CONDITIONS: The intensity and duration of this past week’s tropical weather system was unprecedented. That much fresh water deposited in our environs will have a definite impact on the fishing……to what degree is a classic unknown. Just a tad of research developed both positive and negative information on two of our most sought after species this month. Thankfully, snook (whose season opens today ! ) are impervious to changes in salinity levels…..they can even operate in fresh water. On the other hand the mangrove snapper can slow down activity as the salinity levels decline. That gives you a basis for the weather week that you’ll be looking forward to. In stark contrast to what we just experienced, this coming week is almost void of any rain / storm predictions and features single digit winds from variable sectors until late week when we get some predicted gusts in the 20 mph range. The tides will be a moderate factor with a full moon on display this coming Tuesday. As usual the afternoon ebb will be more problematic than the moderate morning incoming. At this writing the water temps have fallen to 80 but will be moving higher as the placid week develops. Expect you’ll see temperatures like 88 by weekend.
BACKWATER: Looking to specifically forecast the fishing this week in the backwaters is, indeed, a journey into uncharted waters. On the negative side you’ll have the impact of all that rain on the mangrove islands which will release torrents of tannic coloration resulting in stained waters; in addition the salinity level throughout the areas will have been negatively influenced ……i.e. lower salt levels which impacts many species as to providing a comfortable environment i.e. they may vacate an area or go lethargic on feeding. So we’ll concentrate on what may work this week. Snook, thankfully are impervious to the lower salinity levels, in fact, they can thrive in fresh water. So as this week’s mornings provide you with a very favorable first light incoming tide which should show good to excellent conditions. Best venues: Kice Island to Cape Romano; both sides with the hot area being the cut at Blind Pass / Henderson Creek area in Rookery Bay; current points on fast incoming / Johnson Bay creeks and cuts. On late morning tide turn shift your working area on draining creeks and waterways with live baits closer to the bottom. There also might be a resurgence of redfish with the suddenly cooler water. The other “good chance”species is mangrove snapper. The snapper were super active before the onslaught and there is some chance they may be receptive to feeding on live baits. Action, most likely, will be on smaller fish, so please use circle hooks to enhance safe release. The larger snapper were there before we experienced the deluge……..your best chance is the slower tides / fresh baits / working structure. And…..bottom line, remember things will improve as the week unfolds.
NEARSHORE: Out here you may find improved conditions compared to backwater. Deeper water will mitigate the challenge of impacted salinity. There will still be the challenge with browned tannic water but not as severe as the inside. Would think the pelagic action will be impacted the most with mackerel / bluefish schools scattering westerly. Best chance might be bottom action on spots like the Walton Reef and the reefs associated with the Five Mile Reef complex. Here you can work the bottom structure trying to entice action, again, on primarily lane and mangrove snapper with a number of small grouper mixed in. Best baits are shrimp on weighted jigs or live bait (sardines / threadfin herring) worked tight to the bottom.
OFFSHORE: Look for conditions here to be closer to normal than the other two domains. Less of tannic water / less salinity loss can translate into close to normal fishing. Should be action on the artificial reefs and wrecks for bottom action – lane and mangrove snapper as well as smaller grouper and grunts. The major deep wrecks should still have bait schools holding and drawing the plentiful number of kingfish in the area as well as some Spanish mackerel and bluefish: Kings on live runner on wire in chum and macks and blues on top water tipped jigs under chum.