FOLLOW THE FISH
Capt. Pete Rapps
There are so many different species of fish that we catch here in the 10,000 Islands and the Everglades National Park.
Some fish that are targeted for food purposes, depending on their open season, are Redfish, Snapper, Trout, Flounder, Mackerel, Tripletail, Cobia, Pompano, Snook, Grouper and more. Some fish we target for sport. Tarpon are a great sport fish that are never eaten, however others like Snook, Permit, & Shark are mostly targeted for sport and sometime for food. Others like Ladyfish, Jacks, & Catfish can be considered sport, however are typically just bi-catch that happen to eat our bait and lures while fishing for another species. Below are some explanations of a few of our targeted species.
Spotted Sea Trout “Specs”
Spotted trout are one of the premiere game fish of the shallow grass flats. Not only is it great table fare, but it is a terrific topwater fighter! When hooked on light spinning tackle, it will give you quite a show as it dances & thrashes wildly on the surface as it attempts to regain its freedom. Speckled trout are known by many different names such as spotted sea trout, trout, or just specks. They are silver in color with olive-green tints on the back and numerous small black dots which extend over the dorsal fin and into the tail. The lower jaw is larger than the upper jaw which has two prominent canine teeth. In general, specks have an elongated body with a large mouth. The diet of speckled trout consists of small crustaceans, shrimp, & small fish such as pilchards & pinfish. The average size is 14-18” & weigh 1-3 lbs.
The Redfish is a super-challenging opponent on the grass beds and flats using light spin tackle. The shallower the water, the more thrilling the fight. The bulk of small marine life and food will be found in shallow water around structures and near grassy cover. This offers the small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks protection from predators. Therefore, Redfish will be found near this abundant food supply. Redfish are easily identifiable by the body spot near their tail. They typically have one spot on each side, but I have seen as many as 12 spots on these pretty fish. They make great table fare and one per person can be kept if over 18” and under 27”.
Snook, “Line siders”
There is great prestige in catching this very elusive, highly sought after sport and table fish. In the months of March – October, I like to fish for Snook in and around the mangrove islands along the edge of the Gulf. At this time of year, the water is warm, and the Snook move out of the backcountry and will migrate to the outside islands. In the months of November- February, I fish for Snook as they move deep into the backcountry bays and creeks where the water is warmer. A great way to fish for Snook is by casting a live pilchard, artificial bait jig, or top water plug. Snook are famous for their lightning runs, wild jumps, and the way they attack a top water plug. These fish are amazing on light spin tackle.
Tarpon, “The Silver King”
These acrobatic sport fish come in all different sizes in our area. During the month of March they start to move into the outside island bays, where, they will lay up high on the water to absorb the warmth of the sunlight, making it great for sight fishing. Later on in the months of April – July, Tarpon will gather in schools off of the outside beaches. The fight of a mighty Tarpon is a true battle, and an experience of a lifetime. Tarpon are strictly sport fish and the satisfaction of a fully revived healthy fish is almost better than the battle itself.
Most of the Pompano that we fish for are located when a startled pompano hurls itself across the water’s surface totally sideways. It’s an old-school way of locating this highly prized little fish but until recently a rare sight. Voters did away with gill nets and the apparent result is what many see as the start of something big. In the past few years, we have seen a nice increase in the Pompano population. Pompano are one of my favorite eating fish.
I like to use light tackle for shark, particularly the smaller sharks which inhabit the near-shore Gulf areas. Blacktip, Bonnet Head, Lemon, Nurse, Bull, Hammerhead, Atlantic Sharpnose, and Spinner sharks are all common in the area. Larger Bull Sharks and Nurse Sharks are common in the 60 – 125 lb range. Bonnet Head are common on the flats in the 16”– 24” range.
No matter what you fish for, please practice “Catch and Release” as much a possible and only keep what you can eat for dinner. Let the next generation have as much fun as we did.
Capt. Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the 10000 Islands of the Everglades National Park. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See the online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first class web site at www.CaptainRapps.com and you can reach him at 239-571-1756.