The dominance of the red tide, algae issues portrayed in the local and national press have certainly accentuated the problem. Although virtually nothing has been done to positively impact the issue it has become the “by-word” regarding fishing as well as Gulf shoreline recreation.
Unfortunately the expanse of the problem is defined in the broad brush term Southwest Florida when the reality is that there are varying levels of the intensity of the fouled water all along the coastline. Lee County and the environs of the Caloosahatchee River flow are the most seriously impacted area. The intensity of the problem then seems to diminish as you move north and south from that locale.
Hopefully, as we enter the late summer period here we will see some abatement of the issue. Otherwise, conditions this week will feature frequent spotty thunderstorms popping anywhere but with no defined frontal passage. The winds will be mild easterly in the a.m. and switching to the west in the afternoons. The tides will be mild both ways all week; so that means flat sea conditions and the water temperature will hold at the 87-89 level.
Marco Island: Cleaner water is available in the general Island area but must be sought. Key is finding areas with good strong tidal flow either way that will dissipate any holding fouled water. Look for surface bait ripples (i.e. bait) will be the first to move off tainted water areas. Spots with a little deeper water and good current flow should produce 11-13” snapper working small pieces of fresh shrimp tight to the bottom. Work spots until you see that size snapper. Some scattered pompano, mackerel, jacks and an occasional small permit are showing in the same type spots and taking the snapper bait.
Naples First light incoming tide at Gordon Pass with a well full of pilchards should be the ticket for good size snook as the cleaner Gulf water rushes in. Post bait shower with circle hooks (still two weeks until open snook season). Rookery Bay flats for sea trout with a drift over the 4-6’ depth with sea grass bottom. Live shrimp on 4’ leader under popper. Hurricane Pass west edges in downed structure for snapper in moving water (either way). Some pompano same venue on drift.
Bonita/Estero: Conditions stagnant. Any clean water dependent on wind direction / tidal strength. Surface bait ripples; bird action a plus. Try New Pass (good water flow) channel 4-6’ over seagrass, incoming, with shrimp under popper seatrout tight to drop off. North side of Coon Key - Oswego Bay sand edges with sea grass for pompano. Best incoming with tipped white jig. Incoming only. Few redfish early Mound Key bar edges on later incoming.
Marco Island: Fouled water conditions ease as you move west. Close in reefs holding pelagics (mackerel, bluefish, jacks). Capri Channel barges, Walton Reef off Caxambas and northwest and southeast corners of Five Mile Reef complex worthwhile targets working tipped jigs under chum. Deep for snapper, triggerfish with weighted jigs in same chum. Some blacktips; cut bait to bottom; same venues. Deep run for permit. USAF towers southwest 50-60 ft. working small live crabs in tidal swirl at towers. Chum a plus. Yellowtail snapper; try on wrecks holding bait en route.
Naples: Best water south, southwest. Artificial reefs southwest of Marco for pelagic action surface. Mackerel, bluefish, little tunny on jigs / live bait under chum. Deep action due west Gordon 60ft hard bottom on tidal drift with live pinfish tight to bottom outcroppings. Tight drag on major rig for red grouper. Gag grouper on bottom structure spots with live bait worked 20-25’ again under chum.
Bonita/Estero: Inshore reefs basically clean for good snapper bottom action working tipped jigs under chum. Fouled water conditions continue to mitigate moving west. Yellowtail on mid-range wrecks and going for tads of chum fed into block chum slick; either tide. Deep wrecks holding bait for kings, cobia and sharks. Kings on live runner tethered at 15ft in chum. Cobia sight cast live bait as they show on surface. Sharks on fresh cut bait to bottom under chum.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send questions, comments to email@example.com.