Fishing the Gulf of Mexico Good times fishing Naples waters
Fishing the backwaters of Naples FloridaOne of the most attractive aspects of Naples fishing is the variety of locales and, thus, types of fish you are likely to catch. The hardest part might be deciding between saltwater and freshwater fishing, and then between deep sea and reef fishing; fishing from the shore or pier; or going out in a small boat. Whether you choose to fish the salty Gulf of Mexico, the brackish bays and estuaries, or freshwater lakes and the Everglades, you will likely fill your bucket with fish to eat and will certainly fill your pockets with exciting memories to cherish.
Into the Deep Blue Sea
A favorite activity for visitors is to take a deep sea fishing excursion with one of Naples’ seasoned captains. This all-inclusive package is a way to get the thrill of fishing without the burden of obtaining equipment and licenses. There are big game fish to reel in under “catch and release” programs that allow you the thrill of the fight while returning the fish to breed and keeping the population healthy for future generations. While out in the deep Gulf waters, whether on a charter excursion or in your own boat, there’s a good chance you’ll find grouper, snapper, cobia, and tarpon.
Rocks and Reefs
Coral reefs are some of the most productive of marine habitats, with their diverse and colorful structures that provide food and shelter for many species. For the angler, snapper and grouper are the primary target. Coral reefs are a colony of live coral polyps. They are easily damaged by boat anchors, by getting stepped on, and by sediment and pollution. Coral grow very slowly and efforts are made to “propagate” new ones. Additionally, artificial reefs are being sunken to provide yet more options for marine life to utilize as habitat. These consist of such materials as decommissioned vessels, bridge debris and concrete pillars.
Pier and Shore Fishing
Naples Municipal Beach and Pier is a hot spot for resident and visitor anglers alike. There are numerous facilities on the pier, such as a snack bar with bait and refreshments and fish cleaning stations with running water. There is no fishing license required on the pier, which is a real convenience. You can expect to catch Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, pompano, and bluefish. Sometimes a shark even gets hooked from the pier’s end.
Gordon Pass and Lowdermilk Park are popular spots for shore fishing. From the shore you can catch bait fish to use for catching even bigger fish and maybe even snag the fierce-fighting barracuda. For the dinner plate, go for pompano, cobia, and snook when shore fishing.
Bays, Rivers and Estuaries
Estuaries consist of sandy and muddy bottoms, sea grass patches, salt marshes, and oyster beds. The estuaries are important ecosystems to fishing since most species spend some juvenile or adult time there feeding and hiding from bigger fish. The west coast of Florida has seen a decline in seagrass beds and programs of refurbishment are helping to re-establish the plants. If you fancy yourself an underwater gardener, you might like to get involved in one of those programs.
In the sea grasses you’ll find mullet that are bait for many other types of larger fish. Also found in the grasses are redfish, snapper, grouper, bluefish, speckled trout, jacks and mackerel. Bottom and filter feeders, like crabs and shellfish, are susceptible to pollution so it is important to prevent runoff from lawn fertilizers and pesticides. If you are in a power boat, take care with your anchor not to dig up the grasses.
The Intercoastal Waterway provides access to mangroves along the sides. Like the seagrasses, the mangroves are another hiding place for fish as a nursery. Boats with a shallow draft can drop line in the channels and bays that are surrounded by mangroves. These lanes are great spots to toss in live bait and drift until you get a strike from a snapper, grouper, or sheepshead. Or, use a surface plug to catch snook, redfish, and even small tarpon that strike from the edges and put up quite a fight. Along the walled canals is another good spot for hooking snook in the shadows and along the seawalls, but take care to respect the residents’ properties. And follow the laws for “No Wake!”
Vanderbilt Beach and Delnor-Wiggans Pass both have boat launch access.
WADING IN THE SWEET WATER
In Florida’s Paradise Coast you’ll find many species of freshwater fish in the inland lakes, canals, and the Everglades, where you can fish from the canal banks or hire an airboat or flat bottom boat to take you out to the favored holes. The favorite freshwater catch is unequivocally the largemouth bass. Expect to also find gar, catfish, bowfin, perch, and warmouth among your catch.
HEALTHY EATING, HAPPY FISH HUNTER
Sometimes freshwater fish, especially largemouth bass, can have levels of mercury that warrant eating them sparingly. Check with the county health department to find out the latest advisory. Also, in the heat of the summer months, an algal bloom of Red Tide can occur. When this happens you should not eat the saltwater fish from the area and should avoid all contact with the water. Fortunately, our Naples waters are usually clean and clear, ready for your thrilling fishing adventure.
PROTECTING THE FUTURE OF NAPLES FISHING
Our Naples area Gulf of Mexico and inland waterways are fragile ecosystems. In order to assure abundant fishing into the future, we need to protect the environment. If you intend to be a part of the “fishing community” it is a good idea to learn as much as possible about angling ethics and get involved in restoration projects in some small way. Learn which species of fish are native and which are invasive, so you can be a part of the solution. Treat coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves with respect as the nurseries for the fish you’ll catch next year. Always check to see what licenses, permits and restrictions are required, and remember that fees and fines go back into protecting our marine environment. Whatever gear and equipment you bring in, take it out with you when you leave.
When conditions line up just right, you can end your excursion with a photo of you with the big one you caught, instead of a tall tale about the one that got away. Whatever kind of angling floats your boat, there’ll be a good time had by all when fishing Naples waters.
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