Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, March 22-28

Bill Walsh
Greg Pitrone caught this 6 foot 110 pound tarpon at Marco Pass using a mullet.

Another week of traditional March, unpredictable. This one might be quite more stable, but you never know this time of the year. Look for rather stable air temperatures that hover between 60-degree mornings and warm up to low 80-degree afternoons; with no rain or storms on the prediction, so it just might be the juncture between unpredictable spring and the advent of early summer stability. For most of the week, the winds will also be docile with no “uproars” until a couple of afternoons late week when the “breezes” will intensify to the 20-mph variety and out of the northwest come afternoon. That will then lay down to the placid sub 10 mph breezes into the weekend. No rain or storms in the forecast will keep overall conditions for the week quite docile and favorable for anglers both inshore and offshore. The water temperature should hover between 77 and 79 for most of the week with some thought that it may breech 80 degrees by week end. The tides are coming off a strong full moon and be pulling on both a strong incoming and a like outgoing afternoons all week. Work the moderate parts of both tides for best results.


Marco Island: Still seeing someone sheepshead action but fading fast. Of interest: big female spawners being caught are still loaded with roe, signs of no spawning cycle this season. Good action on mangrove snapper along most mangrove edges working shrimp tight to downed structure. First vestiges of mackerel in Capri and Caxambas Passes early morning incoming working flashy tipped jigs over chum. Small redfish still plentiful and active Johnson Bay and Addison Bay cuts and creeks and taking shrimp worked tight to overhangs on last of incoming. Carefully release; they are our future excitement.

Naples: Look for good action around the west end of the Gordon River circa the pass early for snook action working live bait tight to the south edges on the early incoming tide.  Redfish, mostly immature are plentiful all along the ICW from the Port Royal Junction to the north entry to Rookery Bay. Nice action. All release please. Some pompano on both ends of either tide at Hurricane Pass working small tipped white jigs just off the bottom in the moving current. Outgoing tide early on at Keewaydin beach edges for nice size whiting with tad of shrimp on weighted lindy rigs.

Bonita Springs: Chance for some fouled discharges from Lake O after this rain. Check water color, clarity. Past week good action Estero on late season sheepshead east edges Big Hickory channel with shrimp/ cut crabs tight to vertical structure. New Pass for early AM incoming action for pompano and small mackerel on tipped jigs with surface retrieve. Matlacha bridge reports good to very good action on redfish, with some to mature size (all release north of Gordon Pass please). Good action Mound Key oyster bars for nice size trout on shrimp under popper over grass bottom.


Marco Island: Seeing mackerel schools now first and second reefs. Bird action signals presence. Work with tipped jigs on surface post chum to draw. Stay on surface to avoid blue runners beneath. Walton Reef for solid snapper action with a few sheepsheads still in play. All on shrimp worked just off the bottom. Five Mile Reef; southeast corner for mixed action. Most on lane and mangrove snapper with some late season big sheepshead heading west. Some surface action early morning on Spanish mackerel and bluefish with tipped jigs worked under strong chum effort.

Naples: Good action reported north end Keewaydin bottom structure for lane and mangrove snapper on shrimp, cut bait under chum, with morning incoming best. Spanish mackerel showing on east edges of Gordon Five Mile working tipped flashy jigs tight to surface. Some small bluefish in the mix. Mid-depth wrecks, reefs holding yellowtail snapper. Work with tads of chum freelanced into strong chum slick. Closing weeks for stone crab harvest and tripletail hugging the trap markers. Set a lookout on route out and back to deep waters; take on small tipped jig with light tackle.

Bonita Springs: Good action deep reefs on king mackerel now “arriving” from the winter solstice in the Keys. Kings doing heavy feeding and jumping on small blue runners set out in chum. Few reports of cobia in the action so having standby rig with live pinfish for sight casting is good idea. Deep water for red grouper still a tough deal even super deep. Best deep action is for amberjack on wrecks at 50-70’ working a live bait directly into the structure and be ready for struggle with 20-30 lb. amberjack with heavy tackle.

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Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to