Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, May 17-23

Bill Walsh
Kenny from South Dakota with a nice shark fishing with a live mullet head .

Frequent tumultuous thunderstorms have crept onto the scene over the past 10 days and stay dominant in the forecasts this week. Bottom line that means the “full summer” conditions are here a month to six weeks early; the fishing prospects will narrowly follow this weather aberration. First measurements of surface sea water temperature have leaped forward and now show anywhere from 82 to 84 degrees most everywhere backwater and coastal and in the high seventies in the deeper offshore waters. In addition, the erratic pattern of thunder-bangers will be changing the salinity levels on an unpredictable basis to the atmosphere of summer. So as outlined in the geographic area predictions following; it will take some willingness to be flexible on fishing efforts as our early summer progresses. The other factors of tide and wind this week are just background; the tide goes full early next week with a weak morning incoming followed by a significant ranged afternoon outgoing. The wind is dominant south and east but turns westerly and nasty late week.

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Marco Island: Early arrival of “summer” heated waters have drawn legions of bait into the three passes on tidal movement and the feeding pelagics close behind. In that scenario, the sea birds (pelicans, terns, etc.) are the “scouts” that point the way to action.  Best timing is the first hours of either tide working tipped jigs into the surface ruckus for mackerel, small bluefish and occasionally nice pompano. In cleaner backwaters, the mangrove snapper remain primary target working mangrove edges with shrimp. Mostly smaller redfish are in good numbers in the far reach backwaters as the tide crests working shrimp under popper to structure edges.

Naples: Snook continue to stay active along the Gordon River on the incoming tide and this week’s moderate first light tide is an ideal setting for top notch action on linesiders from the pass east to the Port Royal junction using the massive schools of pilchards to attract and utilize as bait. Dollar Bays (both sides) still showing sustained redfish action with best at top of mid-morning incoming with shrimp worked tight to edge overhangs. For something different try the south end of Keewaydin Beach post beach crowds in evening for 12-15” whiting working small tipped jigs in late PM outgoing close inshore.

Bonita Springs: Some concern with early, heavy rain pattern on Lake O potential discharges; but current conditions OK. Estero holding good action especially in and along the Big Hickory Channel. Heated waters holding pompano and mackerel with best reports showing action just off-Broadway Channel working small tipped jigs to bottom mid-morning incoming on edges of sand bottom drop offs / morning incoming best. Elsewhere continued strong reports of redfish action circa Matlacha Bridge sites on redfish spots with best action showing at the top of the incoming tight to edge overhangs with shrimp under popper.


Marco Island: Inside reefs should have strong results this week with massive bait schools holding on structure 20-30 ft. depths. Attracting usual mackerel, bluefish but also snook that are marshaling up for spring spawn. Live pins, threads for snook worked freeline in bait schools just off bottom. (Release snook: closed until Aug. 31). Offshore action steadying up. Wrecks (deep) holding bait have action on kings, cobia, cuda and sharks. Either tide with cut, live bait under chum. Strong afternoon tide this week will enhance action potential. Inside wrecks, reefs showing grouper but most undersized. King mackerel best bet this week.

Naples: Solid action reported all along Keewaydin Island west edges 6-10th depths for mackerel, pompano, snapper and small sharks. All on weighted, tipped jigs worked to bottom under chum. Mid-range for 12-14’’ lane, mangrove snapper east edges Gordon Five Reef working weighted tipped jigs to just off the bottom under chum. Morning incoming best. Deep wrecks, 15, 20 miles holding bait for good yellowtail snapper action working freelined chum bits in slick, bail open with delayed set. Good kingfish action on multiple deep wrecks holding bait. Either spoon troll or suspended live bait under chum.

Bonita Springs: Top water action first 10-15 ft. Wiggins to New Passes for mackerel, bluefish and scattered pompano on small tipped jigs on drift. Tarpon action at first light on last of outgoing working threads, pins circa Carlos Pass and Channel. Action fades fast on turn. May Reef complex mid tides for snapper et al action working tipped weighted jigs tight to bottom under chum; faster water of outgoing tide will be best. Deep water action for red grouper still a long shot. Better chance good action on reefs, wrecks holding bait for kings, cobia, permit action working small live bait in strong chum effort, strong p.m. tide.

More:Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, May 10-16

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