Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Feb. 7-13

Bill Walsh
John  Chyson with a Spanish mackerel caught off Marco Island with a spoon.

February has always been a tough month to discern here. You have the residue of tough winter storms sweeping the East and Midwest; you never know what residual will come sweeping down on us and to what strength is left in the event.

More:On the Hook: The fishing stick

This coming week is a good example of that phenomenon. Our weather has been a tad eccentric with chilly low air temps in the mornings and then feeling like a tropical island late afternoon; what we have in the mix this week are two days of “a storm that will accentuate the storm feeling mid-week which bring Intermittent storm conditions and will all but surely put a damper on fishing both the backwaters as well as offshore.

So, make sure you pass over Thursday and Friday and get your fishing in early week. Otherwise you have a pleasant early week and can rebound with favorable conditions late week. Otherwise the week will provide seasonal water temps especially in the a.m. just a couple degrees off 70. The tides are coming off a weak full moon late week. Look for the morning incoming tide to be a bit more favorable than the afternoon ebb.


Marco Island: Suspect that the weekend will be “lights out” in the Marco and connection waters for the seasonal bite of sheepshead as well as black drum especially in the connecting waters to Addison Bay. Places like Upper Addison the Three Island Cove should an assemblage of bigger sheepshead going to town on live bait of all kinds streaming the cleaner waters on either tide; that morning incoming might be a bit more favorable. Black drum will show a little further inshore and be working the edge tidal current with best to be had occurs right in the middle of the tidal current slowdown. Early on, just as the tide begins to roll swing by Capri Pass and worked some tipped jigs right along Sand Dollar Beach with tipped jigs in the 10 to 15 foot depth curve could well be some Spanish mackerel here as well.

Naples: General conditions through Bonita have been very stable and a far cry from what was endured in 2019. Of note is that the weekly very precise reports on fouled water continue to indicate a general “all clear.” Actual live fishing reports substantiate that fact. In the backwaters there is notable action all along the Gordon from the jetty to the junction. Still some snook around, a lot of the action is focused on redfish for the trophy catch and sheepshead, mackerel and drum for the numbers and the dinner table. Make the run south and there is good sporadic action on days with crystal clear water working Hurricane Pass on the first and last hours of either tide with small tipped jigs in the tumbling current. Good chance for mackerel also in the mix.

Bonita Springs: One of the more respected guides in the area characterizes the Bonita fishing as “incredible” and “you can hardly miss”, Seeing lots of action everywhere. Along the edges on the Big Hickory Channel in those little deeper cuts you see pompano stacked like cordwood and feeding voraciously on the live bait schools. When you’ve had enough of that (and the conditions are right) slip back out into the Gulf and work just outside the Lovers Key for mackerel and some small bluefish that are stacked in the huge bait schools. May even get to see some nice size pompano and even small permit here. Round Key shoal still harbors redfish and trout with the best timing being the last of the incoming tide. Working a whole shrimp without weight and under a 4’ Dacron leader tight to the bottom.


Marco Island: Should have the week split between those two wind/rain days midweek and clearing up late week, Look for good to excellent sheepshead action all along the first and second a reef lines working shrimp, cut fiddler crabs tight to the structured bottom with a soft vertical lift technique. Water temp dependent as you might see some hefty lane and mangrove snapper working bait schools in the same venue. Move out deeper to bait laden smaller reefs and give it a try for yellowtail snapper. Lots of chum while working small portions of the block chum on a #6 hook fed into the slick; keep the bail open till just after the strike and set when “run” starts. Don’t forget to work the stone crab pot markers for tripletail. Small dark colored baited with live shrimp will do the trick.

Naples: On favorable days start with working the Gordon Pass jetty on the incoming tide for pompano early with tipped jigs working the south edges of the rip rap - might even be some small permit in the mix. As the tide matures try moving west to the south edges of the Gordon Five reef for sheepshead and triggerfish action, Both species will go for a shrimp or cut fiddler worked just on a slow lift technique on moving water. Move super deep (conditions permitting) (60’) wreck or reef and work the structure tight to ledges and bottom differentiations with live pinfish strung on stout bottom rigs kept moving over the bottom ledges with your target being gag grouper that stack up in the colder water and will chase the fresh bait.

Bonita Springs: Bonita’s water staying clean and free of the algae and red tide experienced last couple of years. Good reporting of conditions weekly by FWC. Reports of solid mackerel action all along the 15-20’ depth from Wiggins to Carlos working jigs, spoons at slow drift speed on the incoming tide; both Spanish and small kings (undersized = release). Wrecks in 20-15 mile range enjoying constant action on structure holding sheepshead population feasting on bottom critters. Some keeper size triggerfish have also been experienced on definitive structure spots on either tide. Enroute out and back set a lookout while cruising the stone crab markers for delicious tripletail.

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

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