Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Dec. 28-Jan. 3

Bill Walsh

This is exactly the way the weather should be here on the Paradise Coast post-Christmas; comfortably warm with light winds. For the anglers, they have the benefit of cleaned up water quality after the hellacious wind of the prior week. Thankfully, think we are past the dominant threat of fouled water (at least for a while). The only thing lagging to optimize our winter fishing quality would be a sharply diminished water temperature that would drive the big sheepshead inshore for the annual spawn.

File: Fishing off a pier.

The water temperature this coming week should hover in the high to mid-60s; we need a sudden drop to 60 and just below to trigger the invasion. True to annual pattern that should happen in the next few weeks. So keep your fingers crossed and your “woolies” ready to go. As mentioned the wind should be single digit till late week and the sea conditions flat. The tides are heading to a new moon and generally moderate both ways and featuring a mid-week nice “first light” moderately strong incoming.              


Marco Island: There should be some residual murky water hanging around the backwaters especially where the current is extremely weak. Causal factor of the issue is the howling winds that worked us over pretty well a week ago. Where there is moving water, especially on the incoming you have a much better chance. The major news encompasses the sheepshead action. For whatever reason, that we mortal cannot fathom, the sheepshead in nice size are arriving on all their favorite spots aka the Marco River, the ICW and deep back inside Rookery and Johnson Bay. All on cut shrimp or crabs on a soft lift technique.

Naples: Best in the Naples area is the continuance of snook action even though their lower borderline water temperature has been breached. Early morning action along the main channel from Gordon to the junction ICW marker has been hot especially on the morning incoming that we have this coming week. All snook on pilchards usually post shower and on releasable circle hooks. Just to the south in Rookery Bay, Henderson Creek seeing nice action at full water on redfish working the mangrove edges working live shrimp on a four foot leader under a popper right up under the mangrove overhangs.

Bonita Springs: Have to applaud the sustained clean water here. Making a major difference in action levels particularly from Estero all the way up through Pine Island Sound. In the southern region of Estero the snook are a hot catch on most days with good incoming water flow early just off current fed drop offs. Redfish are the current name of the game up through Matlacha with the hot spots those shallow in current edges adjacent to the bridge. Shrimp under popper or artificials are the game changer here. And couple reports of tarpon rolling early circa Carlos Pass just off the markers with freelined pinfish in fast water.


Marco Island: Sense that the summer foray on Spanish mackerel has virtually come to an end. Some mornings see top water action along the Capri channel drawing nice spec trout holding deep in the early hours and then moving into some of the shallower water off Sandollar Island as the tide slows. The reef are still active with late season snapper taking weighted jigs under chum and the sheepshead are dominating the remaining action. Deep its kingfish action on mid depth to deep reefs that show bait holding. Survey and then deploy a live runner in a serious chum effort or set up same on a slow troll right over the bait.

Naples: Getting good early season sheepshead action all along the east edges of the Gordon Five on sheepshead with a few (legal) triggerfish in the mix. Bait is the standard shrimp but see a heightened action on cut fiddler crabs these past few weeks. Technique is vertical drop with soft lift technique to hook. Deep, reports are mainly on reef snapper and sheepshead sprinkled with some action narratives on nice size retreating Panhandle kingfish. Have info on a couple of instances where yellowtail snapper barged into the sheepshead bite. Fun on freelined tads of block chum fed into the slick with bail on a delayed set. Great action and great table fare

Bonita Springs: Going deep here for the notorious red grouper action on hard bottom; but now running deep for reasonable return on keep to catch ratios. There days need at least 65-70’ depth on ledges and hard bottom outcroppings working live bait (small blue runners, threadfin herring) tight to. the bottom on a tidal drift. Other best target here is the hot action on the tripletail sunning on the stone crab pot surface markers. Most will set one crew member TT Lookout and upon sighting a surface action notify the helm to double back and work the surface spot with small dark colored tipped jigs.

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