Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, March 1-7

Bill Walsh
Trey Hill, age 13, used aove pin fish to hook this Amberjack off the coast of Naples.

Looks like we’ll get some moderation in the afternoon high temperatures this coming week. Forecasts show late week afternoon highs in the mid-70s which is much more endurable that this past week climb into the 90s. We should see some gusty winds occur on Sunday through early week that will come ashore here out of the southwest and west/southwest primarily in the afternoons. That event will impact the clarity of our waters with some of gusts in concert with the incoming tides. That has been a concern all this past week and should intensify midweek and beyond. That intense mid-winter heat over the past two weeks has also affected the water temperature. Yesterday, on a charter the water temps in Hurricane Pass neared 80 degrees; some 10 to 15 degrees over normal. That should moderate this coming week. The tides that were ripping here this past week are heading to a new moon late week and will ease both ways and register tidal movement.

More:On The Hook: Apportioning the tide


Marco Island: A pleasant surprise, that big, spawning sheepshead that everyone feared would go deep to the Gulf for spawn are evident here in most of their traditional haunts in the passes as well as the deeper holes along the Marco River and Collier Creek. Same as well all along the drop offs in Addison and Rookery Bay. Hunk of shrimp or a cut fiddler will get you a nice 12-15” sheepshead worked with a soft lift technique. Snapper, to some size are staying active along the mangrove edges with downed fauna. Pompano showed up in Hurricane Pass on the last of the outgoing two days this past week. Look for more of that action.

Naples: Almost positive that the Naples fishery (Naples Bay, Hurricane Pass) is having the same pleasantly surprising action in the warm water conditions on sheepshead continuing to spawn. Docks all along Keewaydin and Naples Bay proper have always been legend for winter big sheepshead action. Ditto for this year. Snook action continues with the opportunity for bigger fish working the fast water cuts in Rookery Bay and associated Henderson Creek. Pilchards are the ticket and they are still hovering here in the warmth. Small to medium size redfish are super active on both sides of Dollar Bay with best top of high tide on shrimp

Bonita Springs: Best news, there are no water quality problems. Goes along with very few rain events. Estero Bay circa Big Hickory channels seeing great sheepshead action on structure (piling, markers) for big sheepshead, again, staying inshore despite the heat. On shrimp, cut fiddler on soft lift technique. Snook stay active as temp exceeds their base temp of 70 degrees. Carlos and New Passes on incoming water on pilchards / Sardines. Up near Matlatcha Bridge have several reports of redfish in endless numbers feeding on mangrove edges at high water on shrimp worked tight to overhangs on 4’ leader under a worked popper


Marco Island: Proof that water temperature rules, report that some Spanish mackerel were caught just off Capri Barges this past week. Guess not a sustained event. More likely – good sheepshead action all along the First and Second reefs working cut shrimp, crabs, tube worms vertically right into structure. Walton Reef for mangrove and some lane snapper with tipped jigs under chum worked 2-3’ off bottom with best the early morning incoming. Deep wrecks seeing some small kings on live runners under chum. Nice yellowtail snapper on deeper wrecks with bait working chum chunk in slick with late bail set.

Naples: Inshore good action reported Keewaydin south reef on 12-15” mangrove snapper worked on tipped weighted jigs under chum. Had single report of blacktip shark action same venue on cut bait. Mangrove, lane snapper on east edges Gordon Five reef working weighted jig under good chum effort; some sheepshead to 15” in the mix. Deep action staying spotty on red grouper; going 30-40 miles due west hard bottom with good morning weather conditions. Lots of reds but undersized. Better action enroute on surfaced tripletail hugging the stone crab trap markers; on tipped dark color jigs tossed right at them.

Bonita Springs: Similar inshore action as Naples on May Reef comped on some big sheepshead but mostly hefty lane and mangrove snapper staying put in the heat. Some take-home size triggerfish also on inside reefs. Most reported action on porgies to 16” on squid. Deep major wrecks holding bait attracting yellowtail snapper regularly. Work with serious chum effort and tad of same chum on #6 hook fed into slick - with late set of bail (late swallow). Red grouper action very deep still very scanty results and troublesome sea conditions with wind late morning to sundown.

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