Indian summer arrives, fall fishing on the verge
The last front moving across Florida brought a little taste of fall. Cool breezes and dropping water temps are welcome after a long summer of daily temps over 90 degrees.
Now you can expect to find snook migrating into the backcountry in droves. Creek mouths, rivers and small bays should be holding fish in the weeks to come.
Redfish are still schooling, although the number of schools is dwindling. If you’re lucky enough to find a school, proceed with caution. Keep a distance and wait for the school to approach the boat rather than trying to run up on the fish.
On the beaches, kingfish, mackerel and shark are becoming readily available. For the kings, you can try trolling lipped plugs or spoons. For the macks, live shiners are a sure thing.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay for a variety of species. The main targeted species for Girle is pompano, but you can expect to catch jack crevalle, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish mixed in with the pomps. What is nice about this bite is the “constant action,” and you still get to bring home something for dinner. To target the pompano, Girle is using small cannonball jigs tipped with fresh shrimp.
On the shallower flats, Girle is still locating good numbers of redfish. Once he locates a school, he anchors and chums to lures his prey to the boat. Once the reds are happily feeding, Girle instructs his clients to cast into the school. Then it’s game on. Slot-size fish are the norm, although fish exceeding 27 inches are not uncommon.
Moving out to the nearshore reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, Girle is still finding good numbers of mangrove snapper. These fish are 12-18 inches and are biting heavily on fresh-cut shiners.
Finally, Spanish mackerel, bonito and a few kingfish are being found at the nearshore structure. For these fish, Girle is free-lining live shiners behind the boat.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier is seeing mangrove snapper and flounder landed daily. Both species are responding to live shrimp or live shiners fished on the bottom under the pier. While targeting these fish, expect to also catch juvenile grouper, lizardfish and a black drum or redfish.
Spanish mackerel are feeding on bait schools around the pier and the sunrise is best if you’re looking for sheer numbers of fish. While targeting macks, expect to catch jack crevalle, ladyfish, blue runners and a stray bluefish here and there.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle is fishing the beaches for Spanish mackerel, bonito, jacks and sharks. Patrolling the water just off the beach all the way out to the nearshore reefs is proving prosperous for Lowman. By watching for diving birds, Lowman located migratory fish, then chums with live shiners to get them feeding. His clients then cast their baits into the frenzy.
While fishing the flats of Anna Maria Sound, Lowman is finding decent numbers of redfish and snook. For both species, Lowman is anchoring and sight-casting to the fish. Slot-sizes of both species can be expected right now.
Finally, dock fishers are reporting the first arrival of sheepshead. Lowman recommends using fiddler crabs or sand fleas to get these fish to bite. You can also use shrimp, but with the great abundance of pinfish in the area, shrimp fishing can become a real task.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is catching respectable numbers of snook in Southern Tampa Bay, and rallies have not been uncommon. Most fish are in the 20- to 30-inch range, although fish up to 37 inches are being caught. Live shiners and pinfish can get you connected.
Spotted seatrout are next on the menu for Gross. By fishing deeper grass flats with live shiners, Gross is hooking up slot and over-slot trout. He’s is rigging one of two ways, either a free-lined shiner behind the boat or a shiner fished under a popping cork.
Finally, Gross is catching redfish along shallow flats, while when targeting snook. It’s not uncommon to find a few stray reds mixed in, and slot-size fish going home with clients to the dinner table.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumOTime fishing charters reports fishing “has been as good as it gets.”
Snook and redfish have been tearing up the flats and chewing with reckless abandon as they prepare for the winter season to arrive.
Redfish are still schooling on the flats in huge schools and tearing up the pods of shiners that are making their transition from inside upper Tampa Bay. Howard’s clients have had 2-hour rallies of drag-screaming, tackle-busting action on his recent charters. “The fish have been a variety of sizes from 15 inch dinks to over slot bruisers,” Howard reports. “Catching a upper slot fish for the dinner table has been easy,” he adds.
Howard suggests chumming with shiners and looking for the slurps and pops of the bait getting hit. Toss your shiner rigged on a 1/0 circle hook with a 30-pound leader under a weighted 3 inch popping cork to keep the shiner from hiding in the sea grass.
Snook are also on the flats and in the bushes, having moved off the beach on their way to their winter haunts. Howard suggests looking along mangroves and potholes to locate the silver sided predators.
Looking forward the fall fishing pattern will continue to be hot as long as Mother Nature continues to give us an Indian summer and keeps the warm temperatures around our area waters. Next week the early morning low tide will move the redfish and snook off the mangroves and onto the edges of deeper water. As the incoming tidal current flows follow the water and fish up into the bushes.
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