SaltyShores Close-Up: Naples, Part Two
The first few cold fronts of this season had reached South Florida. These cool plumes of air would certainly shift the populations of snook soon enough. On the west coast of the state, this entailed linesiders moving from the beaches and passes deep into the backcountry. Before this staging would fully unfold, develop, and end, I called Naples Captain Will Geraghty to make hay quite soon. Daytime snooking in the general Naples area tapers off as fall turns into the colder winter. Most fishing for winter time snook is done at night under the lights of the city. The cold fronts of fall had already begun to create baitfish migrations along the shores of Naples, bringing great tarpon, mackerel, bonito and shark action. The local snook and redfish populations were joining in the feast as well. But, inevitably, as front after future front would pass over this area, the migratory bait like minnows and mullet would swim southward. And with them would go the whitebait ( A.K.A. pilchards, scaled sardines) of Naples which were the major baitfish of the center console and bayboat guides and captains.
I was in luck that Captain Will was able to make two days available quite soon. The timing of those two days would give us enough remaining warm weather and a strong outgoing tide- both factors he felt were essential for the live baiting he would be doing from his spacious center console vessel. We decided I would meet him at 7:00 a.m. at Port O Call marina both days. After making those plans, I was able to get lodgings at the nearby- and very hip- Lemon Tree Inn.
I drove over the day before and settled into my lodgings. I spent the afternoon swimming and reading while speculating on the action to come the next day. I enjoyed the Lemon Tree Inn. It had a distinct Key West feeling with lots of gardens and woodwork in the center of the property. The place was immaculate, well-appointed and I spoke with some guests from Germany who really loved this great little spot under the Florida sun. I decided to enjoy the Inn’s complimentary breakfast before my first day of fishing.
The Fishing Begins-
The time finally passed from night into next morning and found me climbing aboard Will’s boat. We were soon underway and passed through beautiful Naples Bay.
Captain Will quickly got live pilchards and we went to work in the brisk outgoing tide. We would have four hours today for our efforts. Will fished three habitats- the pass jetties, the dock pilings and the mangrove roots and we were quite successful everywhere we went. Our tally was about 20 snook, plus Golaith grouper, gag grouper, big jacks and mangrove snapper.
After freshening up after the first trip, I explored the Fifth Avenue area and I dined quite well.
I postponed breakfast until after the trip. We were hoping to do some fishing over the near shore wrecks before snooking. Though the weather forecast called for the northeast winds to drop off, they remained at a strong 20 M.P.H. This made fishing one to five miles off the beach a lot of work but certainly not impossible. But all we were catching were jacks and an occasional mackerel. So we left the open Gulf to go “inside” for snook.
We immediately caught a few snook at the jetty pass rocks. Will decided to go further in to try one of his “pet” docks. This decision turned out to be the stuff of dreams. We did not move for the next few hours as we released about forty snook, the biggest of them around fifteen pounds. It was hard to say how many more of them accounted for missed strikes and cutoffs. When the action (almost blessedly) tapered off, Will declared it a truly epic morning and I could not have agreed more. Before saying farewell, we resolved to try some summer fishing for permit over the Gulf wrecks next year.
I was famished and headed for the Café on Fifth Avenue where I met a family member for an excellent brunch.
Captain Will Geraghty
Cell Phone- 239-571-2878
Lemon Tree Inn
Phone- 239- 262-1414
Naples, Marco Island, and the Everglades