So You Think You're A Pretty Good Angler

By Jony Mozen

There is so much focus on Southwest Florida's saltwater fishing that it is easy to forget that Southwest Florida also offers some fine freshwater fishing. Any pond, lake, canal or golf course water hazard probably holds bass. Although freshwater fishing in this area will probably never receive the rave reviews that backwater or offshore fisheries do, you can certainly have a great time landing one from the comfort of a canal rather than riding 6-foot seas 20 miles offshore.

Redfish are one of SW Florida's primary game fish. More correctly called the Red Drum, the Redfish or "Red" is one of our most popular game fish for fly fishing. You find them in greatest number in September and October (although they are available all year in smaller numbers) and can be found mostly in the shallow grass flats, oyster bars and along the mangrove shorelines, passes and the everglades backcountry including Naples, Marco Island, Rookery Bay, Ten Thousand Islands and The Everglades National Park.

Residents and visitors alike enjoy sport fishing, deep-sea excursions and backwater fishing trips along the Everglades, where endless shoreline holds oyster bars and seagrass beds that attract an abundance of saltwater fish. Backwater anglers will find an extensive network of bays, mangrove islands and tidal creeks that permeate the region. Whether you go offshore or back into the bays and creeks, a local guide will put you where the fish are, help you select the right natural or artificial bait and coach you on techniques. You may bring your favorite rods and reels, but almost all guides have high-quality rigged tackle available for your use at no extra charge. There are plenty of opportunities for fishing on your own, but hiring one of the experienced local guides will give you the best shot for a memorable fishing experience and Naples has many experienced guides to help you catch that trophy. Many specialize in certain species, fishing areas and angling techniques.

Some of the best freshwater fishing spots around Naples are Lake Trafford, the 70-mile Golden Gate Canal System, and the Florida Everglades. Lake Trafford is a 1,500-acre lake located just outside Naples in Immokalee. Its largemouth bass are popular with local fisherman and tourists. Bass fishing here is strong now that the restoration project is complete. Stop by the Lake Trafford Marina to get the best advice on what and where to cast. The 70-mile Golden Gate Canal System offers drive-up access with several boat ramps in the area so you can close to a variety of freshwater species. This is an excellent system to fish in the winter months when temperatures are cooler and the fish are actively feeding. Several bass species are prevalent here including peacock bass, which are often found in the freshwater canals as they work their way up from southwest Florida. The Florida Everglades can only be accessed with a bass boat or airboat, but out there you're sure to find largemouth and peacock bass, so the effort is well worth it. Experienced Everglades anglers report 50 to 100 catches per day, but unless you're willing to spend a great deal of time out here, your best bet for a successful trip is to go with an local guide. They know the meandering waterways and are familiar with the schedule used by South Florida Water Management officials to maintain the Everglades.

The Ladyfish is the smaller cousin of the tarpon and usually weighs in at 1 to 3 pounds. Like the tarpon, ladyfish like to jump when hooked. Like the tarpon and the jack crevalle, the ladyfish has little food value but is a lot of fun to catch and release. The Mangrove or Gray Snapper can be found in the backwater as well as offshore. Inshore, their weight is usually in the range of 1 to 3 pounds, but their offshore relatives run 8 to10 pounds or more. They are a very aggressive fish and will readily hit a tasty looking fly. Although Spanish Mackerel are only 1 to 2 pounds in size, they can be a lot of fun on a flyrod, especially if you happen upon a large school in a feeding frenzy.

What angler wouldn't want to live here - or at least visit as often as possible! So, come to Naples to apply your skills and catch some thrills. Naples, Florida is a wonderful place to live, work, play, retire and fish. Come join the year-round fun.

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