By Capt. Dean Murphy
Backwater fishing out of Naples, Florida is ideal for families with young children or those new to fishing, thanks to the calm waters. A habitat for a variety of fish, this region is also a great destination for experienced anglers looking for a challenge or a particular catch.
Fishing in the backwaters of Naples and along the northern fringe of the Ten Thousand Islands can be rewarding if you approach it right. Some of the most sought-after backwater game include redfish, snook and sea trout. As a captain for Pure Florida, I’ve learned that when seeking these varieties, it is important to pack light tackle, live bait and…your patience.
Most big fish in the Intracoastal Waterway want two things: live bait and light tackle. My personal favorite combination for most backwater fish is 10-pound or even 8-pound test fluorocarbon, a small hook and live shrimp. Simply free lining a shrimp hooked in just the right way so they kick and send out reverberations through the water, indicating they are in trouble, seems to attract some phenomenal fish. Often when using this technique, it seems as if the bigger fish push the smaller ones out of the way to get a taste.
If you’re trying for a larger catch, going above and beyond a shrimp always helps. Anything from finger mullet (one of the most attractive baits to near coastal fish) up to smaller lady fish, which are most useful when cut into chunks, are good upgrades.
Certain times of the year yield different results, but fish can be found year-round in the back bays. For example, one of my favorite times to fish backwater or near coastal (within two to three miles off shore) is in February. That is when the sheepshead start spawning and can provide a great fight against a big 20-inch or larger sheepshead.
Most importantly, never be scared to expand and try different bait or rigs.
You never know what might work, especially in the brackish water of the Ten Thousand Islands. Navigating the right bait, tackle and location can be a challenge, especially given the volume of boats that frequent the shallow back waterways. If you’re looking for some direction on your trip, Pure Florida’s experienced captains and crew are glad to be your guides! In addition to deep-sea trips, Pure Florida offers head boat fishing trips (a group trip with up to 26 guests on one boat) and private charters on the M/V Kudu II for up to six passengers in the back bays. We look forward to seeing you on the water soon!
This article also appeared in Coastal Angler magazine.