Cooler temps bring anglers hot action on migratory species
That beautiful fall weather we’ve been yearning for? We’re starting to get a little taste.
Mornings in the low 70s still seem foreign to me after the scorching heat of summer. Feeling this cooler weather brings to mind the fall migration of some popular species that will be arriving in our local waters for the next month or so — kingfish and Spanish mackerel are a couple of great examples. Look for diving birds along the beaches or head to some nearshore structure to find frenzies of these high-activity fish.
On the flats, snook and redfish are on the move. The slight drop in water temperature is triggering them to start migrating to the backcountry. Also, bait is plentiful, which presents a great opportunity for these fish to feed heavily in preparation for winter. This heavy feed can produce hourlong rallies of schooley-sized snook for flats fishers using live shiners as bait.
On my recent charters, the rallies are putting two or three rods to work at once. It’s not unheard of during these sessions with schooley snook. Most of these fish are 22-24 inches, but the sheer numbers will keep even the most avid fisher entertained. I’m free-lining live shiners on a No. 2 Mustad hook with a leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon. The 20-pound leader works well for these small snook, but you need to consistently check it for frays, especially near the eye of the hook.
Mangrove snapper are accommodating my clients around structure in both Tampa Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico. A half-ounce knocker rig with a 2/0 circle hook baited with a live shiner is attracting limits of snapper to the fish box. Snapper up to 18 inches are mixed in with the normal size 12-15-inchers.
Finally, fishing nearshore structure in the Gulf is providing solid action for macks and kings. An occasional bonito has been good for a session of drag-screaming action.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure for kingfish and Spanish mackerel. By anchoring and chumming, Girle is creating a frenzy of mackerel around his boat, which in turn makes for an exciting catch. Both the kings and the Spanish macks are being caught on live shiners free-lined behind the boat. For the macks, a 2/0 long shank hook and some 30-pound fluorocarbon complete the rig. As for the kings, a small piece of No. 29 wire is added to the rig at the hook.
Mangrove snapper are still a mainstay for Girle while fishing nearshore structure. Mangs averaging 15 inches are readily taking live shiner offerings. To hook up, Girle is using a bottom rig to place the bait on the bottom by the structure where the snapper are lurking. While targeting snapper, many juvenile grouper are hooking up, too.
Capt. Aaron Lowman of Keyes Marina in Holmes Beach is fishing the flats in search of snook and redfish. Both species are being found along mangrove shorelines, especially during the higher stages of the tide. To attract a bite, Lowman is chumming with live shiners. This not only gets the fish in the mood for the hook, it also gives his clients a casting target as the fish break surface and eat the chummers.
Along the beaches and on nearshore structure, Lowman is putting clients on a variety of fish, including mangrove snapper, flounder, Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. All of these fish are taking live shiners.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing some exceptional fall fishing during the morning hours at the northern-most pier on AMI. Anglers using jigs and spoons are getting their fill of Spanish mackerel, jacks and blue runners. There are pompano mixed in with this bite for those fishers using jigs. To catch the pomps, pier fishers are adding a small piece of shrimp to their jigs. This added scent attracts the attention of the pompano, as well as the other species mentioned.
Flounder are taking up residence around the pilings of the pier and live shrimp are resulting in keeper-size flatties — some measuring up to 20 inches. While targeting flounder, mangrove snapper and black drum are being reeled up.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working the flats of Sarasota Bay with good results. Spotted seatrout catches are numerous in depths of 4-6 feet of water. When fishing there, Gross is anchoring over lush grass flats and sandy potholes that pepper the bottom. Live shiners free-lined or under a cork are proving prosperous.
Moving shallower — to depths of 2-3 feet — Gross is finding ample snook action and some sporadic redfish in the mixed. Again, sandy potholes and lush grass are key. Chumming with live shiners is aiding in locating fish and keeping them in the vicinity for the cast.
Along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, Gross is finding plenty of Spanish mackerel as well as ladyfish, jack crevalle and blue runners. All of these fish are voraciously feeding on live shiners free-lined on a long shank hook.
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