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

Bill Walsh

Think this is the way Christmas week weather should be; little windy pre-weekend then settles down to with reasonable seasonably warm with moderate easterly winds. Should make those days on the water comfortable with warmer afternoons and no precipitation. The fishing should be right in tune with the season featuring some clean water and right-on-target water temperatures that bounce around from 65 to 68.

Fishing has a way of bringing out something special for those who participate.

Late week the forecast tends towards some stronger winds that could change our optimism. With the dominant easterly winds and cooler water temperatures, the threat of red tide/algae invasion is nil, so you can dismiss that threat. We’ll be riding through a full moon (on Christmas Day) which will exaggerate the morning incoming tide strength and perhaps the fishing action; some tides will move about 3.5 ft. of water in six hours; that’s strong. The afternoon outgoing will be significantly gentler with water dropping just a bit over 1.0 foot in the same time interval.           


Marco Island: In a composite look as, the quality of fishing here, would classify it “much improved.” If you consider the water quality, tidal flow and water temperature on any given spot the fishing has improved over late summer action. Much of that has to do with migration of species normally resident in Lee County waters to cleaner water here late summer. Sheepshead are just about everywhere with a moderate number of keepers. Trout are active along the grass edges of the ICW, mangrove snapper are still feeding on edges as are black drum, flounder, redfish and whiting and silver trout. Go fishing!

Naples: The area from Rookery Bay to Wiggins Pass has also had a turnaround in fishing quality as the area south. Action on redfish and snook has been “top drawer” along the ICW creeks and edge cuts working pilchards post shower for the snook and cut ladyfish / shrimp under a popper for redfish. (Still requiring release of both species). Nice size sheepshead mixed in with black drum reported all along the edge structure in Naples Bay working small baits on a vertical soft lift. Spec trout are also showing on north edges of Canon Island and nearby Calhoun Pass working shrimp under a popper. AM tide this week will be special.

Bonita Springs: Best news is that the water is staying clean and clear. Thank the rain god who has stopped the fouled releases for Lake O. Makes all the difference. Estero is showing good action on the edges and in the cooler water for some nice size “take home” sheepshead with a few black drums mixed it. Up north by Matlacha bridge edge spots for good action on redfish on incoming water for redfish working shrimp or cut ladyfish on a 4’ leader under a popper. Expect good action this week’s fast AM tide on pompano / mackerel just off Carlos Point with tipped jigs worked 10-15’ depths.


Marco Island: Nearshore might be better conditions during mornings this week. Gusty winds kick up late p.m. Reports of big sheepshead starting to show on the Five Mile and Walton Reefs. No chum. Just small cut shrimp, crab on vertical drop and work soft lift technique. Nice snapper action, mostly lane snapper / some mangrove 20-25’off houses south end Keewaydin on weighted jigs under chum. Super deep 60-70’ for red grouper action on hard bottom with live pinfish, threadfin worked tight to outcroppings. Keep another live bait 20’ off bottom during drift; chance for gags at that depth.

Naples: Scattered pompano, mackerel action circa Gordon Pass approach. Best early with good incoming and to beat boat traffic. On tipped jigs just off bottom on drift. Sheepshead to take home now showing on Gordon Five northwest corner with cut shrimp, crab on soft lift technique. Several reports on good yellowtail snapper action 40-50’ wrecks holding bait. Chum followed with freelined tads of shrimp into slick. Open bail, close 10-15 seconds into run. Triple tail action staying strong on stone crab pot surface markers working dark tipped jig right to marker / mooring line.

Bonita Springs: Nice action reported on mackerel 10-20’ depth between New Pass and RN#4 off Lover’s Key working top water tipped jigs after chum. Snapper action, mostly lanes east edges MAY Reef. Best AM after good chum action work with tipped weighted jigs just off bottom. Red grouper; need super deep (70’-plus) run with good incoming tide these AM’s working live pinfish or threadfin tight to bottom on tidal drift. Enroute check published wreck locations that are holding bait for laggard pelagic headed south on migration. Live runner on wire under chum for action.

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