The first week of November was showing potential for some great fishing in our local waters.
It seems the typically long-awaited October bite is happening this month. Better late than never, I guess.
During my Southernaire Fishing charters, I’m experiencing rallies of schooley snook. These 18- to 26-inch fish are in abundance and on the feed. On a recent charter with Geno Lynn of Bradenton, we sat and caught more than two dozen snook in an area no more than 100 yards long. And mixed in with the snook were plenty of rat reds — and even a couple of slot-size reds. This type of bite is a sure-fire indicator that these fish are fattening up in preparation for winter.
Along the beaches, Spanish mackerel can be found in depths as shallow as 10 feet and out from there. Rock piles and artificial reefs are hot spots for these toothy predators, so you may want to start your search in these areas. You may find some kingfish as well as a stray cobia. Also, blacktip and spinner sharks will be present in areas where large schools of macks exist.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing the flats of southern Tampa Bay for snook. With the fall migration underway, there is ample opportunity for Lowman’s clients to get some linesider action. Lowman says rallies of schooley-size snook are occurring during morning tides and live shiners are attracting the bite. Keeper-size snook also are being caught, although not as frequently as the under-slot fish. While targeting snook, Lowman is finding a good number of redfish in the mix.
Along the beaches of Anna Maria Island, Lowman is prowling for Spanish mackerel. Free-lining live shiners on a long shank hook is resulting in macks up to 22 inches. While targeting the mack bite, Lowman is running across an occasional kingfish and cobia.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing an influx of out-of-state anglers ready to try their luck at fishing. Pier fishers using live shrimp are finding success on a variety of species, including black drum, mangrove snapper and sheepshead and, randomly, some tasty flounder.
Using artificials such as jigs and spoons are attracting migratory fish — macks, jack crevalle and ladyfish. A live shiner free-lined on a long shank hook also is achieving good results.
Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay. During flood tides or extremely high tides, Girle is quietly moving his way up on shallow grass flats in search of redfish. Schooling reds are being found, resulting in multiple hookups on slot-size fish. Snook also are being found in these areas, with most falling 20-26 inches.
Moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Girle is putting clients on schools of Spanish mackerel around rock piles and reefs. Mixed in with the macks are kingfish and an occasional cobia. Mangrove snapper also are taking the hook for Girle while working around structure.
Capt. David White of Great White Charters is fishing offshore structure for a variety of species. By free-lining baits on the surface, White is putting clients on the usual trio of mackerel, kingfish and amberjack. He’s finding the cobia are occasionally willing to take a bait.
Bottom fishing around the reefs is producing mangrove snapper and gag grouper. Both are being taken on live baits — shiners or pinfish — combined with a bottom rig.
Capt. Jason Stock reports working offshore and nearshore structure with good results. By slow trolling large baits — threadfin herring or blue runners — Stock is putting the hammer on the kingfish bite. Catches up to 20 pounds are the norm. Stock says cobia are present on the local reefs his charters are catching their share. Finally, following up his recent sailfish catch, Stock reports another sailfish came to the surface to examine his bait.
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State extends red snapper season in Gulf waters
The recreational red snapper season in Gulf state waters was extended seven days in November, including Nov. 11-12, for the Veterans Day holiday, and Nov. 25-27, for Thanksgiving weekend.
The Nov. 26 date also is a saltwater license-free fishing day.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission expanded red snapper season as a measure to offset the economic effects of Hurricane Hermine, which hit the Gulf Coast of Florida in early September, according to a news release.
Recreational fishing in Gulf waters adds $7.6 billion annually to Florida’s economy.
To learn more about red snapper, visit myfwc.com/fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers.”