Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Jan. 25-31

Bill Walsh

This week will have weather that displays winter here at it’s prime. We, predictably, will have cold mornings with low 50 degree starts to the days and then mixed in with periods of substantial rain and topped off late week with 30mph gusty north winds. All of that will tend to keep the water and conditions in a turmoil. Water quality (clarity) will certainly be a prime issue especially in the backwaters. Adding to the trying weather factors during the week will be a seriously weak tidal flow with late week showing morning outgoing tides with less than 6” flow over six hours; the afternoon incoming is better, but marginally with but a 12” tidal movement in a six-hour tidal phase. Even with these weather “events” in the offing, however, those afternoon air temperatures should pan out in a comfortable low 70-degree range in significant sunshine.

Matthew Spahlinger holding up a largemouth black bass. He caught it on a soft plastic bait. It was released.


Marco Island: As discussed, the major issue back here will be the water quality (clarity). The strong winds earlier in the week out of the southwest have seriously muddied the incoming Gulf water that will take two to three days of placid conditions to clear. So late weekend may the best target time to try those deeper water structures for sheepshead. A plus in that endeavor is the drop-in water temperature into the 60-62 range. Big sheepshead should turn on the bite as well as the winter favorites of whiting and silver trout working the deeper ICW spots as well as off the beaches. Shrimp, cut crab for sheepshead, tipped jigs for whiting.

Naples: As water clarity cleans up over the weekend, good chance to work the creeks and cuts along the ICW from the Port Royal junction to the north cut into Rookery Bay. Those smaller redfish that showed up here after the water quality debacle up north, have been super active and feeding heavily in moderate tides. A whole shrimp in a 4’ leader under a popper should get you some strong action. Otherwise now it’s sheepshead time as the water temperature has reached their prime comfort level. The docks along the ICW Marker 33 to 58 is being touted now as the place to get the “big uns” on shrimp, cut crab.

Bonita Springs: Constant days of “unfouled” water has turned this entire area back to its old self. Fishing all through the Estero Bay environment and on up all through Pine Island Sound is like the “old days” as a couple of guides related. Look for good to excellent sheepshead action all along the deeper cuts in Estero working shrimp or cut crabs tight to barnacled structure. The small redfish are staying active all around the oyster bars just south of Mound Key and taking most any live bait. Couple reports of big reds along the shallow edges on east edges of the Horseshoe Keys on live bait late incoming.


Marco Island: Red tide issue mentioned last week seems to have either faded in intensity of been shoved further offshore. Post weekend with a couple days of light winds, fishing should resurrect itself on the inshore reefs from the South Seas to Kice Island. Expect good sheepshead action working substantial bottom structure with cut fiddlers and shrimp. Also getting reports of significant triggerfish action on same spots and they will jump on sheepshead baits. Deep action will recommence early week also with wrecks and reef spots still holding schools of yellowtail snapper with bottom action also on mega sheepshead.

Naples: Inshore have good reports of hot action on late season mangrove snapper and sizable sheepshead on both the North and South Keewaydin Reefs working cut fiddlers vertically into heavy structure. Reportedly several in the 18” range. Deep action will be dependent on return of clean water post early week front. Several reports on scarcity of bait on deeper structure will slow or halt action on the yellowtail snapper – check for bait on finder before setting chum. Tripletail remain good target as water clears up. On surface adjacent stone crab trap markers worked with dark color tipped jig on surface.

Bonita Springs: Nearshore – good action reported on the western edges of the MAY Reef complex on “winter” fish, sheepshead, some trout and triggerfish working cut fiddlers, shrimp vertically to reef structure on soft lift technique. Deep water runs for Red Grouper are showing rather meager results as water remains churned up and the availability of keeper size few and far between. That issue may worsen with the weather this coming week. But still get nice reports on good size (well fed) tripletail on stone crab markers in the 15-20-mile range working tipped jig on surface to surface “sunner.”

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