Fall fishing in on the verge of bountiful harvest
Yeah, I can actually start this week by saying “fall fishing.” Water temperatures have dropped to the upper 70s in the Gulf of Mexico and even temps in the bay are on the decline. It’s time for a bountiful harvest from our surrounding waters. Whether you’re fishing the backcountry or the Gulf, you can expect fishing to improve daily in the next few weeks.
In the backcountry, look for snook moving into the bays and up rivers and creeks. You should be able to find good numbers of under-slot fish in potholes surrounding mangrove islands. Larger fish can be found in these areas, and docks and oyster bars are a good bet.
Schooling redfish are being found in the local bays. Once you locate them, remember to use stealth in your approach. Be patient and see if the school will come to you. If they don’t, use a push pole or trolling motor to get within casting range. Live shiners or pinfish are an excellent choice of bait. If you’re using artificials, you can’t beat either a Gulp shrimp or a gold spoon.
Nearshore fishing off the beaches should result in numerous migratory species. Expect to encounter Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, blue runners, bonito, jack crevalle and ladyfish. For any of these species, a live shiner will get you connected. If you’re fishing lures, try a Gotcha plug, Clark spoon or a crappie jig.
Along with migratory fish come sharks. Blacktip, spinner, bull and sand sharks are feeding on mackerel and jacks in the Gulf of Mexico surf. Chunk baits of either species will get you hooked up. Expect to encounter 30-100 pound sharks.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is dominating the redfish bite during the morning tides. Live baits such as shiners or pinfish are resulting in reds of all sizes. To locate these fish, Gross is patrolling shallow grass flats with good water flow until he comes up on a school of fish.
From the tower of his Dorado boat, Gross can see the schools from far away, enabling him to properly place the boat without spooking the fish. Once anchored, Gross chums the water with a few live shiners and then it’s game on for his clients.
Snook are having trouble staying out of Gross’ boat. Again, fish of all sizes are being caught. Live shiners free-lined to boiling fish is the key to success. Rallies on snook are occurring on lower tides when the water is incoming.
On the beaches, Gross is catching a variety of migratory species. Anchoring in water depths of 20-30 feet is resulting in Spanish and king mackerel, as well as bonito, jack crevalle and shark.
On a final note, Gross reminds us, “Fishing is on the verge of getting really, really good. Nearshore and inshore fishing this fall can be some of the best fishing if we don’t have any strong storms or big fronts come through.”
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are dominating the morning bite. Pier fishers using silver spoons or white jigs are catching macks in 12-20 inches in length and near limits, too. While targeting macks, expect to catch jack crevalle, ladyfish, blue runners and lizardfish.
Under the pier, mangrove snapper are filling their little bellies from the school of everlasting shiners that are taking residence around the pier. To target these fat little fryers, drop a small live shiner under the pier and let it sink to the bottom. A split shot placed 12 inches above your hook will aid in keeping the bait in the strike zone. If the snapper are picky, try a shiner cut in half or a live mojarra.
Johnny Mattay at Island Discount Tackle is producing good numbers of fish from the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Mattay is using a variety of baits to target a wide range of species. Redfish are feeding on pinfish and live shiners free-lined or fished on the bottom. According to Mattay, fish exceeding 30 inches are not uncommon so plan your beach fishing tackle accordingly. Migratory species such as macks, blue runners and especially jack crevalle are being caught on jigs, spoons and Gotcha plugs. Mattay also is managing to find a good flounder bite, which is always a welcome scenario. Fish up to 3 pounds are being reeled up in the surf.
In the backcountry of Anna Maria Island Sound and the surrounding waters, Mattay is getting news at the tackle shop of good action on redfish and snook, both being caught on live shiners. Expect to catch slot and over-slot redfish during morning tides. For the snook, most are 20-24 inches, although some slot-size fish are being reported.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters is reporting an action-packed week. Howard says the huge schools of shiners congregating on the flats have triggered a surge of fish activity.
Snook have started moving off the beach and are making their way onto the flats of Tampa Bay. Howard reports some fantastic rallies recently on the moving tide. He suggests chumming shiners to entice the silver-sided predators to chew. Varying your presentation will ensure a continued bite. Howard worked some 20 fish rallies before the bite or tide slow down.
Redfish are all over the flats and chewing, getting ready for winter. Look for schools of mullet on the flats to find the redfish highway. Rigging a frisky shiner on a 2/0 Owner hook and tossing it into the mullet school will be rewarded with a nice copper-belly bruiser. Howard suggests using a bobber if you’re in a shallow weedy area to keep the bait from diving into the grass.
Spotted seatrout also are taking advantage of the plentiful bait, and Howard’s clients are taking home some nice fish for the dinner table. The bigger gator-sized trout will be gathering for the full moon spawn in the next week or so, and Howard says to be ready.
“Looking forward, the fishing in the next month or two will be some of the best opportunities for fishing of the year. Fewer people on the water and the abundant schools of bait will supercharge the fishing in our area,” Howard says.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure for mangrove snapper. To catch these tasty fish, Girle instructs his clients to drop their boats to the bottom where the fish are congregating. Live shiners combined with a bottom rig are producing good numbers of snapper. While targeting snapper, Girle is also catching Key West grunts and plenty of juvenile grouper.
Fishing along the beaches is proving prosperous for Girle. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and bonito are striking free-lined shiners. By anchoring and chumming, Girle is drawing these migratory fish to the boat providing drag-sizzling action for his clients.
Along with macks, expect to catch jack crevalle, ladyfish and shark. For the shark, Girle is using fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel or bonito. Blacktips, sinner and bull sharks up to 6 feet are the norm.
Finally, Girle is finding good numbers of snook and redfish in the backwaters of Sarasota Bay. Free-lined live shiners are the bait of choice. Snook up to 30 inches are being caught as well as slot and over-slot sized redfish.
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