Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, April 26-May 2

Bill Walsh
Sailfish caught offshore of Naples aboard the Scooter with Capt. Stephen Ianotta at the helm.

Don’t get too complacent that the nice mild spring is here. The Friday start to the week will give you a tussle with rain on both ends of the day as well are some dome disrupting Southwest winds in the afternoon. Then it all goes “patty cake” until Tuesday when the winds swing east and will reach gust sizes out of that quadrant with predictions on the mid 20 velocities; all parts of that message is not friendly for the Southwest Florida angler. So, the weekend (Saturday to Monday) is your best bet for weather. The other factor will be at work however; the morning tides from Friday through Sunday are virtually non-existent. The tides in those days are moving less than one foot in six hours. All in all, after some rain on Friday, the week will be clear for beaching but not too good for fishing; with the best choice a couple of early week afternoons in the tad stronger outgoing tide. Observation: as the water warms up to the mid to high 70’s now, both the tidal strength and water clarity become primary factors for piscatorial feeding.

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Marco Island: After working a brace of backwater charters on good spots this past week with nothing but an avalanche of 9-10” sheepshead, can officially confirm that the mega sheepshead season is flat over in the backwaters here. If you sit and hope for a mega, you will empty your bait bucket. Best bet is mid-(good) tides along mangrove edges most anywhere working shrimp to the bottom for mangrove snapper. Either tide will work, and you may even get interrupted with nice size mutton snapper (18” take size look for black spot on flank). Also seeing redfish, still juvenile size but growing quickly. Few mackerel available in Passes early.

Naples: Luckily, still seeing some nice snook action in Gordon Channel south edges; would pick Monday a.m. with the only formidable morning incoming; on pilchards post shower. Nice action Rookery west of #R22 on mid tides for nice size mangrove snapper. Reports of spec trout north edges Canon Island late incoming with shrimp under popper 4’ grass bottom. Dollar Creeks – both sides for redfish action on shrimp – 4’ leader - under popper on top of tide working tight to mangrove overhangs – last of incoming for your best chance. Careful, still many undersized reds very active. Please continue to release all reds. Thanks.

Bonita Springs: As always mentioned, no problems with water quality here, yet. Could become an issue when the late spring rains begin. Reports here show that still getting some of those big sheepshead in the backwaters of Estero with best on the channels just east of Big Hickory. Take advantage, can’t last much longer. Tarpon active between Carlos and New Passes on early morning water working small pinfish, threads post shower. Trout a mainstay circa Mound Key grass flats between bars and islands working live shrimp under 4’ fluoro leader under popper on drift over grass bottom structure.


Marco Island: The wind will be the devil this week. Be careful pre-weekend and then again late week into Tuesday through Thursday; although most predicted easterly will still make it rough going. Inshore seeing mackerel action along the first reef spots out to 35’ Birds are telltale and working sizeable schools for mackerel and bluefish. Can either set up on structure or freelance working the bait eruptions and bird action. Deep water wrecks holding bait showing action on kings and some cobia. Set chum and work smaller blue runners of wire under chum for kings. Keep baited surface rod ready for curious cobia that will show.

Naples: Inshore best bet is good to excellent action on pelagics (mackerel, bluefish, jacks and little tunny) anywhere there is bird action Gordon Pass to Doctors and even a little south of New Pass. Either follow the birds and the surface eruptions or set up on structure with serious chum effort. Deep have reports of good action on yellowtail snapper on mid-range wrecks that are solid bait as ID’d on Fishfinder. Fun to catch, great on the table, yellowtail will strike and run without swallowing; so, leave the bail open on a rig with a tad of chum and count to 10 after strike and then slam the bail shut and hang on.

Bonita Springs: Tarpon continue to be the big news here all the way from New Pass to just north of Carlos Point. Best action is just after first light and activity centers on small pinfish and threadfin worked in and on current points. And getting solid reports of nice lane and mangrove snapper action showing on the east edges of the MAY Reef complex. Weighted jigs under chum here would be the ticket. Still having problems locating take home size red grouper which has been the staple deep-water fish circa Bonita. Even trips at 30-plus miles are having disappointing results on reds. Lesson: save your gas work the yellowtail.

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