing beyond the horizon, the summer grind of groupers is also revving up. The warm waters of the Gulf have red grouper biomass shifting very slightly eastward in water depths ranging from 70 to 85 feet. However, most savvy grouper diggers head to deeper depths where the boundaries require less overall effort.

Look for red grouper above and around rock piles and hard-bottomed natural areas. Popular local red grouper baits include live pinfish, cut squid/herring, and eclectic bucktail/metal jigs.


Offshore: “The half-day trips on our multi-passenger vessel went well to catch the snapper,” said Captain Gene Luciano. “The full day trips catch the limits of red grouper with consistency.”

Departing from the dock in the city of Naples, Luciano’s Dalis fleet offered its half-day anglers superb catches of lane/mangrove snappers and white grunts while prospecting hard bottom areas in the beach 16 to 18 miles. During his half days, Luciano also keeps the rods bent with Spanish mackerel using free line cut herring rigged on a 2/0 circle hook.

Cheerful junior anglers displaying their caught red grouper aboard the Dalis fleet based at Naples City Dock.

Full-day charters allow Luciano and his captains to venture into fertile land in water depths ranging from 95 to 110 feet deep. The deployment of cut squid and herring has resulted in the limitation of red grouper and a variety of snapper species.

Naples/Estero Bay

Naples/Estero Bay: Aboard my Port O Call Marinas based guide boat, the Grand Slam, I offered my angler groups a mix of inshore catches. Early departures were helpful in discovering the best tides and conditions.

Throwing in scaled sardines and hand-picked live shrimp, my anglers stuck to snook, crevalle jack and countless mangrove snappers. Current swept points, rock piers and residential docks provided the best capture opportunities.

At the start of the fishing day and along the beaches, tight schools of Spanish mackerel can be found crashing or feeding on micro sized baitfish. Casting and slow trolling small Clark 2 inch spoons kept my anglers hooked and happy with the rambling pelagic species.

ten thousand islands

Ten Thousand Islands: “Light winds provided good fly fishing conditions here in the upper Ten Thousand Islands,” said captain Paul Nocifora. “The morning outings were necessary to avoid the heat and bad weather.”

Early starts found Nocifora stalking snook and redfish along some mangrove shores and coves. Casting white-colored bulb patterns in deep pockets around downed branches and near current swept points has led to strong connections with snubs up to 37 inches and rockfish of all sizes.

Piles of fresh water pouring out of the inner bay creek systems during the ebb tide has a small juvenile tarpon pulled in for Nocifora and her casters. To take advantage of this exciting action, Nocifora recommends presenting a dark colored Lightbulb or Gurgler pattern to rolling tarpon while using class 7/8 fly tackle.

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