CONDITIONS: This week brings rather standard fall weather. The morning temperatures dip into or tangent to the 50’s but then as the blazing sun under clear skies heats the environment we are in the mid 70’s by mid afternoon. That pattern that has been with us for a few weeks is holding the water temperature between 72-75 in the backwaters and a little chillier in the deeper offshore waters. There is no rain in the forecast for the week so those current water temperatures should hold. The only “fly in the ointment” this coming week is the incessant gusty wind that shows early and stays late. Look for gusts in the high teens most afternoons. That wind will definitely effect the water clarity especially in the shallow backwaters and coastal points as it stirs up the sandy/muddy bottom. The tides are moderate both ways all week with the exception of the Passes where the winds have a tendency to accelerate the water speed. Lastly, just north of Marco et al, near Sanibel, they are experiencing a rather nasty strong red tide event which has a major negative effect on fishing. For the moment it’s holding in that domain but could leach down our way. Local news TV weather reports will keep you advised.
BACKWATER: Somewhat surprising is the fact that the larger sheepshead have started there seasonal “bite”. That is unusual this early and with the water temp still above their comfort level in the mid-60’s. You can find them where there is moving water and bottom structure that holds marine growth (barnacles, shells etc). Just a tad of shrimp or cut crab is the bait of choice…….both of which are more readily available that the more exotic baits like tube worms. Use a soft lift technique as vertical as you can make it……..feel the nudge; wait till you feel the weight and set the hook. Sheepshead have a minimum take size of 12” with the tail squeezed. In the same backwater spots, there is continued action on nice small snook (taking the same baits) and redfish. Most of the latter are small but always a chance of a take home. For the redfish, you’ll want to freeline a whole shrimp up tight to the shallow water line edges with the period of the high tide best. Have a couple reports of scattered spec trout being taken along the ICW waterway between Marco and Rookery Bay. The trout will fall for a smaller whole shrimp mooched along the bottom with the outgoing tide best……look for spots where there is sea grass evident on the bottom. NEARSHORE: Expectations for the fall / early winter mackerel / bluefish run are still on hold. Would assume, the massive bait schools that draw that pelagic actions, are still putting themselves together. Get a few scattered reports of singular catches on the first and second reefs with macks hitting weighted jigs intended for deep holding lane and mangrove snapper. The most consistent action now is on those last mentioned species working those weighted jigs tight to bottom structure on spots like the Five Mile Reef and the Walton Reef off Caxambas Pass. Need a deep set chum effort here to draw the action. Also, excellent chance that the sheepshead bite inshore will extend to those close in reefs just off the beaches using the same baits and technique are mentioned in the backwater info.
OFFSHORE: Conditions out here will be probably better in the mornings vice afternoons with the gust forecast picking up mid day and building. Still a few pelagics hanging on the bait schools deep with the water temperature remaining moderate. Chance for some kingfish on those deep water wrecks working a live runner in wire, under a float in a good chum effort. Bottom action on lane and mangrove snapper should sustain on the reefs and smaller wrecks in the 8-12 mile range SW of the island. Easy pickings working weighted jigs under chum. Deeper (55-65’) still have good action on red (and some gag) grouper on hard bottom drifting a live pinfish or cut ladyfish tight to the outcropping.