Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Sept. 21-27

Bill Walsh

Conditions regarding red tide and algae intrusion continue to improve here with a degree of differential south to north along the southwest Florida coastline; Cape Romano to Gordon Pass improvement shows better than areas north. Factor has been sustained south and southeast wind patterns moving the tainted water north and offshore.

Wind patterns off the fringe of Hurricane Florence also helped move the turbid conditions. But as that monster storm dissipates, it will reenergize early fall weather patterns of more frequent thunderstorm patterns along the southwest coast. Look for those increasingly frequent storms both morning and afternoon this coming week until late week when a mild front kicks up the gusty wind particularly in the afternoons.

The tides will also be a factor as we experience a full moon on Tuesday and the tidal strength will particularly the afternoons p.m. outgoing tides. Finally, the water conditions should stay fairly clear and the water temperatures should hover between 82 and 84 in the backwater and a few degrees less offshore. 


Marco Island: Transitional month. Still seeing pelagic action on mackerel and bluefish in the Passes with optimum periods in the first hours of the first light morning incoming tides this week working small tipped jigs tight to just off the bottom on a tidal drift. Also, could well be some spec trout action in the same venue; try the deeper cuts with the same rigs on incoming only. Black drum is making a showing in the backwaters. Interesting that their habitat seems to be the backwater cuts where there is water flow and a deep to shallow bottom structure; they feed on the drop off. Baits that have been working are cut ladyfish and pieces of fresh shrimp moved ever so slowly across the bottom. Redfish are now around but most small and releasable. Mangrove snapper are working the fast-moving current edges and now mostly of keeper size.

Dylon Jacobs and his friends, Felipe and Rkail, caught this Tarpon off land in Marco Island using mullet for bait. It's estimated at over 200 lbs.

Naples: Optimum conditions early morning for snook in Gordon’s and all along the south edge of the waterway to the junction. Combination of first light, good incoming tide and clean water is key working pilchards post shower on drift along the edges. Black drum starts to show in deep cut circa west of #R22 Rookery Bay on cut drop offs with shrimp slow move to bottom. Henderson Creek (Rookery Bay) shallow edges for redfish late a.m. incoming with shrimp 4’ leader under popper to mangrove overhangs. Most still small (18” minimum). Careful release. Some pompano on either tide in Hurricane Pass working the bottom with small tipped white jig in the first and last hours of either tide.

Bonita Springs: Big and good changes in the fishing here. As stated in conditions the fouled water has been moved north and west and fishing reports attest to that. Good action now in the backwaters all through the Estero Bay confines. The bait is back and surging throughout the heretofore dismal backwaters. Snook are active and feeding on massive bait schools early with this excellent first light incoming tide. Work them traditionally with live pilchards freelined post bait shower. Redfish are finally showing all along the east edges of the Bay in the creeks and can be taken on live shrimp, live thread worked tight to mangrove overhangs in last hours of a.m. incoming. Look for much improved seatrout action circa Mound Key bars and reefs working live pinfish under popper with 4’ leader on drift. Few good size, most small, measure carefully.


Marco Island: Been a tough go working through the fouled water dilemma; but we’re almost home. Seeing just an infrequent tad of problem water now. Good reports of early fall pelagic action all along the first reefs with mackerel and bluefish topping the list. In clean water there is bait surging all along Capri Pass and the pelagic action has been improving daily. Need to work tipped jigs under chum early incoming circa sunken barges for super action on mackerel et al. Bottom action Five Mile on snapper is excellent with weighted jigs worked with chum. Deep wrecks beginning to see action on retreating migrators (kings, cobia, sharks) heading south. On live bait on wire under chum.

Naples: Nice to report that things are on the upswing here also. Still need to scan the offshore water for conditions since patches of fouled water still evident. Finding bait and bird action will be the key for action. Close in reefs and barge wrecks are showing a good number of returning resident snapper and smaller grouper that are feeding veraciously. Some to take home size; most returnable. Deeper wrecks showing both kings and cobia along with an occasional permit; so, working fresh live bait here under chum can be surprisingly productive.

Bonita Springs: Finally, a total breakthrough here. Water deep has been back to traditional. Look for returning pelagic (kings, cobia, permit) to be feeding actively on the wrecks and reefs in the 15-20-mile range and taking live bait under chum veraciously. Still some issue on grouper action deep; some days with faster tides better than others working the 60+ foot depths with live bait on a drift for red grouper as well as gags in the same water. Some closer in reefs reporting good action on cobia and king action on live bait especially on the stronger incoming tides on live bait under chum.

More:On The Hook: Fishing equipment goes wanting

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