Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Feb. 22-28
Amazing! What else describes mid-summer conditions in February. We will see forecasted afternoon temperatures this week that touch 90 degrees. Being able to fathom what reaction our piscatorial friends will have to that is beyond reach. Best guess is that the “cold water” species might stay nearshore or offshore in the deeper climes and the summer species will have at it inshore. First time I can remember seeing sustained temperatures at this level in the dead of winter here; we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. The other factors, precipitation is null with no forecasted rain for the week and the tides also are meek with moderate tidal strength predictions all week. The range of tides for the week does not exceed a 2.5 ft swing on any half day all week.
Marco Island: Best guess is that the bigger sheepshead spawners will follow through on nature’s insistence to spawn but do so in the five to 10 degree cooler water nearshore. The pure backwater action will be there but slim and relegated to the deeper depths of the major waterways (i.e Marco River, Collier Creek). Mangrove snapper will be the major mid-winter target and show on most of the current points on both tides and be working heavily on shrimp rigs worked tight to downed structure. Snook and redfish will also stay active in these unusual conditions and be working current edges (all release).
Naples: The action circa the Gordon River and Pass will most likely shift to spring action on major pelagics. Look for snook action to continue in the warmth with best action on the mid-morning incoming on shallow to deep current points working live bait (pilchards) into the cuts. Redfish will be another main target as they stay active in the warmth, Excessive number of small reds now but good chance for some size in the Dollar Bay creeks working a whole shrimp under a popper tight to the mangrove overhangs on the late morning top of the incoming tide.
Bonita Springs: Reports show varying action. Snook are staying active in the warmth but are different day to day. Best pattern to figure is the strength of the tide and available bait fish. Estero Bay seems best on east edges in high tide ranges working pilchards to current points. Redfish stay active Matlatcha Bridge spots with shrimp under popper on late AM incoming tight to mangrove overhangs. Trout staying active in Estero. Mound Key bars and cuts on late incoming with best action working shrimp under popper on drift late incoming.
Marco Island: Better chance now in deeper cooler water here for retreating sheepshead. First line of reefs off the beach best target working shrimp, cut fiddler vertically right into structure either tide. Could see nice size mangrove snapper in the mix. Five Mile reef for mangrove, lane snapper with weighted jigs under chum either tide. Deep water for pelagics fooled by warmth and returning early working live bait (blue runner / pinfish) into structure in a serious chum effort. Use finder to locate wrecks holding active bait schools important.
Naples: Inshore reefs Gordon to Doctors for retreating sheepshead working shrimp / cut crab on vertical lift technique on either tide. Mangrove snapper action east edges of the Gordon Five Mile working weighted jigs just off the bottom under serious chum effort. Deep water look for warm water action i.e snapper, mackerel on bait laden wrecks at 15-20 miles working cut bait under chum. Super deep always a chance at grouper action 60-70’ working a live pinfish tight to the bottom on a tidal drift. If working over defined structure move bait 20-30’ above bottom for possible gag grouper action.
Bonita Springs: No problems now with water clarity and quality. Seeing some action nearshore from Wiggins to Carlos on scattered spring fish (mackerel, bluefish) working tipped jigs under serious chum effort. East edges MAY reef complex for mangrove /lane snapper with shrimp tipped weighted jig worked just off the bottom. Deep still some chance for the heralded red grouper in 60-plus feet of water working a pinfish tight to the outcroppings on the bottom on a tidal drift on either tide. Some chance for gag grouper on the same mission lifting the bait over structure.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to email@example.com.