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Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Feb. 14-20

Bill Walsh
Columnist
Capt. Steve Friedman, a fishing guide out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys speaks to members of the media and others from all over the world on the health of Florida Bay in Everglades National Park on Wednesday Jan 29, 2020. The federal government has earmarked $200 million for Everglades restoration. Some say it is not enough. Media was present as part of a partnership with the Everglades Foundation and the  Super Bowl.

Well, here we go again. The usual “winter weather” pattern is falling apart just like the past two years temperatures. AccuWeather forecasts 60 degree mornings that soar to the 80 degree level by early afternoon; all week!

That’s not the ideal chilly water temperatures the fishing experts expect to see the second week in February.

BACKWATER, NEAR SHORE

Marco Island: Those afternoon superheated salt waters will drive anticipated winter fishing temperatures to the mid to high 70s at the same time the winter fish are arriving out of habit and in search of those chillier temperatures. Species that you see slowed are sheepshead, black drum, whiting, trout. Chances are they will flee to the inshore reefs to bottom feed. Last not least, would avoid the morning outgoing tide is virtually non-existent.

Naples: Will experience almost the same, water temperature issues as Marco Island but maybe just a tad less severe. The Gordon River has a stronger current especially along the ICW between Hurricane Pass and the “junction” north of north Rookery Bay. So, it is quite likely that as the water temperature holds quasi warm the redfish and snook action will be there replacing the colder water which it replaces to say nothing of the shallower water in the cuts and passes that will warm midday. Final plus you should get some stronger outgoing tides on those slow water afternoons that a good chance of producing

Bonita Springs: Reports from Bonita stretching from Wiggins Pass to Sanibel are positive with the “headliner” continues to be the snook, who are holding in good numbers all along inside cuts as well as nearshore current depressions move the pilchards around. Redfish arrived in good numbers this year and had an excellent fall spawn. Those new little guys won’t be ready to bend your hook any time soon but could be ready to towards the fall of next year; won’t be lunkers, yet but exciting to catch anyway. Other good news, sizeable sheepshead and black drum have made to the inside cuts and edges of Big Hickory and are feeding rather lustily. Head out there; another uptick in water temperature could get them going west and away from you.

OFFSHORE

Marco Island: Look to the Marco backwater report on conditions. After a couple of your favorite backwater spots fail to dislodge some nice size cold water fish pick up the gear and head for the nearshore reefs. Three of these reefs in 20-40 feet of water hold the depth and water chill to keep and hold the sheepshead, drum, mackerel, trout and perhaps pompano. First is a set on sunken barges setting in 25 ft of water just west of the Marco Sea Buoy. Lots of runners here drawing macks, sheepshead tight to the bottom. Chum needed here. Second rec is the Isaac Walton Reef just about a mile northwest of Caxambas Pass. A relatively young artificial reef, it is quite a rugged bottom structure, where again it hangs onto bait and is a sheepshead magnet even in Marginal conditions. Last but is the fabled Five Mile Reef southwest of Caxambas; has three major corners with lots of structure and does especially when spreading block chum. Again, avoid the morning outgoing tide; too weak

More:On the Hook: The fishing stick

Naples: Once again it’s finding the right “winter” species conditions or living with what you catch. Again, the repeated recommendation to make you’re first spots along the Western edges of Keewaydin Beach working the cuts and channels that might be protecting feeding sheephead, whiting or drum. No go; turn west and visit the Five Mile Gordon Reef complex and work the eastern edge reef lumps and structure. Good chance the winter guys ran back out to deep water and will fall for shrimp or cut fiddler worked on a soft lift technique. Don’t forget those stone crab trap markers that holding lots of seaweed, etc., that attracts tripletail.

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.

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

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