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Welcome to the arrival of the change of seasons. Like a yo-yo, the conditions for the next few months will be volatile and changing daily. This week is a good example: We start off with 70 degree temperatures and light easterly and southeasterly winds and finish with a 20 degree drop in temperature and a “trip ruining”  20 knot wind on one overnight.

That’s a tough change for the angler not to mention the fish. Sudden changes like that make for an immediate piscatorial shut down followed by a gradual restoration of expected seasonal conditions. We will need sustained cooler weather conditions to trigger the seasonal influx of the expected cooler weather species. And, we will need light easterly winds to ensure we have the clean water conditions so necessary, especially in the shallower backwater environment. But the other key factor in general conditions may prove a bonus: The tides are placid and very favorable both ways all week as we head to a new moon late week. The racing tides of the past few weeks will have, thankfully, abated. 

Previously: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Nov. 23-29

BACKWATER                                               

MARCO ISLAND: News of red tide resurgence here does not bode well for short-term expectations. Water samples just north of Marco show a sudden resurgence of the dread. Hopefully a short term issue. The water temperature chill-down has initiated the start of the sheepshead “invasion” with a plethora of the smaller (10-11 inch) ones jumping on every bait just about everywhere. It will take a major temperature plunge to bring the big spawners to play. Snook are still very active on the current points in favorable mid seventy degree water temps. Also lots of smaller displaced redfish active along the mangrove edges.

NAPLES: Look for good action on snook around Gordon Pass into Naples Bay especially on the first light incoming working pilchards post bait shower. Snook action will wane as water temps drop below 70 short term. Look for strong redfish action in Rookery Bay and connected waterways working shallow current fed edges on mid morning incoming. Black drum very evident now, also on spots featuring drop-offs aside shallow current spots; on cut shrimp tight to bottom. Good whiting/silver trout action east edges Keeywadin beach on outgoing working small tipped jigs tight to bottom in current flow.

BONITA SPRINGS: Hopefully the red tide resurgence news is an anomaly. Expect strong action on redfish from Estero north to San Carlos; most undersize and hatchery yield (careful release) but expect keepers taking shrimp under poppers current edges with good current flow last of incoming. Snook off beaches now working inside current points just off marked channels with pilchards post bait shower. Spec trout come active Estero mid bay (Mound Key) seagrass patches on incoming drift with shrimp under 4’ leader/popper. Big (12-14 inches) mangrove snapper east edges Big Hickory channel drop offs on weighted jigs.

NEARSHORE / OFFSHORE

MARCO  ISLAND: Clean water conditions at least through mid week will draw mackerel et al action on nearshore reefs. Bird action giveaway to bait presence; chum to focus attention; work with tipped jigs tight to surface to avoid myriad of blue runners working mid depth. Deep: evidence of increased pelagic southbound migration on wrecks/reefs holding bait; best first light incoming working live bait set at 15-20 feet in chum on major tackle. Major target; kingfish. Tripletail stay very active and in goodly number on crab track pot markers; Set lookout; double back quietly; work with tipped dark color jig.

NAPLES: Reports inshore of good snapper (lane and mangrove) action on Keeywadin south reefs 20-25’ working shrimp/cut bait to  bottom under strong chum effort. Alternate for same: East edges of Gordon Five Mile; weighted jigs under chum. Mid range wrecks for strong yellowtail snapper action. Need wrecks holding bait. Work with strong chum effort and freelined tads of chum fed into slick with bail open; to set, close bail with drag set medium. Deep wrecks at 60 feet plus depth; amberjack with vertical live bait drop on major tackle. Great fight. Release; season closed.

BONITA SPRINGS: Inshore action circa Wiggins Pass early incoming 10-15 feet for pompano working tipped jigs tight to west edges of surf line. Inshore reefs for moderate action both lane and mangrove snapper working weighted jigs under chum with best early morning incoming. Super deep (80-90’) for chance at red grouper. Will be tight to the hard bottom outcroppings and best if worked with live bait (pinfish/threadfin) worked just off the bottom structure on a tide induced drift. Good chance for keeper at 20 inches with the per angler limit of two fish.

Capt. Bill Walsh ownes a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to dawnpatrolmarco@cs.com.

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