Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Jan. 18-24

Bill Walsh

So far, we here in Southwest Florida are fortunate in escaping the ravages of now “named winter storms” in the north. But some indications in the forecasts that our good weather fortunes may abate this coming week. Late weekend we quite likely will see a frontal passage that will drop morning temperatures into to 40s and winds from the northwest gusting into the 30-mph range. That is sure to impact both the water quality here as well as the general “on-the-water” conditions for a least a few days.

Becky Beatty with a 15-pound jack Fishing with a banjo minnow.

Additionally, those west winds pose a threat of shoving a parcel of strong red tide water reported offshore Marco by the FWC into our nearshore and backwaters. Stay tuned to that issue with the local news. We will be coming off a full moon early week and the tides will be affected with strong morning incomings with weaker afternoon outgoing water. Water temps should drop into the low 60s also with the early week frontal passage.

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Marco Island: The week ahead will have questionable fishing conditions dependent on the strength of the early week front. Up to this point the backwater fishing here would be categorized as very good with action on both summer species (snapper, pompano, trout) and winter species showing early (sheepshead, black drum, whiting). That may take a brief hit midweek with the weather but resume quickly. Of note, is the early presence of the bigger sheepshead showing on major deep structure points along the river and points off both Capri Pass and Caxambas Pass. All on shrimp on a soft lift technique.

Naples: With a backdrop of the same weather issues mentioned above, the fishing will probably take a two- to three-day hiatus and recover quickly. Look for a continuance of good action on smaller redfish showing all along the ICW creeks and cuts south of the Port Royal junction. A shrimp on a 4’ leader under a popper will get you action (Please release). Sheepshead in major sizes are showing early in Rookery and Johnson Bay in the deeper cuts and going for shrimp, cut fiddler on soft lift technique. On the stronger full moon tides good chance for pompano on early incoming in Hurricane Pass.

Bonita Springs: Look for a couple day hiatus on the good fishing as the front passes early week. General conditions should stay positive as the clean water conditions continue. Redfish action super strong circa Matlacha working higher water mangrove edges with shrimp under popper. Redfish mostly small / all release. Good action In Estero (Mound Key) bars and cuts on sea trout working whole shrimp on 4’ leader under popper on drift. Sheepshead strong action on bigger fish all along the Big Hickory Channel on either tide with shrimp, cut fiddler crab.


Marco Island: As noted in conditions, some chance of a restart of red tide. Best to check for update on issue before heading offshore. Generally, the fishing will certainly be impacted with the frontal passage early week and then settle down by late week. Have sustained good to very good action on inside reefs/wrecks on sheepshead, snapper, trout. Deeper wrecks still showing some retreating kings and cobia as migration ends. Wrecks in the 15-20 mile range that show bait on the finder best. Tripletail still active on stone crab trap markers with tipped jig sight-casted.

Naples: Plan the trip either pre-weekend or late week. Conditions post frontal passage late weekend will be tough. Inshore good action along Keewaydin reef spots on lane and mangrove snapper working weighted tipped jigs under chum. Same spots with cut bait to bottom for blacktip shark action...again under chum. Gordon Five east edges for snapper, keeper triggerfish, Deep action in 60-plus depth for red grouper. Work live pinfish tight to the bottom outcroppings on a tidal drift. May need more depth for keeper size reds; try incremental moves west. Need 22” for keeper reds.

Bonita Springs: Will be a weather sensitive week; best early or late week. Reports of nearshore action on east edges of the May Reef Complex on both lane snapper and big sheepshead working shrimp, cut bait to bottom at top of incoming water. Deep wrecks for retreating migratory (kings, cobia, permit) as winter cold sets in on Panhandle. Need live bait – runner for kings under chum. Live pinfish for cobia for surface sightcast. Small live crab for permit freelined over chum. Still have good action on tripletail sunning at the crab pots; silent approach working tipped dark jig on surface.

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