Forecasts finally are showing a change this week; with full information a bit thin, it looks like our first cold front will run through here over a two/three day period. If you’d followed these weekly reports you know that, although the front with raucous winds and upset sea conditions, it’s really what we need here to reset the water and temperature conditions to winter. And if the forecasts are near accurate you’ll be looking at 30 to 40 mph winds and riled seas for at least a couple of days.
It will have some effect too on the red tide situation. History shows that wind conditions will most likely relocate the more serious k. brevis bloom but in which direction is anyone’s bet. But it will change the water temperature and, most likely, trigger the winter species to initiate their spawning period and additionally initiate the migration flight south to the Keys and beyond.
The weather predictions on Accuweather show the major activity early week, so you’ll want to key an eye on weekend forecasts and time your fishing trips beforehand; there are days of tumultuous sea conditions for fouled water for a period following the passage. Temperatures are forecast to fall into the 60s overnights and barely 80 in the afternoons. The tides will be uptick also as we have a full moon cycle late week.
Marco Island: Best guess is that we will have a period of condition transition in Marco’s backwater for sure that will settle out in different conditions next week. If the water temperatures dip into a 70 degree norm, we should see species change and black drum, breeder sheepshead, sea trout, whiting and silver trout show in the backwaters and along the reefs and inshore wrecks. Spanish mackerel will become super active along the nearshore also following the bait schools into suitable water temperature conditions. Snook will hold active until the water temps drop below 70 which may not happen for a while.
Naples: Equipped with great deep backwater locations (i.e. Rookery Bay, Johnson Bay, ICW cuts) the transition to cooler climes in Naples waters could be a bit different. The transition will be slower as fish have a range of comfort locations water temperatures to relocate. Snook will lead that action and move to their comfort range locations in Naples Bay et al from the Gordon Pass and redfish will move further back into the Dollar Bay creeks. The Keewaydin docks should be one of the first domains that have the big sheepshead and drum make their presence. Pompano will frequent Hurricane Pass on clean incoming water.
Bonita Springs: With light to moderate rain forecast in this weather change probably good chance of little to no water discharge for Lake O. (Hopefully). Should see almost an immediate change in species frequenting Estero as the area is a magnet for winter species redfish, black drum along the Big Hickory Channel as well as the Mound Key environment for sea trout and redfish. Further north Sanibel edge spots will draw the winter species quickly with the good current and water flow in the area. Nearshore Estero has always been a winter (cool water) haven for mackerel action along with pompano off Carlos Point on morning incoming.
Marco Island: As noted above, this has a chance to be a transitional weather week here. As forecasted we should see that weather change with wind and some rain early week. Most likely, it will take some time for offshore sea conditions to settle and the cooler water species to relocate following the bait schools in. Nearshore that usually means the deployment of hordes of Spanish mackerel working the bait schooled up on the inshore reefs and the major reefs...Walton Reef and the Five Mile. Deep it should signal for departures of pelagics kings, cobia, tarpon et al enroute to winter feeding grounds in the Keys.
Naples: If forecasts right on the money, expect to see big movement both nearshore and on the deeper wrecks and reefs. The pace as to how fast that happens will depend as to how fast the bait schools transition; leave, transition deeper, stay in place or swell in size. Inshore watch for the arrival of mackerel, jacks and runners to key the winter bite. On the reefs, inshore wrecks the key to the winter fishery will be the presence of big breeder sheepshead appearing on major structure like the Gordon Five Reef. Also, a chance sizeable red grouper will make their way in to super deep climes; think 70-85 feet hard bottom.
Bonita Springs: If no water discharge from Lake O holds true should have excellent nearshore action on mackerel, jacks and exotics such as little tunny in the first 20-30’ depths working tipped jigs. As you move offshore make sure you set a lookout for triple tail that will be sunning alongside the trap markers. Light tackle fun and good eating. Deeper look for strong action on drum and sheepshead along with continuing action on gag grouper and schools of yellowtail snapper. And like Naples, if conditions warrant try that super deep trip in hard bottom and work a pinfish to bottom structure in 85-90’ on a tidal drift.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns a charter fishing business and holds a U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.