The week kicks off with incredible winter conditions. Mornings at 65 degrees and cooking up to 80 by mid-afternoon; but the wind kicks in midweek and will be plastering the waters with steady 20-mph gusts out of the northwest and due west. So, the water temperatures are off-key for the sheepshead (usual winter target here) and then the water will cloud up to occluded come late week. All that indicates that the fishing will be top notch early week and then take a hiatus as the second part of the week kicks in. There is very little precipitation forecast however and once the wind eases we’ll get our optimum conditions back very quickly. The tides are coming off a new moon early week and are reasonably moderate both ways and won’t affect fishing.
Marco Island: Should be a decent fishing week despite the weather variances. Suspect that the sheepshead will still be on the feed as their spawning cycle timing is waning. Would concentrate on deeper water that provides structure (docks, pilings). Should be lots of juvenile redfish feeding on grass bottom spots in Johnson Bay, Rookery Bay flats and along Henderson Creek (Rookery Bay) and going for a whole live shrimp worked under a popper. Whiting love this time of year; try along the beaches, especially Keewaydin, on the outgoing tide with tad of shrimp on a jig worked tight to the bottom.
Naples: Good chance for mega sheepshead along the Bay docks this week working a tad of shrimp or cut crab tight to structure on the morning incoming. Just to the south the Dollar Bay creeks (both sides) for the myriad of smaller redfish will be a hot catch. Whole shrimp on 4’ leader under popper tight to mangrove overhangs is the #1 venue. Please carefully release. Hurricane Pass on the morning incoming early week for pompano action working a tipped small jig tight to the bottom right in the Pass cut. Chance for whiting, silver trout same venue.
Bonita Springs: Estero Bay as well as Pine Island Sound having solid action on winter size sheepshead despite the variations in weather and water conditions. Best action on small shrimp or cut fiddler worked tight to structure. Small redfish, feeding heavily on both sides on Matlacha bridge spots; both tides with best rig being a live shrimp worked on a 4’leader under a popper. Still seeing some good spec trout action circa Mound Key (Estero Bay) grass flats working a shrimp / cut bait under a popper on a drift over grass edges tight to the oyster bars.
Marco Island: Conditions should be marginally placid early week. Sheepshead action all along the first and second reef lines continues to be strong working shrimp, cut crabs tight to the bottom on a vertical lift technique. Same venue for both lane snapper on tipped jigs and some keeper size triggerfish. Deep wrecks for good action on yellowtail snapper working bits of chum in a strong chum effort on #6 hooks with bail open, with delayed set. Tripletail still numerous on crab trap markers. If sighted, double back and work with dark colored tipped jig tight to marker.
Naples: Gordon Pass jetty morning incoming early for pompano action with tipped jigs worked tight to structure 10-15 ft. depth. Gordon Five for good lane snapper action first half morning incoming with tipped weighted jigs worked under a strong chum effort. Wreck spots 10-15 miles with bait have good chance of holding mangrove and lane snapper action along with a chance at keeper size triggerfish. Deep action marginal for red grouper. Need 60’ minimum with live pinfish worked tight to bottom outcroppings on a tidal drift.
Bonita Springs: Conditions positive and stable. No Lake O discharges. Steady action on sheepshead to keeper size Estero Bay circa Big Hickory edges and channel working shrimp, cut crab tight to channel depth and structure. Multitudes of small redfish showing all along the west edges of Big Hickory Bay and taking a shrimp worked under a popper. All to release. Deep seeing some moderate action on red grouper 70’ depth hard bottom working live pinfish tight to structure on a tidal drift with morning incoming tide best.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.