CONDITIONS: Trend looks like we’re finally moving away from the water damaging west winds this week. That will present a significant improvement in water clarity in all three fishing sectors. Winds this week are dominant E and NE albeit with still some afternoon gusty periods but nothing like what we faced in late March and early April. The water temperatures continue to creep up with stable air temperatures and the absence of deluge cooling rains with have an immediate “cooling” effect on the necessary warm temperatures to draw and hold our spring and early summer species here. Look for the water to hover in the high seventies all week. In fact, we should be devoid of rain of the forecast of one late morning period of rain on Saturday is accurate.Tides both ways will be charged up just a bit as we experience a full moon on Sunday. Both ebb and flood tide strengths will be about the same and definitely fishable.
BACKWATER: This domain will have the most appreciable benefit from the anticipated clean water…….and just in time as we welcome one of the prime fishing months here. Snook will be one of the prime attractions as they feed up pre-spawn BUT their limited harvest season ends of May 1 and is closed until September 1. Look for them along the beaches from Kice Island northward. Primary bait are pilchards worked just beyond the surf line. They will also be active all along the backwater spots like Rookery and Johnson Bay holding on shallower current edges with best on incoming. The clean water will also present an opportunity for the seasonal pelagics (mackerel / bluefish / little tunny) to invade the three Passes on the stronger morning incoming tides and taking tipped jigs. Keep and eye open for bird action which is the giveaway of their presence and location. While in that domain, don’t neglect the fact that the pompano also thrive in these conditions. Every once in awhile, while on your drift switch over to weighted bottom rigs bounced just off the bottom. In the deeper backwaters, it will be the month that the snapper size kicks in and you should see some 11-13” mangrove snapper along most of the mangrove edges…….worked with small whole shrimp.
NEARSHORE: We’ll focus here on both backwater and coastal tarpon action here. This is their month ! They will be transiting up from the Keys and invading through the Coon Key Pass and Marco River and up around Cape Romano and then northbound along the inshore waters heading north. Two most used spots for tarpon action are, first, the north edges of the Marco River between the entrance to Tarpon Bay and the La Penisula complex and, secondly, the south edges of the Capri Channel out to #R3 marker. Most successful bait on the tarpon has been the back end of a cut catfish. Try not to use chum as it will attract the big sharks that accompany the tarpon herd north. Best times are the first part of the incoming tide in early morning (exactly the conditions this week). Elsewhere in the nearshore, you have mackerel et al action on the Capri Pass barges. Improving bottom action on snapper along the first and second reef spots and some migrating pelagic action (kings) on the Five Reef corners.
OFFSHORE: Should be one of the better weeks out here. Winds aren’t shut down but are of lighter velocity and out of the east quadrant which should keep the sea conditions and water quality top notch out here. The inside reefs (8-12 miles) have good snapper, both lane and mangrove varieties providing good action in harvestable sizes working tipped weighted jigs just off the bottom under a moderate chum effort. The activity and chum will usually draw concurrent action on mackerel and bluefish in the top waters. The deep wrecks are seeing the first of pelagic migration action on kingfish and some cobia and sharks working live runners on wire leader set out under a float set and 10-15’ under chum. Deep / deep action on the 70+ feet water hard bottom is still producing a reasonable activity level on red grouper working a live pinfish on a drift tight to the bottom.