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Fishingcast: Conditions for Southwest Florida, Feb. 29-March 5

Bill Walsh
Columnist

This first full week of March rides in with a late winter flair. Even with no patterned precipitation in the forecasts the week will be challenging for anglers both backwater as well as offshore. The chief culprit this week will be meandering direction of the gusty winds which will make it uncomfortable with gusts well into the 20 mph range to say nothing of riling up the water quality.

Ray DeAngelis from Naples with a 16 lb. tripletail caught in the backcountry on a jig.

Of note also is the unusually chilly (cold) start for the mornings early week; even a couple mornings with a 40 degree range start. So, the combination of cold and wind with make those early morning starts quite challenging. The water temperature however will be stay stable in the 60s which should keep the winter species on the feed. We are in the valley between storing tides and this week the water flow both ways will be noticeably weak with many cycles of less than a 1.5’ swing.

BACKWATER

Marco Island: The Marco backwaters, even with all the iterations of weather, has continued to have a “two seasons” action availability of both fall and winter species. In spots where there are significant water flow and depth changes there will be both spring/summer snapper, trout, pompano as well as the arriving winter residents of sheepshead, black drum, whiting. Full blown sport fishing for snook is generally slow but every once in while you’ll luck out where there is good current and clean water on a land edge. Always pilchards for the snook. Redfish are also active with good reports from Upper Addison at the top of the tide tight to the mangrove overhangs on pinfish or prize shrimp.

Naples: Continue to see the Gordon - from breakwater to the ICW junction as key grounds for borderline temperature snook action with best on THE first of the incoming (mid-morning this week albeit a bit weak). Pilchard showers will get them moving early. Still getting a few reports from anglers working both sides of Dollar Creek that there is scattered but some major redfish action especially at high tides. In the mix there also seeing some nice size sheepshead; speaking of the sheepies, don’t neglect the Keewaydin docks working cut shrimp or cut fiddlers tight to the bottom on soft lift technique.

Bonita Springs: As always noted here with historical water quality issues: The FWC report for the week notes that the k.brevis over the past two weeks have drifted north (Charlotte County) leaving Bonita, Sanibel clear. Multiple reports of good action on sheepshead, black drum and even some surprising flounder in Estero with noted areas as Big Hickory Channel, Carlos Point and the bars and reefs circa Mound Key with redfish the main draw on this latter spot. Reds on small live threads and hand-picked shrimp, -4’ leader with no weight. Reds will migrate to east edge of Bay at high water feed tight to the creek cuts – same baits.

OFFSHORE

Marco Island: Hear lots of excitement about the nearshore action on sheepshead with many to good size but mixed in is the trend that it’s great one day and goes dead the very next. A perplexing situation when all obvious factors are identical. But that’s fishing; only the Lord knows what triggers those changes. For anglers who had a banner day, return to same spot next trip, if it goes flat get out of there after 30 minutes. Best inshore Marco Reefs Capri Pass Barges, Walton Reef and Five Mile. Moving offshore and setting on 8-10 mile reefs will draw not only more sizeable sheepshead but after a surface chum you could well draw some smaller kings that are still hanging in the still warm winter water. Live bait on wire under a float for the macks, kings.

Naples: Same action showing up on the Marco Reefs are inhabiting the Gordon Five Reef and very active. Both sheepshead to nice size, triggerfish to 14” and mangrove snapper and hanging on some significant bait schools. Even have some smaller mackerel schools holding on some associated lump reefs surrounding the Gordon. Use chum here and live bait; you never know in these unsettled climate conditions. We’re still six or so weeks away from pulling the stone crab traps; remains a very attractive opportunity for tripletail when they will be max size. Set a lookout going both ways; if sighted cut power; double back. Light tackle with tipped dark colored jig.

Bonita Springs: Surprising set of events as the enormity of the bait schools have spread nearshore – circa Wiggins to Carlos and all t cuts and creases in between. Multiple reports state that the warm snook action is being sustained like summer is still here. Some reports state artificials, others on pilchards and stretches out some three or four miles offshore. Mid-range getting info good yellowtail snapper on large reefs stuffed bait. Block chum the key - one bock chum - second block bait (bits on freelined non weighted flourocarbon leader with bail open. On strike count to five and drop bait on running fish. Good fight. Great table fare. 30-40 mile range (wind conditions permitting) for gag grouper on trolled bait 20-40’ depth.

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

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