Beach or bay, there’s a stringer to success on the water
Fall fishing remains consistent throughout our waters, as large bait schools inhabit the bays and nearshore reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. These are the days when you can have your choice of fishing — beaches or the backcountry — and have a successful day.
In the backcountry, snook are migrating to creeks, rivers and small bays before shacking up for the winter. Most snook being caught are 20-30 inches, although bigger fish are being reported. Live baits — shiners and pinfish — are top producers.
Redfish are flooding the backcountry flats as they school up, preparing for their offshore spawn. This is your chance to tie into an all-time big red. Fish exceeding 40 inches can be found — if you’re lucky enough to stumble across a school.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Spanish mackerel, bonito, jack crevalle and blue runners are corralling bait schools while fattening up for their migration south. Schoolie kings are being caught, too, but the bite is sporadic at best.
Finally, look for cobia lurking around nearshore structure in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Live pinfish and shiners are a good bait, although a Berkley Gulp black eel will work nearly every time.
Capt. Warren Girle is taking advantage of the calm waters and beautiful weather to do some reef fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Starting at depths of 40-45 feet, Girle putting his clients on limits of mangrove snapper, working live shiners on the bottom to get fish up to 20 inches. Along with mangoes, expect to catch gag grouper, both juvenile and keeper sizes, as well as Key West grunts and flounder.
Macks, bonito and jack crevalle are next on Girle’s hit list. For these species, Girle works anywhere from 1-7 miles from the beach. Mixed in the schools of migratory fish, he’s finding black tip, bull, spinner and sandbar sharks — average size 4-5 feet, but bigger fish are out there.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting pompano, drifting deep grass flats with pompano jigs tipped with shrimp.
Boy, it’s nice to find pompano again. If you’ve never caught one, it’s a fish you need to add to your catch list. The same goes for your menu.
Finally, Girle is putting clients on redfish on lush grass flats during high tides. Live shiners and pinfish are good producers. If you’re using artificials, Girle suggests Berkley Gulp shrimp on a jighead. Slot-size and over-slot reds were the norm this past week.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says macks are ravaging an endless school of white bait that’s taking refuge around the structure. Along with mackerel, expect to encounter an abundance of the usual suspects — jacks, ladyfish, blue runners and skip jacks — if not more than macks. Small white crappie jigs and Clark spoons will hook you up.
You still have time to cash in on the mangrove snapper action at the pier — if you act quickly. These fish have been around the pier for a few weeks now, and they get smarter by the day. A light fluorocarbon leader combined with a small live bait hook is a great approach to catch these small fish. A live shrimp or shiner is a good choice for bait.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is targeting redfish with artificials in Anna Maria Sound and Sarasota Bay. Guided by Capt. Mac Gregory, Keyes is hooking into over-slot reds on a number of lures, including Savage shrimp. Keyes says these lures are fairly new to the market and they produce a good bite. Other lures working for Keyes are the LiveTarget sardine and LiveTarget mullet. These baits are offered in topwater or suspending styles and, Keyes says, they’re deadly on schooling redfish.
Next, Keyes is breaking out his fly rod to get down and dirty with the over-slot reds. Patterns that are proven producers are the EP Ghost Rattle on a pinfish pattern and the EP Cuda fly.
Another discussion at the tackle shop last week centered on beach fishing for flounder with white buck tails tipped with a Gulp strip for scent. With these jigs, you can expect to catch mackerel, ladyfish, jacks and blue runners. Not a bad variety when targeting flounder. At least until a mackerel cuts your leader off and you lose the jig.
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