Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, March 8-14

Bill Walsh
Melody Bare of Naples caught and released the 5’ Snook off of Marco Island.

Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on whether your addicted to fishing) this coming week is going to be like a mid-summer week in the middle of winter. Look for afternoon temperatures tickling the mid-80s with little no wind until the very end of the week; and that wind alert will be moderate and of short duration. There is zero precipitation in the forecast and generally quite docile conditions for one the last official weeks of winter. And to top off this spring break breakthrough week, we will inaugurate Daylight Saving Time on Sunday (spring forward). The tide takes look a tad wacky as the lost hour leaves us over the weekend. That event for the week features a new moon on Friday and then proceeds to ease both ways all week. Most sectors of the tide will be workable but weak. The feature of the enterprise however is the predicted water temperatures, in a historical setting of 62-65-degree temperatures, the forecast has it pegged at between 76 and 78 degrees this week. Does that impact the winter species presence? You bet.


Marco Island: Against all logic of cool temperature spawning action hereabouts, the sheepshead is marginally active with mostly bait robbing small males but a fair mix of some big spawners. Why? Your guess is as good as mine; probably want to get the exercise over with despite the inshore temperatures and then make a bee line out to species comfortable depths. Jumping into the picture this last week was a very good pompano bite in Hurricane Pass albeit on the end of the outgoing tide. On small tipped jigs to the bottom. Nice size whiting still showing in goodly numbers just off the Keewaydin beach on the outgoing.

Naples: That spectacular small redfish action still pervading all along the ICW cuts from the Port Royal Junction to just south of the Dollar Bay access points (both sides). Most of these hatchery escapees are still undersized (and still a restriction in force to release all redfish by the FWC) and certainly bodes well for what our late summer/fall action may look like. Snook to over slot are summer active from Gordon Pass all the way to the Naples docks and working pilchards on fluorocarbon leader with circle hooks worked under showers. Also, Hurricane Pass for those pompano and whiting (see the Marco Island section of this report).

Bonita Springs: Reports indicate that the anomaly of spawning sheepshead will be bypassing the traditional water temperature issue and continue feeding to spawn. Great action reported throughout Estero in the deeper holes with good current and adjacency to barnacled structure. Bait...shrimp and cut fiddlers. Either tide. Live bait has been the draw for oversized redfish and snook on east edges Estero Bay working creek edges and junction points on incoming. Redfish still active on edges of incoming tide points circa Matlatcha Bridge with shrimp under popper. Most still undersized.


Marco Island: If there were a place where the water is a tad cooler this is it; meaning to attract and hold retreating sheepshead. The first and second reefs should be favorable for big sheepshead action this week working shrimp, cut crabs tight to the barnacled structure on vertical lift. Offshore have multiple reports of big cobia showing on wrecks, reefs with sizable bait schools; a wounded resident bait fish in a chum slick would be the ticket for big fish action. On your way out and back set a lookout at the stone crab pot makers for tripletail on tipped jig. Not much longer on pots, are pulled next month.

Naples: A trip to the east edges of the Gordon Five Reef should provide opportunity for a little more action on cold water retreating species (sheepshead, triggerfish, trout) working shrimp tight to the bottom. Chum optional. Wrecks 15-20 miles that show bait on the finder for yellowtail snapper. Block chum right away; then tad of same chum on #6 circle fed into slick bail open. Post-strike drop bail moderate drag. Amazing action. Deep, lots of trying for the elusive keeper red grouper. Even with 30-40 mile runs great action but almost all undersize. Better chance at gags on deep structure spots bottom feed or troll.

Bonita Springs: May reef east edges reporting nice size sheepshead on way west. Shrimp or cut crab into structure vertical lift technique. Two reports on take size triggerfish in the mix; same approach. Mid-range published reefs, wrecks now holding good populations both lane and mangrove snapper. Need strong chum effort and patience in getting bite started for nice size lane and mangrove snapper with a few yellow tails also. Cobia beginning to show on mid to deep wrecks, reefs marking bait. On distressed live bait worked tight to bait schools under chum. Medium heavy tackle.

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