Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Cold fronts affecting action
Typical for wintertime here in Southwest Florida, another excellent stretch of weather has yielded to a week of frontal passages and the conditions left behind in their wake.
While certainly no surprise, the fronts do level the playing field for anglers prospecting the waters both shallow and deep.
Prior to the early and late-week cold fronts, many bites were firing on all cylinders with gamefish, reef fish and seasonal food value species coming over the rail. While all is not lost, it will take time for the seas to settle, winds to reduce to a pleasant breeze, and the fish return to normal behaviors and haunts.
For now, inshore enthusiasts should turn their attention to cool water seasonal species such as speckled trout, sheepshead, whiting and pompano. Found throughout the entire inshore arena, these wintertime targets can be fooled using a variety of light tackle methods. Casting a jig or shrimp both live and dead will keep the rods bent.
Pushing out to the nearshore artificial reefs, the overall action has been steady with mangrove snapper and sheepshead dominating the bite. During these periods of high wind, the vast number of nearshore artificial reefs lining our coastline are always a solid option for those wanting to fish out in the Gulf. A quick visit to colliercountyfl.gov will provide anglers with accurate coordinates to all the reefs constructed with public funds.
Southwest Florida Fishing Report:Red grouper reopens and ready to be caught
Constructed of reclaimed concrete, fabricated pyramids and limestone boulders, the reefs offer excellent angling opportunities, but at times can exceed their level of service. It is always good etiquette to give your fellow angler ample room when anchoring up, and if an area is deemed too crowded, move on to another reef system which will only be a short boat ride away.
Beyond the horizon, a wide variety of reef species were greeting those making the venture prior to the cold fronts. Limestone ledges were yielding prized catch-and-release gag grouper and mangrove/yellowtail snapper for anglers deploying live bait offerings on both heavy and light tackle. Cooler Gulf water temperatures should improve the overall action over and around these natural substrate features.
Reopening to harvest on Jan. 1, red grouper was also keeping the rods bent to the rail. While it is possible to catch keeper-sized red grouper of 20 inches in water depths less than 60 feet, savvy anglers know that making runs out beyond 75 feet will provide consistent catching success.
Remember, these longer runs to fertile grounds are the result of a devastating period of red tide blooms during the 2018 fishing year. While affected Gulf areas continue to rebuild and replenish, it is truly a necessity to prospect deeper depths.
It is indeed that time of the year where timing will make or break the success of an outing. The fronts are headed south and with them added challenges to contend with. Pick your days wisely with a focus on placid periods before and after a frontal passage when the conditions are safe, comfortable and the fish are chewing.
Offshore: “Before the cold fronts we were making runs out to 40 miles and catching," Capt. Brandon Lawson said. “The winds will definitely keep us close to shore for a while now.”
Sailing from Port O Call Marina, Lawson has been pointing the bow of his Solo Lobo charter boat to vast areas of natural hardbottom west and northwest of Gordon Pass. Anchoring up in 85 to 90 feet of depth, Lawson has kept his angling crews busy.
Deploying live pinfish and squirrelfish, limits of red grouper made their way into the fish box while live shrimp and jigs rigged on light tackle fooled mixed bag catches of lane/mangrove/yellowtail snapper and jumbo hubcap-sized porgies.
Naples/Estero Bay: “Overall the fishing has been good in the shallow waters surrounding Naples and Marco Island,” Naples Bay light tackle Capt. Pat Gould said. “The change in the weather will definitely mix things up and dictate what we target.”
Gould and his anglers found pre cold front snook success casting live sardines and shrimp around current swept points and along deeper mangrove shorelines possessing features of downed deadwood. Mixed in with the steady snook action were redfish, black drum and bruiser jack crevalle.
During the top of the incoming tide and first of the outgoing, Gould has been turning his attention toward casting a variety of tube and soft plastic jigs within island cuts and over select flats areas. Snapping up Gould’s jig offerings were speckled trout, pompano and a host of fun winter action species.
Gould expects all the shallow water bites to be in a state of flux with the various weather changes, water quality and barometer swings.
Ten Thousand Islands: “Wind and weather have been game changers here in the upper Ten Thousand Islands,” Goodland-based Capt. Paul Nocifora said. “Typical for January, locating protected areas out of the wind and good water clarity have been critical to our fly-fishing success.”
During weather windows, Nocifora has been prospecting leeward shorelines and small coves containing clean water. Casting Lightbulb and Tom’s Tantrum fly patterns in a black or white color scheme, Nocifora’s casters are staying tight to snook, redfish, rouge speckled trout and large jack crevalle.
Nocifora recommends fishing around the weather systems while concentrating efforts during the beginning or end of a tide phase when the waters are at slow to moderate movement and clearer.
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