Overwhelming the other weather factors this week is the adverse effect of the red tide arrival along the Southwest Florida shoreline. The issue is already of enough strength to produce a significant fish kill over the past week. Most of the effect appears to be on smaller bait and pelagic species but, nevertheless the impact on the angling community is significant. This is the earliest in the year that most can recall the advent of the situation that most long term residents can recall.
The swath of the tide began just off Bonita Beach two weeks ago and migrated south to Collier County waters driven by the predominant easterly winds and the continued warmth of the water. Hard to tell and/or predict what happens next; red tide movement and strength is almost impossible to predict. Best that could be hoped for is a period of strong easterly winds that would drive the essence offshore. Other than the dominant issue, we have a favorable week of reasonable weather. The weather fronts are still holding off and the water and air temperatures are still summer like; water temps will hold circa 80 degrees and the customary afternoon rains will hold in place and the wind fronts will not produce a problem for anglers. But fish will sense the red tide and avoid the threat by moving elsewhere. Of all the conditional threats we face as anglers; this water fouling issue is dominant and unfixable, so only nature will be the controlling agent.
Marco Island: Amazingly, there has been strong action on pompano in the Passes where there is good tidal flow over the past week. The pomps, by nature, work the top 10 ft. of the water and probably are immune to the effects of the red tide. Have seen evidence of good catches of pomps and some other top water fish (mackerel) in the past week working light tipped jigs up top. The early fall action on mangrove snapper has fallen off as expected and will be watched carefully if improving as a signal as to the dissipation of the red tide threat.
Naples: Scant reports from Naples indicates that the water quality threats now dominant on Marco and south have dissipated through the Gordon River and south. So, more normalcy in the Naples fishery. Some quick calls to Naples indicate that things are normal. Redfish action is normal for early normal all along the ICW from the Gordon junction south to the Rookery north edges. With best at the last hour of the incoming working shrimp under a popper tight to the mangrove overhangs. Action along the edges of Keewaydin Beach on the outgoing still showing significant results for whiting on the outgoing tide.
Bonita Springs: Estero and north finally grabs a break. Just minor impacts from the red tide as it slips south on the NE wind and current. Reported good action on seasonal backwater on late season snapper all along the Big Hickory channels right up to Carlos on nice size snapper on both tides working shrimp rigs right into structure and some infrequent action on pompano just off the drop offs as the tides begin to fall mid-morning. Redfish action builds as the morning tide crests working the edges of the Estero east wall edges tight to the mangrove overhangs with freelined shrimp under popper.
Marco Island: Could anticipate that some of the backwater escapees have relocated to more favorable water quality and are anxious to feed here is deeper cleaner water. Would suggest an effort at the deeper inshore reefs (i.e. Walton Reef just NW of Caxambas Pass and the Five Mile Reef southwest of Capri Pass. Water is deeper both spots with good tidal flow, Live bait worked just off the bottom could produce some surprises on displaced inshore species. Deeper water spots with a good chance for seasonal pelagic action as well as deep water action on displaced major species.
Naples: Hopefully the area will enjoy an absence of the red tide issue. If so, look for some strong action on resident snapper / grouper avoiding the red tide threat south. Action will congregate on the Gordon Five Mile inshore and should have action on “displaced” fish. Look for good action on snapper and trout action working live shrimp behind a live shrimp towed behind a popper on a 4ft leader. Best action should be on the incoming tide.
Bonita springs: Best chance is that most of the fouled water has gone south and this environment gets a break, Would suggest a routine work of the inshore waters for the usual seasonal catch for late seasonal snapper and arriving sheepshead working the inside reefs and wrecks. Also need to keep an eye to the possibility of arriving triple tail as the traps and markers are anchored and attracting. Finally keep an eye on wrecks and reefs for departing cobia and kings as the water chills and the pelgics move south.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.