Fishingcast: Conditions in Southwest Florida, Jan. 31-Feb. 6

Bill Walsh

The start of February delivers as an unremarkable weather week. The mornings start off in the 55-60 temperature range some nice sunny days in the afternoon, you can look actual temperature gaining some steam up to the high 70s and 80s by late afternoon.

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The water temperature now is controlled by the descending average water temp even with another near record sea water temperature that showed up here a couple of years back. Chilled water is the attractant that changes the resident base from now through early spring.


Marco Island: Look along the docks and divergent waterways for species like sheepshead, black drum, whiting, sliver trout; if everything works right they will be joining the fall species here (i.e. pompano, mackerel, sea trout, redfish and of course the small sharks). Bait should be plentiful all along the drop offs along the beaches and holding on navigational structure as well; clean water, which will be swinging back and forth here is also an important bait element. Also, good news, the FWC Red Tide report for this last week in January shows little evidence that the k. brevis is not gaining any foot hold here (like last year). But one final point, we are away from the strong tide cycles and the tides (both ways) are pegged very week with the morning on most days with less than a foot of change in four to five hours.

More:On the Hook: Divide the tide and conquer

Naples: Reports from the Gordon junction indicates that the bigger redfish action is sustaining where there is reasonable water flow (see the Marco tidal prediction) For Naples would suggest that the warmer afternoon incoming tide would be your best bet with either mongo size shrimp or fresh pinfish tossed into current points. Looks like the steady chill has slowed the snook bite especially in the Bay but along the edges of Rookery Bay where the current cuts past the shoal edges still hear of scattered action – on pilchards post shower. South of Hurricane Pass there is spotty action on the pompano with always some mackerel in the vanguard. Keys this week will be whether there is cleaner water running out from the river and waterways and how robust in strength will it be. Never can tell this time of year with the frontal passages having their field day.

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Bonita Springs: First and foremost, no green-blue algae, no pockets of red tide as reported weekly by the FWC. The weak morning incoming will impact this area also but later in the week there are some stronger north-northwest winds expected late morning and early afternoon that will drive some of the weak tide water back into the edges of the cuts and drop off’s. Predicted wind on those afternoons probably won’t exceed 10-12 knots; hopefully it will create the current and not redeliver the cloudy sea floor. Elsewhere they are still getting nice redfish all along the east edges of Estero working live pins tight too the mangrove overhangs with a minimum of weight and freelined on a 4’ shot of Dacron leader. Depending how the weather plays out well worth making a trip north to Matlatcha to work the structure and drop offs for redfish (and possibly snook) but the late day incoming is short lived. Another stop north would be the cuts and structure on Sanibel for mackerel and pompano especially if the water stays clear.  


Marco Island: Wind will be a “back and forth” item this week as some of the weak cold front winds will assail our coast west to east. Look for the right day and insure you are taking advantage of the afternoons when at least you’ll have moving incoming water, mornings outgoing is showing tide movements of less than 6” in six hours. But the “sheepies” are showing in key spots like the Five Mile Reef, among the Capri Pass Barges and the Walton Reef. Need to get that bait right down and touching the bottom and then to lift frequently just so the bait clears the bottom and “don’t yank” until the rod doubles over, then retrieve. The sheepshead can put up a tough battle especially when they have size. Also. don’t forget to give the Passes a try in the afternoon - the faster water after the deal tide movement could get both the pompano and mackerel in a good bite.

Naples: Have had some good inshore action along the west edges of Keewaydin Island from the houses to the Pass. Again, with a deficient morning outgoing probably best to plan a late morning start when you’ll have water movement to turn on the bite. Should see action on Spanish mackerel and maybe a little tunny tossed in where you have surface bait action churning away especially on the good current spots. Mid-range don’t pass up working the Gordon Five. Lots of bait action there that will accelerate the surface action for mackerel and the deep should provide a nice spread of snapper, both lane and mangrove as well some nice size sheepshead. And don’t neglect those crab pot markers that become hang outs for some delicious triple tail.

Bonita Springs: Would recommend working the deep water this week and slant your time towards the afternoons. Mid-range reefs are still providing cover for some nice yellowtail snapper as well as invading mackerel. Lots of chum into that afternoon outgoing tide and you have yourself a real show. The yellowtail with chunks of chum on #6 hooks fed into the incoming tide with bails open (YT’s don’t swallow the bait right away; when they dive from the surface; they got it; drop the bail and the fight is on). There will be other pelagics in the mid-range bait holes. Spanish mackerel could also show with the chum attractant. If you can get out to the 50’ depth on some of the “humps” don’t be afraid to set a live small runner as and set it out under a little chum. Gag grouper have been working that domain and are much more frequent takers than the red grouper.

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

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