The latest cold front truly packed a punch and had a lot in store for Southwest Florida.
Complete with a host of wind and sea warnings, the system spawned a half dozen confirmed tornadoes, which caused significant destruction. The weather event was oddly similar to the January 2017 system, which triggered a well-documented meteotsunami and will certainly be one to remember for a long time.
While the latter part of the fishing weekend was a wash for anglers hoping to prospect the waters both shallow and deep, the week ahead will be one of waiting for the seas to subside, waters to clear and fish to return to their wintertime haunts and behaviors.
This system was potent, and the anticipated cleanup will take time. Therefore, harnessing and implementing our ability to be patient and creative in our angling effort will be paramount.
Many bites were active prior to the frontal passage with outstanding catches recorded in all arenas. Anglers should see improvements by mid-week and incrementally each day thereafter, with the offshore expected to clean up at a faster pace. The inshore/nearshore waters will take time to settle out as the strong westerly wind component has indeed made for very turbid water quality extending deep into the bays and creeks.
Anglers prospecting the shallows this week will need to break out their winter-mode tactics while searching for areas providing the cleanest water. When located and on the scene, shrimp and jigs presented in a low and slow fashion will trigger bites from mangrove snapper, sheepshead, black drum and the occasional redfish. All of these species tend to rebound or reacclimate faster in post frontal conditions and at times revel in the cooler water temperatures.
Out on the offshore grounds and when the seas subside to manageable heights, anglers should expect the turbid conditions to provide excellent snapper fishing. Limestone ledges and artificial reefs should be snapper focal points for effort with various light tackle tactics employed. The stained water will provide an additional layer of stealth for fooling several tackle/hook weary species.
Look for yellowtail. mangrove, vermillion and mutton snapper to be coming over the rail with heighted consistency. Liberal lengths of fluorocarbon leader, small-profile hooks combined with live shrimp, small bits of squid/herring and heavy chumming tactics work well here in the region during times of clear and turbid water.
Moving ahead and in typical January fashion the fishing will be tricky and so too will be timing an outing between fronts. Remember, forecasts do change and are a fluid snapshot of what to expect. Keeping a keen eye and all sources of meteorological data, listening to your captain, along with the ability to be flexible will assist with wintertime catching success.
Offshore: “Prior to the latest cold front, full day fishing was quite active,” Capt. Brandon Lawson said. “The front really kicked up the seas and muddied the water. It will take a few days for things to settle.”
Docked at Port O Call Marina, Lawson was pointing the bow of his Solo Lobo charter boat to vast areas of natural hard bottom in the 30- to 42-mile range west and northwest of Gordon Pass. On the scene and anchored up, Lawson kept his Solo Lobo crews hooked up and bent to the rail.
Using cut squid/herring, live pinfish and large profile jigs, limits of red grouper, mangrove, lane and yellowtail snapper all made their way into the fish box. Lawson attributed his success to good tides, ideal water temperature and good old fashioned elbow grease from his anglers.
Lawson is optimistic that the conditions will clean up allowing for a few good days offshore before the next cold front arrives.
Naples/Estero Bay: Aboard my Port O Call Marina-based guide boat the Grand Slam, the inshore action leading up to the cold front was steady with many species making their way into the landing net. The tides were respectable, water quality ideal and the availability of bait was good.
During the incoming tide phase, my angling groups stayed hooked up to pompano, speckled/silver trout, jack crevalle and action ladyfish. Casting tube jigs tipped with fresh shrimp within area passes, deeper channel edges and along the beaches was my go-to method for the week.
Eastward and into the middle/back bays, live shrimp presented under a popping cork yielded more speckled trout, snook and jack crevalle around current swept points and around downed dead wood. Deeper holes and areas of natural hard bottom also provided my anglers catches of sheepshead and black drum using free lined and lightly weighted live shrimp on a 1/0-2/0 sized circle hook/20-pound fluorocarbon leader combination.
Ten Thousand Islands: “Leading up to the strong front, excellent tides and clear backcountry water made for a solid week of targeting cruising and staged-up snook and redfish,” Goodland-based Capt. Paul Nocifora said. “The conditions behind the front will make finding fish and bite a little harder.”
Early departures found Nocifora and his casters prospecting shallow mangrove shorelines, oyster bar areas and coves in search of their targeted species. Gently presenting a DT Special baitfish pattern in a tan or black color scheme or a white colored medium sized Light Bulb pattern kept the longs rods bent with redfish, snook, jack crevalle and a scattering of large speckled trout.
Nocifora recommends finding clean shallow water and slowing down the overall retrieve of any fly, jig or lure during the post front period.
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This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Southwest Florida anglers waiting for waters to calm following front