Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Dec. 27-Jan. 2

Bill Walsh
Fishing out in the deep blue on a cold Southwest Florida day can be trying for the heartiest of souls.

The start of the new year weather wise will be very ordinary. We have just departed from a weather threat of wind and rain and moved into a week of normal back and forth early winter pattern. There were a couple days with serious rain threat but nothing to put conditions over the top.

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There’s some continued concern over the red tide threat although the threat seems to be pushed south this last week as the winds streamed out of the north sending the fouled water directly south. Bottom line the “fouled water” is readily being pushed around by the current and the wind.

The red tide problem continues to plague the waters here on Marco Island. The tides this week are super strong, and you’ll have to consider the strong pull and it’s timing especially in the backwaters. Too strong a pull either way will certainly disrupt your action immediately. The water temperature should stay rather stable and hold in the 76- to 79-degree range which should be reasonably favorable. Really need to see a radical drop in water temperature to draw the winter species tight inshore but don’t see indicators that is on the horizon. But hope never surrenders.


Marco Island: Beginning to see some favorable reports of nice size sheepshead showing inside especially along the river and up along the Marco River docks and down along the connecting waterways. Working them is rather easy with cut shrimp worked just off the bottom with a technique of touch the bottom and then a soft lift. When you feel the hit, do a firm lift for a take. Also starting to see sizable black drum in the deeper backwaters that feed on faster moving water in the shallower spots. Will work both tides especially in the faster water and go for smaller pieces of bait worked in moving water.

Naples: With the water temperature still holding in the low 70s the snook thankfully have still been active and going after live bait all along the Gordon Pass from the entrance to the Port Royal entrance. Best timing is early on the late morning incoming and away from the surging boat wakes. Just a little south at entrances to Dollar Bay good chance for nice size redfish working while shrimp tight to the overhangs along the edges of the mangroves especially as the tide crests on the incoming working tight to the edges just off the edges of shallower water.                                                                                   

Bonita Springs: This area has been blessed all season with good water void of any tinge of red tide. So, if you’re frustrated with conditions elsewhere......worth a journey up here. Areas all along the shoreline from Wiggins Pass up though Carlos Point have been delivering good to excellent action over the last couple of months. For whatever reason have been working water devoid of red tide effects and a diminished algae impact from Lake O. Best has been Estero Bay behind Big Hickory all along the channel working the edges for redfish along the edges and pompano on the channel drop offs with sand soft bottoms.


Marco Island: The wind pattern apparently has driven the red tide threat south of Marco, so the warning has eased a tad at least until this northerly wind has changed direction. But sure, it will work its way back north as soon as wind driven conditions ease up. So, you may have a brief abatement of the problem that could work well for some coastal fishing effort. Before the wind switches north again work the Island edges with live bait under some chum and see what the possibilities for some active mackerel and maybe even some pompano might be on the first hour or so of the first hours of the incoming tide.

Naples: Things continue positive along the Naples coastline. Still seeing good action on pelagics along the coastal water and are continuing to see aggressive action on mackerel and jacks et al all along the first tier of water just off the beaches. Moving west just a tad will get you into some strong action of late season lane and mangrove snapper on the structured reefs working the bottom undulations with fresh bait with some chum to enhance the effort. Good chance if you get a chance to take a shot at some triple tail hanging out at stone crab traps.

Bonita Springs: Deep water still is working here. With the slight interference with water quality the northern reaches of the area are still producing near normal results. Inside the area is producing good results mid shore on snapper, some mackerel and pompanos well a mixed bag triggerfish and trout. Deep most work is focused on gag grouper and red grouper with the former more prevalent than the other. Gags are in structured water in the 30-50’ range and worked in and amongst bottom structure with live bait and trolled artificials and the reds are worked off the bottom with live bait tight to the bottom on a drift.

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