Fall fishing — cooler temps, but hot action in local waters

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John Muench of Bradenton, left, shows off the whopper 39-inch linesider he caught on a charter fishing trip with Capt. Mac Gregory.
Joe Gottbrath and grandson Graham Gall, visiting Anna Maria Island from Denver, show off the 29-inch snook they teamed up on with a live shiner for bait. They fished with Capt. Aaron Lowman Oct. 26, a day after a cold front slowed the bite, with most of the fish coming later, as the water began to warm. Their group also caught seatrout and redfish.
A number of small fish and blacktip and bonnethead sharks were found dead on the shoreline the morning of Nov. 5 near the Willow-Palmetto avenue beach access in Anna Maria. Islander Courtesy Photo

With the first cold snap of the year behind us, fall fishing around Anna Maria Island is in full swing.

Water temps have lowered to the upper 60s, and low 70s, which has the fish moving. I’m seeing snook migrating from the beaches to the flats to feed in preparation for winter. The arrival of redfish is a welcome sight. Catching a red mixed in with the snook bite is an added bonus.

Along the beaches and nearshore reefs, migrating kingfish and Spanish mackerel are stopping to feed on vast offerings of baitfish.

Finally, gag grouper are making a showing around shallow-water structure throughout Tampa Bay.

On my recent Southernaire charters, I’ve been trying to mix it up a little. Fishing along the beaches for mackerel and kingfish has been exceptional. I say this, but the bite is day to day. One day they’re everywhere, the next day you can’t buy a bite. But when they’re there, oh boy. Mixed in with this bite are numerous blacktip and spinner sharks. Both are worthy adversaries on medium-heavy to heavy-rated tackle.

After getting our fill of macks and sharks, I’m migrating to the shallow flats of Sarasota and Tampa bays, along mangrove shorelines, where I’m finding good numbers of snook. Redfish are present, too, but slightly elusive compared to the sheer ferocity of the snook. Keeper snook are a little hard to come by, but that’s where the reds play a major role. Having a couple of nice fat redfish in the cooler usually takes away the sting if the keeper snook eludes us.

Also in the bays are numerous bluefish and ladyfish. Although these fish have no food value, both are excellent fighters on light tackle. Their aggressive nature — they inhale baits on the surface — adds to the thrill.

It’s time to put down the bag of Halloween candy and get off the couch. Fall fishing in our region can be some of the best fishing of the year, so get out there — on a pier, a bridge, the beach or a boat — and go fish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is hooking up his clients on a variety of species both in the back country and off the beaches. On the flats, Lowman is finding snook. Most are in the 26-inch range, although clients are getting keeper fish now and again.

Spotted seatrout are present on the flats, where most catches are 14-17 inches. Larger trout are being found in water less than 2 feet deep.

Redfish are being reeled to the boat by Lowman’s clients around oyster bars and mangrove shorelines.

Along the beaches, Lowman is stirring up the action on Spanish mackerel, kingfish and blacktip sharks.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is reporting a “mixed bag.” Fishing in the back bays is resulting in snook and redfish, along with some large trout for Gross’ clients.

Moving out in the open waters of Tampa Bay is providing good action on Spanish mackerel, especially around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Lastly, dock fishing is yielding some flounder up to 20 inches along the shore of Tampa Bay.

Capt. Warren Girle is working the flats of Sarasota Bay, targeting snook and working the high tides along mangrove shorelines for some good action.

Spotted seatrout also are taking the bait from Girle’s clients. Flats 5-7 feet deep are holding plenty of trout in the 15-18 inch bracket. Larger trout are being taken on shallower flats of 3 feet or less.

Lastly, bluefish and ladyfish are schooled up along channels and deep areas of the bay, providing rod-bending action.

Capt. Jason Stock is hooking up with numerous shallow-water gag grouper up to 30 inches by trolling pinfish, grunts and artificials.

Moving out to slightly deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico, Stock is finding macks and kingfish accommodating for his clients. The macks are 2-3 pounds. As for the kings, fish in the 20-pound class and up are not uncommon.

            Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.

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