CONDITIONS: Generally, think all agree that weather conditions are improving here on the Paradise Coast…..less thunderbangers; nice docile wind and just a tad cooler morning temperatures. For our fishing impact with all that, it’s virtually a non-event. IRMA delivered some punch! The damage to property was extensive and well beyond what any of us have seen on Marco Island / Naples since Hurrricane Donna in 1960. So…..it’s tough to get all heated up about a fishing trip if your roof at home has been ripped open; your landscaping now belongs to your neighbor and broken shutters jammed down make your experience at home much like a submerged submarine. But, folks here are a resilient tribe, and things will improve…….slowly this time because of the wide swath IRMA left behind. All of that aside when we look at conditions for this coming week things are on the upswing. Very little rain in the forecast…..almost as if IRMA, MARIA et al was summer’s last gasp. The winds stay morning mild and then kick up as the afternoon heat kicks back in. Look for afternoon gusts in the mid teens for variable directions. The tides are heading to a full moon late week and will range in the high 2’ range with the morning outgoing just a bit weaker than the PM outgoing. Water temps are inching back up but not as quickly as in late August. You can expect water temps in the backwater in the 83-85 range and a degree or so cooler outside. So, when you’re ready to start playing at fishing again the conditions, generally, will be on your side.
BACKWATER: Limited activity here during the last week to draw any experience recommendations. Still have limited availability of live bait shrimp with marinas / bait shops focusing on recovery and getting viable power back aboard. From a cursory examination of the area looks like the water quality is slowly getting past the fresh water deluge from IRMA and the toxic water releases from big sugar in Lake Okeechobee. Checked the salinity here and the level is still under the optimum 23 ppm…….but it’s getting better. Would assume that those bait schools that exited when the pressure dropped pre-hurricane are inching back and when complete will be the foundation for our fall fishing. Chief among the targets in these backwaters will be the revered snook and redfish. Snook should be hanging out on current points especially on the late afternoon / evening incoming tide as the sun drops those vertical rays penetrating the shallower water. If pilchards / threads are a bit slow to show for bait get yourself some frisky pinfish by goldhooking the inshore reefs. Redfish: This their time ! All the urges to feed pre and post spawn are evident in their activity level now. Look for the bigger bull redfish (males) out along the first Gulf edges feeding along downed brush edges. Here a shrimp (if available) or a small pinfish freelined right into the “stuff” should do the trick. Look for bottom action all along the interior shorelines to continue on mangrove snapper that are now at max size for the season. Work just a small piece of bait freelined on weighted jigs to the bottom flotsam and downed brush structure. Of course, water clarity and tidal flow will make a big difference on success. But it’s a start back to normalcy.
NEARSHORE: Will be dependent here on the re-arrival of bait on the inshore structures. Good chance as water will clear here first that smaller schools of mackerel and bluefish et al will show on places like the Capri Barges and key reefs like the Walton Reef and The Marco Five Mile. Look for telltale signs on the fishfinder of bait schools before setting chum and working tipped weighted jigs just over the decending chum. Bottom action here will be much of the same as inshore with snapper, both lane and mangrove, attempting to re-feed. They can be worked on the same pelagic spot by dropping tipped weighted jigs to the bottom under the chum.
OFFSHORE: Overall sea conditions should be a definite plus here plus water quality should be near normal. Deep wrecks could hold both pelagics in the top waters with hungry reef fish beneath. Look for kingfish that have not yet started south with some cobia in the mix both taking live bait and being drawn in with generous chum effort. On the hard bottom at 60-65’ you should have chances at a harvestable red grouper by working live pinfish tight to the bottom on a tidal / wind drift.