Late-season cold front affects Southwest Florida anglers


With one week to go until the official spring calendar begins, anglers in the region have been battling strong winds, waves and cooler temperatures, complimented by a powerful late-season cold front.

With many stings coming off both shallow and deep, the passage was a setback as the water temperature moderated, bait scattered and many species developed trismus.

While cleaning and rebounding will take a few days, anglers had to get creative with where to go and what to throw to bend the rod. Wind and waves kept the offshore effort close, and inshore fishing enthusiasts adopted winter tactics to succeed in the murky water quality.

Last week:Southwest Florida fishing report: Ripple winds challenge anglers

Two weeks ago:Southwest Florida Fishing Report: Anglers Happy to Fish Spring Come Early

Three weeks back:Southwest Florida Fishing Report: King Mackerel Return to Area

Snook, redfish, pompano and a scattering of tarpon catches stood out in the shallows ahead of the front. These stings were active in the middle bays and waters near the open gulf. Expect this stock to build momentum again towards the end of the week.

Inshore and offshore, the trevally or king mackerel had arrived with a vengeance. Prefrontal conditions have kept our local Gulf water temperatures at an optimal 74-76 degrees, coupled with plenty of schools of bait or forage fish available for migrating pelagic species to munch on.

Natural hard bottom areas, man-made fish havens, and ledges all produced big bites and searing runs from 7-40 pound kings. As expected, the cold front suppressed the action. However, the cooling effects of the front may well keep these exciting schools of silver speedsters in the region longer, as their migration north of the Gulf is driven by optimum water temperature and the availability of food sources.

Despite the temporary setback, the front dealt with shallow and deep water fishing, all is not lost.

While many this week won’t be able to fish their arena of choice, catch or target a specific species, time on the water should be enjoyable and guaranteed to be far superior to the northern alternative of wintry weather. Remember, hang in there, hang in there, have fun and always listen to your captain.

Offshore: “It’s been windy, but we’re still catching up on our half-day trips,” captain Kraig Dafcik said. “The cold front has tied us to the dock for the weekend, but the seas will calm down and it will be another busy week.”

Recently, half-day outings have allowed Dafcik and his crews to successfully survey hard bottom areas in the 12-18 mile range aboard his multi-passenger vessel based at Port O Call Marina, Alabama. Full boats created a busy deck aboard the Alabama with a variety of species coming on the rail.

Using cut squid/herring and jigs, mangrove/lane snappers, snappers, white grunts and a scattering of red grouper all made their way into the fish box. Prior to the inclement weather, Dafcik was also tangling with a good number of king mackerel and inshore sharks while dragging plane/spoon combinations and rigged piece baits into the current.

Naples/Estero Bay: Aboard my Port O Call Marina based guide boat, the Grand Slam, we fished with and around the weather. Focusing on a variety of game fish and food value species, the action was good on the morning and afternoon outings.

Before the front, live sardines were available along the beaches and on some fish wrecks near the shore. My anglers have had success casting the 2-3 inch baitfish around current sweep points, residential docks, and along deeper mangrove shores protected from the winds.

Some of the bait presentations include snook, great crevalle jack, redfish and mangrove snapper. Mounted on a light wire 2/0 circle hook/30 fluorocarbon leader combination, the pegs performed well on both phases of the tide.

Anglers wishing to catch fish for dinner were treated to active pompano and speckled trout action. Focusing on moderate current areas, the pink-colored tube jigs and dark-colored soft plastic jigs topped with freshly cut shrimp kept my groups hooked up, happy, and looking for recipes on the boat ride to port.

Ten Thousand Islands: “The wind and the chop are now pushing us to look for calm waters to throw in,” said Goodland-based captain Paul Nocifora. “The cold front swept through the region at an inopportune time when the spring bite was really intensifying.”

Steady winds cause Nocifora and her casters to hunt around the lee shores of mangroves and protected coves in the central bays of the Upper Ten Thousand Islands.

With a white and black color scheme, Nocifora’s casters connect with snook, rockfish and fiery jack crevalle during the high and low tide phase.

Nocifora hopes conditions will moderate, allowing spring stings to be in full swing.

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