Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Jan. 24-30

Bill Walsh

Looks like we’re back into the grasp of winter this week. Well, winter as we see it here. Most of the temperature predictions are in the low 50s and 60s to start the mornings and then ease up to the low 70s by nightfall. No match for your seasonal neighbors back home that are shoveling snow and rather typical here for the “winter.”

More:On the Hook: Divide the tide and conquer

For the anglers it’s marginal good news that may accelerate the winter bite of the cold water species. Would expect to see a dramatic upturn in the sheepshead and drum action all along the deeper cuts from the Marco River well into the backwaters as the week progresses and the good news is that once they make the move inshore they usually stay as does their “bait.”

Bob Trento of Naples caught this large Redfish, fishing with Jim Kenney of Marco Island. They were fishing South of Marco in the back country. The fish was caught on a jig tipped with shrimp.

Also, a good chance of the pompano action having a resurgence as their desired conditions ascend. The “pomp’s” are more apt to be in the three passes on the morning incoming tide (dark) as the day begins along the shallower edges of Sand Dollar island working the new incoming current. The best rigs for the pomp’s are tipped jigs jigs worked just off the bottom in the moving current. So “cold” doesn’t hurt the fishing here this time of year. Just bundle up and have at it.


Marco Island: Good chance for a “front end” run at arriving sheepshead as the winter weather kicks in. Best starting point here will be along the Marco River and connecting waterways working the dock and associated structures on either tide. Best bait that is most available is cut fresh shrimp worked on a soft lift technique. Should also be some action in the three Passes for pompano and even a few Spanish mackerel. Work small jigs again tipped with shrimp while drifting on the morning incoming tide. Keep the bait just up off the bottom and in constant movement. Cooler water is going to make a difference this week.

Naples: Cool will work well here also. Would work the Gordon Cut first. Lots of latent bait etc., just off the jetty that will provide action as the tide begins and then work its way along the river edges back towards the junction. South side of the waterway will be best and “sheepies” will be holding on structure. Would suggest a quick move to either side of Dollar Bay as the tide picks up and give some effort to work the fauna overhangs for redfish or snapper that are holdovers from the summer weather soon leaving. good chance here also now for black drum to show in the deeper cuts of the bay.

Bonita Springs: Should see an infusion of the colder species into what solid action has been here over the past couple of months. Expect to see an increase in action on black drum and bigger sheepshead all along the edges behind Big Hickory as well as over towards the Mound Key area. There, the cooler weather will further increase the feed for the redfish as the bait volume intensifies. Up towards Sanibel the same pattern will occur as the cold water species take hold and now all is nice “clean” water should present a long awaited opportunity for the Lee County anglers.


Marco Island: Chill down will have an impact on both nearshore and offshore action this week. A two or three day sustained cold snap will tumble the general water temperature anywhere from six to eight degrees (Estimate late week at 65 degrees) and that’s the key to get the winter species moving inshore. Back on the water late week should show a dramatic change in the species as well as the activity level on sheepshead, drum, whiting and trout on structure and an uptick in activity on pompano Spanish mackerel and bluefish in the Passes on the moving tides. Will be some downturn on snapper activity.

Naples: Will be interesting to see the change in dominant species later this week. This quick a change in conditions does not happen here very often. Suspect we will see a very quick infusion of bait first and quickly followed by a changing on the guard from snapper dominant to cold water species (sheepshead, drum, whiting, silver trout and an absence of snook). Will be quite interesting to see how quick the change takes place and to its sustainability as the water warms back up, but that’s what fishing is all about. See if you can figure it out.

Bonita Springs: Open water deep off Bonito will have a different story to tell this week. Cold water will have less of a distinct adjustment than inshore. Will still be the action outside on gag grouper (no change) and tripletail on the markers but on some of the deeper reefs may begin to see some bigger cold water species showing (sheepshead, black drum and even resurgent redfish going for live bait worked just off the bottom. But don’t ignore those stone crab pots and markers; the tripletail is still in the “audience” and feeding, A short break in your route offshore can get you a prize for dinner.

More:Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Jan. 17-23

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