Here we are in Southwest Florida searching for a descriptive word that fits a “once in a lifetime hurricane” that is stalled dead in its tracks off the east coast of the peninsula with 100-plus mph; so, what lies ahead in the domain of fishing expectations. Think it will be as uncertain as Dorian wants it to be. There has been experiences in past hurricane events that blue water fish (large pelagics like sailfish, black fin tuna, etc.) have found their way into the shallower waters of the Gulf in the turmoil although that is always a long shot especially in this weather debacle with stalled energy and motion. Best we can say is “expect the expected and be ready for any surprise.”
More: On the Hook: Undaunted!
The weather forecasts at the time of this writing are off the wall and totally uncertain, so the best we can do is “guess” just like the rest of our readers. So, the backwater fishing in our “arena” this week is probably going much of what we’ve been seeing over the past couple of weeks the near and offshore expectations will be like Forest Gump in the famous movie with everything like a “box of chocolates.”
Marco Island: Even facing some wet and uncomfortable conditions, we still see some moderately good results over these past couple of weeks. Primary to that item is the accelerating presence of redfish activity all along the bays and associated connecting waterways on the redfish spawn, There is a definite uptick in juvenile redfish action on most backwater current points and seeing the start of serious action on sized adult reds on mangrove edges. Also sensing an increase in good size pompano on current points post the start of the incoming tide. Snapper action staying hot or 12” mangroves and black drum showing in Addison, Rookery and Johnson.
Naples: Sizable bait schools reaching from Gordon Pass well into tributaries off the ICW and Gordon Bay continues to enhance the general tone and success of activity in this sector especially for snook. Enormous bait schools continue to draw unparalleled action. Working pilchard showers really work. Redfish, too, during the spawning cycle have bull reds standing by nearshore (think Gordon Five) and the spawners working the wealth of bait all along the ICW and into Dollar and Rookery Bay. Simple shrimp/4’ fluoro leader will work most situations. Pompano show late last week at Hurricane Pass. Finally. On jigs early incoming.
Bonita Springs: FWC reports on water quality still positive Estero area. Great action east wall of Bay, cuts and creeks, on sizable redfish  spawners. Project excellent week working last of late morning high water tight to cuts, creeks mangrove overhangs with shrimp on 4’ fluoro leader (no weight) under popper right up to full water. Good size hungry spawners. Estero circa Big Hickory Channel deep holes for new arrival black drum working cut crabs tight to current flow bottom. Mound Key bars and grass cuts for redfish, some trout working whole shrimp tight to shell bars and cuts; a.m. incoming best.
Marco Island: Thank the twists of fate that set the conditions six months ago that drove massive bait schools amidst a water heat wave up along the Southwest Florida coast. That saved the fishery through the red tide, blue green algae fiasco here. That is the item that continues to deliver our viable inshore successful fishery in 2019. Result: continued excellent results along the Marco shore and reef edges; and it should continue unless we get a “freeze.” Offshore the action is sustained by bait flooding the mid-range reefs. Beneficiaries: anglers, kingfish, cobia, sharks, cuda with the bonus of adding the availability of triple tail to the list as traps get set mid-October; now, if the tropical storm season continues its absence, we’ll be all set.
Naples: Ditto for the bait bonanza delivering near and offshore results in Naples et al. The reefs and wrecks are flooded with bait that draws the food as well as the targets for the predators and anglers. Mid-range reefs (Gordon Five) has been producing steadily all summer with pelagics (sharks, kings, cobia, mackerel) all spring and summer using netted bait that has delivered. Even spots well offshore has drawn untold amounts of bait and enhanced the action significantly. Conversely, the single disappointment has been poor action on red grouper which had been a top draw here for over fifteen years. Consensus among the red grouper anglers admit the toll paid on the reds was a direct hit by red tide, algae; but population is back and growing. Good prospect for the ‘20 season.
Bonita Springs: Of major significance is the success of the Water Quality Conference in Bonita Springs. The attention, finances and government attention will, hopefully, fix the “sugar” drainage from Lake O quickly and end the blue, green algae dilemma; red tide issue will, most likely take longer. The great Lee County fishing reputation will be restored, Current conditions already show improvement both nearshore and deep. In close there are good to excellent reports on mackerel, bluefish et al circa the MAY reef environment. Ditto on the yellowtail snapper, cobia and kings on those mid-range reefs that are holding bait. Still a size issue on the deeper red grouper action but time will grow the stock and cleaner water will keep the favorite grouper alive
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.