Fisheries & Fish Industry

Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Cold front shakes things up

Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Cold front shakes things up

Powerful cold fronts and the conditions left in their wake truly have a profound impact on the bites both shallow and deep. The latest front to pass through the region during the early hours of December 30th is a prime example of how drastic things can change and swiftly rebound.

The front has stymied what had been ideal early fall-like conditions throughout the shallows. Ample baitfish had scurried into the deep, outstanding water quality turned turbid and gamefish made them selves scarce. Although quick to rebound, the untimely turn truly hampered game plans and the catching hopes of many New Year’s inshore enthusiasts.

Out on the Gulf grounds, the brisk northerly wind component associated with the front held the fleet tied tight to the dock for just a few days. However, the effects of the front have actually assisted offshore anglers by pushing fish around the reefs, ushering in more numbers of pelagic species and stirring up waters that had been very clear for several weeks.

While the shallows were turbid there was still some fish to be caught for those willing to put in an effort. The deeper holes have been producing sheepshead; mangrove snapper, pompano and black drum catches on a lightly weighted live shrimp or shrimp tipped jig. For those casting flies, small to medium sized snook and a scattering of redfish have been reliable targets throughout the deep backcountry despite the weather challenges.

Turbid Gulf water quality equates to outstanding offshore snapper fishing. Often leader shy, the snapper have been on fire snapping up any and all offerings sent to depth. Ledges and hardbottom areas in the 15 to 30 mile range have been top producers. Throw in steady red grouper catching in that range and a return of exciting greater amberjack to the larger fish havens certainly equates to a New Years offshore bonanza.

As always, the bites here in Southwest Florida are subject to change during the wintertime months. Timing your excursion between weather systems is ideal but not always possible. The good news is, our vibrant fishery will always offer up something to bite your hook.

Offshore: The Dalis Charter Boat Fleet, docked at the Naples City Dock, enjoyed a great New Years run of excursions despite a few days of inclement weather. With Captains Paul Luciano, Kevin Lyons, Garrett Drogue and Jason Gilbert at the helms, solid catches were landed on both half day and full day charters.

Half-day trips have been productive for the Dalis crew with lane/mangrove snapper and a scattering of keeper red grouper making their way over the rail and into the fish box. Kingfish or king mackerel has also been a reliable targeted species for the Dalis fleet.

Full day trips have found Luciano and company prospecting water depths of 60 to 80 feet. Working hard bottom areas with a variety of live and frozen baits, limits of red grouper have been routine along with an array of snapper and king mackerel.

Naples/Estero Bay: “The New Years weather conditions were challenging to say the least”, said Capt. Pat Gould. “We really had to search for areas of clean water and shelter from the north wind but we still managed to scratch together a catch each and every trip.”

Low tides and wind have found Gould seeking the shelter of protected coves and deeper runs possessing clean water and moderate current. In these areas, Gould has found catching success casting shrimp tipped tube jigs and live shrimp presented under a popping cork. Speckled trout, jack crevalle, sheepshead and snook have all made their way to Gould’s landing net.

With a calming of the winds and seas, Gould has been drifting the passes and middle bays and scoring pompano, speckled trout, ladyfish and whiting using a mix of live shrimp and soft plastic paddle tails rigged on a ¼ ounce red colored jig head.

Ten Thousand Islands: Prior to the latest cold front, Capt. Rob Walczak had been guiding his clientele to some great fly-fishing outings. Prospecting the back bays mid week, Walczak and crew had been managing 20 to 25 snook per trip casting lightly colored Clouser patterns.

The post frontal conditions changed the action for Walczak on Friday with his group only landing three snook. However, one of the three snook landed by Bob Nath and his son measured out at an impressive 30 inches.

Walczak has also been targeting speckled trout in the deep island troughs and pompano in the passes during the last half of the incoming tide and the first third of the outgoing tide phase.

If you have a report to share, email [email protected].

Anglers, email your photos to [email protected] or post them at www.naplesnews.com/participate and we will compile your images into an online gallery that’s featured each Thursday morning at www.naplesnews.com. Please do not submit photos of fish caught illegally.

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