Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Oct. 25-31

Bill Walsh
Naples resident Ryan Lackey enjoys a pleasant morning fishing off Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs, Friday, October 4, 2019. Despite the beautiful beach weather, Red tide is lurking off Lee and Collier counties, and concentrations are high enough to potentially cause fish kills and breathing issues in humans.

As we leave October behind, exiting amid rather bland conditions, we enter that transitional period where traditionally, we wait out the arrival of cold water conditions and the species that make late fall and early winter fishing here exceptional. Except that we are in an environment here now (last two years) that the really cold weather that drives the cold water species inshore in droves never happened.

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The overriding issue unfortunately remains the existence and mounting threat of the red tide both in the backwaters as well as offshore. The daily reminders in local newspapers and publications just keep the ball rolling and keep all anglers on edge both as the ability to catch fish in the noted conditions but also the abject safety of consuming fish in these waters.

The edge flow from Nestor that roared through here last week certainly didn’t help prospects. The weather pattern for the week is a continuance of the unusual warmth (average daytime temperature is predicted in the 86-88 degree range) with a smattering of intermittent showers in the afternoon. There will be a new moon showing up late week which will accelerate tides both with the morning incoming touting some tides more than 3’ with a p.m. outgoing running through just a tad less. Water temps are going to hold at an outlandish 80-82 degree range as we near winter.


Marco Island: Area still shows the dominant infusion of red tide both along the beaches as well into the backwater creeks and bays. But it becomes a game of “if” and “when” much dependent on wind and tide. When you can hit clean water back here there is an excellent chance on nice mangrove snapper action along the mangrove edges as well as some significant pompano, permit action in the deeper holes (think Rookery Bay). A couple of the tip offs for clean water is seeing bird action working the surface or surface bait splashes and jumps; if the wildlife is feeding the water will be clean and the fish viable.

Naples: Fortunately, the Naples area is north of the red tide focus on the South Collier Beaches and waterways. You’ll want to stay focused on the water activity (bait and birds) but generally it will be satisfactory conditions. Seeing redfish up along the ICW and the Port Royal junction and back into both sides of Dollar Bay on shrimp worked under popper up along the mangrove overhangs with the top of the incoming best. Snook are still active in the warmth and best shot for them would be at Gordon Pass at first light on first of incoming with pilchards post shower.

Bonita Springs: With light precipitation forecast this week Lake O discharges should be nil, and the red tide scourge will probably take another week off. Good action reported all along Estero waterways and channels. Pompano on the Big Hickory Channel at the juncture of the sandbars and drop offs. Work the incoming with tipped white jigs just off the edge of the sandbars. Up north there has been reported great action on redfish circa Sanibel cuts on live shrimp worked tight to mangrove overhangs with best timing the last hour of the midday incoming. Reports of some permit in that mix.


Marco Island: The steering winds associated with Nestor did Marco zero favors. Those westerly winds at the end of the blow picked up a ton of the “red water” and sent it tumbling nearshore and beyond. Even lost a few loggerhead turtles in that event and lots of significant fish. Should see some relief this week as the predicted winds will swing south, southwest, so working an inshore reef mid to late week could well produce some nice bottom feeders on shrimp or cut bait. Deep water is a tossup as to not knowing the level of clarity and clean water. But always a chance, a run to 50’ wreck or structure worth a shot with live bait and chum.

Naples: As noted, last week., conditions here with the fouled water much more positive and holding as the currents are staying favorable. Reports of nice pelagic action between the Pier and Doctors Pass on pelagics (mackerel, bluefish) on a.m. incoming early working tipped jigs over block chum well into mid-morning. Deep there is reported action on Pelagics (kings and cobia) on wrecks showing bait on the finder. Seeing the first reports of tripletail on clean water expanses north of Doctors Pass working dark colored tipped jigs on the surface floating TT’s.

Bonita Springs: Getting steady action here inshore on pompano and mackerel between Wiggins and Lovers Key 10-15’ with tipped jigs under serious chum effort morning incoming only. Mid-range the wrecks with bait aplenty continue to draw nice size lane and mangrove snapper working a weighted jig to 1-2’ off the bottom. Either tide. Red grouper still a major target. Deep runs 40-50 mi seeing action working bottom with live pinfish right into structure on drift. Reds still small with a few to keeper size. Improving. Surprisingly more gags in deep spots with topical structure on live bait. Worth a shot.

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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.