CONDITIONS: The fishing environment this time of year changes hour by hour. Daily temperature changes……water clarity…….water quality…..and rain and wind all play a symphony of change. Right now the headlines are”scary” with reports of the treasured bottlenose dolphin fatalities being reported from Bonita right down to Marco. Logic tells you if whatever it is causing the demise of the dolphin probably has the same effect on the species your targeting. So it’s tragically, a touch and go environment this week. We see the sudden drop in air temperature which translates into the same effect on water temperature. Air temps this late week in the low 60’s can translate into a drop in water temp from the mid 70’s to the high 60’s and activate the “cold water” species action as winter begins. So the advisory for the week would be to proceed but be ready to change domains and techniques if things aren’t working out. You’ll have some more days of extreme cold (for here) and wind late week as we experience another frontal passage. The tides will our friends this week with low moderate water flow and good day to day timing.
BACKWATER: All of a sudden this past week seeing the sheepshead albeit small to medium size showing up on spots where we were besieged with nice size mangrove snapper a week or so ago. That points to the beginning of the traditional weather change here in SW Florida. We can expect the influx of sheephead and other cold water species (black drum, whiting, silver trout, speckled trout et al) to begin to dominate the water and your catch. Unfortunately, the catch for the first weeks of the annual anomaly will be small and frequent thus doing an excellent job in emptying your bait bucket. You’ll have to move around frequently till you land on a deep, more bait rich spot holding the bigger and more likely take home candidates. As a general rule look for encrusted structure in deeper water and use a technique of smaller baits worked with a frequent soft lift technique. Tads of shrimp or pieces of cut crab should be your bait of choice. Be patient and record the locations of spots that show promise…..you’ll be revisiting them as the water temperature tanks here in a month or so.
NEARSHORE: Hopefully conditions will be moderate and your trip nearshore won’t be a “Victory at Sea” experience. Forecasts say it will be favorable out here until mid week. Should be good pelagic action on the inshore reefs and wrecks. Mackerel and bluefish are adaptable species and will feed endlessly until conditions literally shut down or the bait disappears. Places like the Capri Channel barges out to the Sea Buoy should stay hot working small tipped jigs on a very fast retrieve right up on the surface over a serious block chum soaking. Could even be some small blacktips in the mix so have some mid-range tackle and wire leaders available if they show. Bottom fishing the reefs in the 2-6 mile range may have a better shot at some sizable sheepshead stopping for a snack and on their way to the backwaters. Work a lindy rig to the bottom with a tad of shrimp vertically using a soft lift technique. Take home sheepshead must be 12” O in length and are excellent table fare but a challenge to clean.
OFFSHORE: The weekend and early week will present the best opportunity for success out here……could get tumbling rough thereafter. We are in the fading days of the reverse migration where pelagics that streamed up here in the warming spring are heading back to the Keys as the chilling water directs. They stop along the way for a snack or two on the way. Look for mid range wrecks that show a gaggle of bait working and set up live bait tethered at 15-20ft on wire leader in a good chum effort and stand by……good chance ravenous kingfish will find you and provide you an exciting catch and some excellent take home filets. Nearby there may be some surface action signaling that the yellowtail snapper are schooled and feeding on extensive bait schools. Here anchor up in current and get a block chum in the water. Peel off a handful of chum bits and impale them on #6 small hooks and freeline that right into the current fed slick with the bail open. The yellowtail will slam the bait and run but holding off from “taking” the bait for a short period and that’s when you close the bail and Hang on. These snapper are beyond delicious table fare and will make your trip.