Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Feb. 15-21

Bill Walsh

Forecasts indicate that this week will be Marco winter atypical. Warm days with a cold one or two; some gusty wind periods and a tad of rain. Overall most morning temperatures will start out on the low 60s and then escalate to the high 70s by mid-afternoon. Late week we will get the winter jolt with a morning temp of 46. All in all, for the angler, this is not the type of weather that draws the sought after winter species – the big sheepshead, whiting, and trout –especially in the shallower backwaters.

Joe Pitrone caught these triple tail near Isles of Capri using live shrimp.

Another factor to consider is the gusty mid-morning to late afternoon gusty winds that impact the water turbulence and the general clarity. We’ll have two or three days mid-week with that “devil” to contend with. A positive note however, no sign of red tide this past week, so maybe that elongated episode is behind us. The tides are moderately affected by the full moon scheduled for late week. Look for moderately strong water flow all week on a morning outgoing and a afternoon/evening incoming tides with ranges from 2.0 - 2.8’


Marco Island: Back inside the lack of a sustained cold water (60 degrees) cycle has worked against drawing the big sheepshead in any numbers. A few are being caught but randomly. Most small and good at finishing your bait supply. Need a sustained cold snap. But mangrove snapper are still “summer” active on most of the mangrove shorelines and readily taking a tipped jig on either tide. Redfish, with some now to legal size (mandatory release) are numerous all along the mangrove edges Addison Bay, Johnson Bay, Rookery Bay taking pieces of live shrimp. In near 70 degree water snook are staying active also.

Naples: Multiple reports of good redfish action ICW Port Royal junction to Dollar Bay both sides working live shrimp 4’ fluoro leader under popper with best late incoming. Remember all for release now. Snook action sustained Rookery Bay shallower cuts and edges on incoming fast water. Pilchards remain best bait. Some sheepshead to keeper size Keeywadin docks to Hurricane Pass east treelined edges on shrimp either tide. Spec trout circa north edges Canon Island south of ICW #R28 on shrimp under popper on slow tidal drift 4-6’ depth.

Bonita Springs: Best news here is sustained good quality of the water sans red tide or Lake O discharges. Snook are still active in the borderline 70 water temperature but are skittish probably due to tidal strength fluctuations. Snook like strong water current and moving bait. Worth a try this week throughout Estero with a moderately engaging tide strength. Still good action Estero on trout and some nice keeper size sheepshead all along behind Big Hickory and the channel. Redfish action strong west edges Bay at top of tide working shrimp tight to shallow overhangs on shrimp. (All release, please)


Marco Island: Distinct advantage now working inshore reefs for mega sheepshead. Cooler deeper water and good bottom feed have them out here in goodly numbers rather than in warmer shallower backwaters. Lots of ancient structure all along the 20-30’ depth between South Seas and Marriott. Shrimp / lindy rig worked to the bottom on soft lift technique the ticket. Mid-range seeing good action on snaaper but this time yellowtail on mid-range wrecks that show holding bait. Work a tad of chum on a small hook into a generous block chum effort with bail open. Strike....count to ten and close bail and set. Great fight.

Naples: Unprecedented late winter season snook action continues all along the ICW from the Gordon Pass east to the Port Royal junction and south to both sides of the Dollar Bay creeks with best action on that afternoon incoming working pilchards on shallow fast moving current. Redfish action, somewhat skewed to smaller redfish, all along the edges of the flats at Henderson Creek circa Rookery Bay at height of incoming working shrimp under popper tight to mangrove overhangs. Nice whiting action east edges of Keewaydin Island just off south beach stretch on the morning (before beach traffic) outgoing. 

Bonita Springs: Consistent good water conditions throughout the domain now. Multiple reports of good to very good yellowtail snapper action in the 40-50’ depth wrecks holding bait. Work behind a good chum effort with freelined bits of chum with the bail open on strike and then set at a count of 10. Great fight and even better on the table. Outside the red grouper remain “distant” need 65-75’ depth for even a chance with live bait worked on a drift with live bait tight to the bottom. Some gags in tad shallower water, on structure with bait work at 20-30’ depths.

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