Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Feb. 21-28

Bill Walsh

Really getting difficult now to predict and recommend fishing as the weather pattern has changed so drastically over the past two years. Permanent global warming is still a “fought” principle but how come we’re seeing it on the oceans waters and the interior continent is being barraged with horrendous cold to super cold weather patterns. (Sorry, folks just had to bring that up). In any event, we have a week of untypical March weather here on the water.

Bob Trento of Naples caught a large 35 pound black drum while fishing with Jim Kenney of Marco Island. Trento caught the fish just south of Marco on a Brown jig.

We’ll have a week of no raucous storm fronts that we usually see in March replaced by a moderate week of three or four days for some gusty winds (typical of March) with mild temperatures and water temperatures in the seventies. The winds with rough the waters and keep some anglers at home but the fishing will be a joint venture of arriving cold water species (sheepshead, black drum, whiting, trout) and staying snapper, pompano and trout). Play that right and you’ll have a double barreled return for your effort. Otherwise conditions have a moderate to weak tidal week that both sides will be OK and very little storm possibility. How’s that for a middle week during winter March.

More:On the Hook: Blue Saturday


Marco Island: Backwater reports still red hot on the sheepshead action. Seems the fish have squelched their requirements of frigid water conditions and adjusted to the change and they are “hot” all along these deeper water spots along the Marco River and connecting waterways and active when teased with a live bait of live shrimp or cut fiddler. Reports say they have been seeing some 12-14 inch species in the mix and right alongside 12-14” snapper on the same spot (unheard of) on the same baits. Plus, several reports of the spots like Capri and Caxambas Pass showing pompano schools at the first hour of the incoming in the major Passes on large schools on pompano. Switch over to shrimp tipped jigs bounced off the bottom for first hour.

Naples: Much the same pattern in the coastal Naples domain. Those treasured spots back in Rookery Bay and Johnson Bay are still co-producing some nice size winter sheepshead and late spring size mangrove snapper in the same waters working live shrimp cuts or cut fiddlers. Amazing. Sportfishing purists are sticking to the late season snook action along the Gordon and inch down into the Dollar Bay potential for nice redfish feeding the edges as the tide swells. Reported fair to good action as well on the Henderson Creek mangrove overhangs as the incoming tide crests.

Bonita Springs: First mention here is always the water quality conditions: FWC report continues to report backwater and nearshore is all clear. Yeah! It’s really a two season bonanza here this early winter spring in the outflow of the Caloosahatchee River et al with, both winter favorites and spring season fishing favorites all mixed in an unexpected package. Seeing action on traditional favorites of sheepshead and black drum mixed in with the “holdovers” of snapper and even occasional flashes of pompano and permit in the stronger water flows. Lots of action dominant along the inside edges of Big Hickory especially on the incoming tide of shrimp and cut crab baits.


Marco Island: After a run through the backwaters and the close nearshore may want to move on out to those nearshore refs in the 20-30 ft range and see if targets have move moved to traditional early winter spots. If sheepshead is holding, you’ll see then without much effort here with some cut bait dropped to the bottom and worked “soft” vertically. Good chance there may be mackerel in the mix in this “screwy” weather and if you have an inkling they are present get some chum in the water and try a couple rods working cut live bait on jigs just below the surface. Going deep on the wrecks and reefs will give you a chance on triple tail on stone crab markers or a chance at some yellowtail snapper on bait schools or maybe even a gag grouper deep.

Naples: Close in have seen action in the near shore Keewaydin beaches from the “houses” to the Pass. Stay inside the 20’ depth level and work the current flow with best on the incoming. Use light chum and work the swirls and cuts with a tipped jig on a tidal drift. Chance for mackerel and pompano up near the surface and some snapper and whiting down deep. Moving offshore still have a good chance at pelagics (small kings, permit) that worked the unusual warmth and hung here instead of heading to the Keys. Traditional approach with chum, live bait tethered at 15-20’ in moving water. Still have the possibility of triple tail hang on the stone crab markers. Set a look out on the east and west runs; if located double back and work light tackle with tipped dark color jig.

Bonita Springs: Note: FWC Weekly Water Quality Report still showing ZERO k.brevis (red tide) and all clear on blue/green algae in the river well into the Pass. Several reports of nice yellowtail snapper action mid-range (40’ depth) spots showing bait action. Need tidal movement and chum in the flow to draw action. Block frozen chum best. Bits on #6 hooks fed into slick with bails open. On strike let run off start 5-10 seconds, drop bail and hang on. Nice size and great table fare. Deep (70’) for possibility of amberjack action on super deep wrecks working vertical drop live bait. Use heaviest tackle to get AJ out and in open. Please release as AJ’s still a threatened species.

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

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