Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Jan. 4-10

Bill Walsh

Another week of “visitor” weather; warm, storm free with reasonable winds. Late prior week, that serenade of good weather has driven the winter water temperature to springtime levels. The temperature gauges registered 71 to 73 degrees where the norm this time of year is usually 8-10 degrees lower. It will be interesting to see what develops on the feeding habits for the cold water species (sheepshead, trout, whiting) in that environment.

A whale shark visited the Fort Pierce Lady party boat Saturday about 16 miles northeast of Fort Pierce Inlet.

On a positive point the water has remained reasonably clean even in the shallow backwaters with the light, mainly easterly winds and we have avoided any resurgence of the cursed red tide and algae infestation. The tides will be affected by the new moon mid-week and we’ll have strong morning incoming tides ranging from more than 2.3 feet to latter week of more than 2.7 feet. The afternoon outgoing will be remarkably weak with most days in the range of -.9 feet to -1.2 feet. Thus get out there early this week.


Marco Island: Backwater action is staying remarkably strong. The clean water has drawn bait into the whole of the backwater followed by species in numbers that we don’t usually see. There are literally “tons” of small redfish all through the backwaters i.e Addison Bay, Johnson Bay, Rookery Bay and connecting waterways feeding on small whole live shrimp worked tight to the mangrove overhangs under a popper. The BIG sheepshead are working the docks along the river and along the Keewaydin waterway and with the warmth, the bigger mangrove snapper are still here. Bottom line: go fishing!

Naples: Much the same pattern in the general Naples waters from US 41 to Rookery Bay. Plus reports of continued good snook action along the Gordon River from the Pass to the ICW junction working pilchards in those early morning incoming hours and just at nightfall long the Naples Bay docks with pinfish freelined under the lights. Small redfish with occasional keeper size (release) along the edges on both sides of Dollar Bay working shrimp under popper with top of incoming best. Hurricane Pass edges for sheepshead and snapper on both tides with chance for an occasional black drum on same baits.

Bonita Springs: Water conditions remain stable from Wiggins north and the fishing activity and results are right in line.Seeing very good sheepshead action circa Big Hickory channel and island edges. Fish are working deeper structure (navigational markers) and are taking cut fiddler crabs as well as cut shrimp on soft lift technique. Good reports on sustained redfish action on spots adjacent Matlacha Bridge, with both small and lurker reds (all release) working whole shrimp at last of incoming tight to structure overhangs. Some spec trout reported in the same venue.


Marco Island: The inshore reefs (one to three miles) are enjoying the gathering of bigger sheepshead even in the anomaly of warm winter water. Spots like the John Dee Wreck, Walton Reef and the Five Mile Reef has been having excellent activity on sheepshead, lane and mangrove snapper as well as keeper size triggerfish. All on shrimp with scum as an option. Offshore, where conditions should be nice and flat this week, look for snapper action up and including yellowtail working freelined chum bits in a slick. Triple tail are staying as hot action on the stone crab trap markers with tipped jig on light tackle.

Naples: Close inshore on Keewaydin north and south reefs for nice size lane snapper along with sizable sheepshead working shrimp or cut fiddler crabs just off the bottom. Here too, on your way deep, scan the stone crab markers for “sunning” tripletail. Light tackle / good fight, excellent table fare. Deep wrecks holding bait continue to attract retreating king fish as they head south. Need a live runner on wire leader in a good chum slick to draw action. Several reports of a few cobia in the retreating schools. Here you sight cast to the surfaced cobia with a live pinfish et al work on medium weight tackle.

Bonita Springs: Clean water (oxygen rich) seems to start here at about 18-20 miles. Some fish inside that boundary but most in favored water. Wrecks /Reefs in zone producing solid action on snapper, porgies, some mackerel. Even deeper water on ledges and bottom structure have had spotty action for keeper size red and gag grouper. Reds are tight to the bottom and work with a live pinfish, cut ladyfish right into outcropping on a drift. Gags on taller structure spots and can be taken on live bait worked 15-20’ off the bottom.

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